Danielle Wilson, the smart and savvy President and Founder of Sweet Peanut Clothing Company suggests “we should know what our picture of success looks like. We should know what we want and then build a picture of what that looks like.”
I really tuned in when she walked her talk by relating how she’d turned down an offer from a big box store to carry her line. While it would have increased sales, it would have diluted her brand in the long run and threatened the current clients who carry her exclusive line. I found myself thinking that’s smart, that’strategic.
When I heard her speak recently at the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs E-series program it made me think about my definition of success which cast me down the path of memory lane.
I remembered taking an entrepreneurship course where the old-school instructor suggested the life of an entrepreneur was 24/7 and that we should “take our business cards to the bathroom because you never know who you’ll meet along the way.” Really? Really? Is that the kind of life I want to lead? It took me but a nanosecond to shake my head and replace that picture of success with another one.
That kind of 24/7 narrow, focused life would leave me a basket case where I wouldn’t be much use to my clients. That kind of 24/7 narrow, focused life doesn’t leave much room for much else, like the things that are important in my life – being a mom, life partner, friend, daughter, active community member, adventure traveler not to mention making cookie dough from scratch and eating it right out of the bowl with my kids.
I also thought about when, several life times ago, I briefly worked on a locked ward for youth sexual offenders. It was sobering. The experience taught me a lot about my definition of success. When I first went in, the sheen of my bright and hopeful eyes must have required sunglasses. I thought I would change some lives, create connection where connection had been lacking, really make a significant difference.
When the light had dimmed, I’d read the case files and shook my head over how a kid could survive being brought up in a cold, unheated garage with little to light, I recast my definition of success. Success to me was working 1:1 with a kid and helping to keep him safe and calm so that he could be in the common area for my entire shift. Success was not having to lock him back up in his cell.
Success was tiny increments, almost indiscernible. Conversations about why washing with soap was important, how to control your anger, how to talk period.
Taught me a lot those kids. I still wonder where some of them are to this day, some 20+ years after the fact.
Back to listening to Danielle speak, I couldn’t agree more. We all need to have a personalized definition of success. Something as tailor fitted as a fine Italian suit. While your definition of success may be under construction and change over time you should definitely be the one in charge on the construction site.