Monday, February 15, 2010

What does success look like?

This is part 3 of my post on success. You can click here and here to read my first two posts on this topic.

One thing that has been changing for me over the past few years has been my definition of success. What would have to happen in order for me to feel that I had achieved success? What would that "home run" look like for me?

Would it mean I had achieved great recognition?

Would it mean I had made a lot of money?

Maybe it would mean I had a huge circle of great friends?

Perhaps it would mean my children were well-behaved and achieved educational goals we had set for them.

Or maybe it would mean I had affected someone's life in a positive and lasting way.

I had a unique experience with my home-based business the past few years. It was unusual because when I started it, I didn't have any intention of being successful. I simply wanted to earn a little extra income, and the opportunity sort of fell into my lap. I didn't go looking for it. It found me.

Well, I found that I was naturally good at this type of business. And within a couple of years, I started earning a lot of recognition for my success, not to mention some awesome vacations to tropical locations. For three years in a row, I received an honor that was most special to me: the Woman of the Year award.

The cool thing about this award is that it's not something a person can try to achieve. The company looks at your stats in 14 categories that cover every aspect of the business. The person who has the highest overall ranking in every category is honored with the award. Since I wasn't able to track how other people were doing, I couldn't possibly adjust my performance in one area to try to "win".

But many women in my business also jokingly refer to the Woman of the Year award as the Kiss of Death. That is because many women quit the business the year after they are named Woman of the Year.

Why? In my experience, it's because it's nearly impossible to maintain over a long period of time, and it's such a let-down to fail to live up to the standard of being Woman of the Year. So, instead of going on to have an average year (which still might still be an exceptional year in reality), these all-or-nothing ladies, like myself, would prefer to quit. They have achieved the best they can achieve. It's time to move on and try something new.

This type of success also came with a startling revelation. While it was really fun to be recognized for a few days at convention, on an incentive trip or during another event for being Woman of the Year, it didn't carry over to any other aspect of my life.

Women would treat me like a rockstar for a few days of the year, seeking me out for advice and taking hurried notes during a seminar I gave at convention. But then I would return home to piles of laundry, dirty diapers and an empty refrigerator.

"Wait a minute! Don't you people know I am WOMAN OF THE YEAR!" I wanted to shout. But the empty milk jug really didn't care.

I realized after the first year how hollow this type of success made me feel. It was fun and it gave me a little high to feel successful, but it didn't carry with it any lasting value.

When it comes to my business, I had to completely change my focus. Working hard to achieve recognition wasn't worth it. I needed to achieve a certain level of income and with that, sometimes I would naturally also receive recognition. I also wanted to help other women be successful. And again, that might bring me recognition. But the recognition alone did not give a lasting feeling of success.

In my personal life, I also have been evaluating what "success" would look like. What would be my home run? When I get to the end of my life, how would I want to be remembered? More about that coming up.

I would love to hear from you. What does your success barometer look like? Have you ever achieved great success and found out later that it wasn't what you thought it would be?

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Anonymous said...

Hey Emily... I really enjoy these posts that make me stop & think a bit... I hadn't thought about the let down there would be after winning Woman of the Year & then returning home to 'normal' things... to get such recognition in one part of your life and have none of it roll over into the rest would have some conflicting emotions...
Makes it tough to figure out what success should look like...
For me, maybe it's a matter of balancing it all... having the successful business which to me means a steady income - enough to impact my family on a consistent basis (& maybe help us do things that we normally wouldn't do); having the happy family with well behaved kids; an organized home and some time for me. So then it's just a matter of working towards that... guess for the most part I am successful by my own definition...

JoLyn said...

Excellent post, Emily. Very thought provoking. I'm at a point where I need to evaluate all the things I'm doing and decide if I can do them all. I guess it's all about priorities and keeping first things first. Sometimes the whole "recognition" thing can make the priorities a little upside down. It's good to recognize that and see it for what it is. Thanks--I'll be thinking more about this!

Holly said...

Hi, Emily!

Are you still doing Discovery Toys? How is that possible with home schooling and a newborn? I'm feeling pretty stretched with just the latter and can't imagine having the former in the mix too.


Kacie said...

This is mostly my personality, but I don't care about "success" - that term seems empty to me. And yet I now realize that to me, "doing something meaningful" is essentially my version of success. To have truly made a difference, truly helped someone... those things equate with success in my mind.

Thing is - that comes with a great amount of pride. I end up thinking that I am needed, me in particular. It has been incredibly humbling to work a job where I feel meaningless. I don't do much, I've felt like I don't help much. I certainly don't hope to be in this position forever, but the lesson learned is that God doesn't NEED ME. I am His servant when He chooses to use me, but the world won't fall apart without me.

So - if monotony is what He calls me to today, then I should do it well and be content to have served my Lord, right?

It is a hard lesson for me.

everydayMOM said...

Thanks for all of your responses. It's really interesting to read different viewpoints on this! And I'm glad I'm not the only one who struggles with such things!

Janet said...

Great post Emily! Having just been named Woman of the Year, it was even more meaningful than ever. While I appreciate the honor of this award, it has not been my focus. Success is not the title but more in the difference I made in the lives of others along the way.

It is definately not possible to have it all as we perfectionists would like to think so and is such a struggle for me. When I feel overwhelmed, I try to remember that my priority is my daughter and relax and savor every day I have with her. Her smile is the only mark of success I really need and I try to relax and let the rest go. So very not easy your blog! Keep up the great work!

Jenny-Jenny said...

How did I miss this one? I haven't figured it out yet. But for me I prefer not to have any recognition at all. After almost 5 years of being in a "visible" position in my church and now being in a position of making a difference without be noticed at all I find that I love the feeling of quiet success. It feels amazingly good to me to make a difference and not have to deal with being noticed for it.

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