My childhood interest in achievement matured into a desire for success. I recently reflected on how my definition of success has changed over time. I’m quite guilty of being an overachiever. I like to do things to the best of my ability or not at all. A few years ago, one of my mentors recommended that I read Now Discover Your Strengths. The book had a fascinating premise: Instead of identifying your areas of weakness and working to improve them, your time is far better invested by identifying your strengths and ways to build upon them. I found the book to be both intriguing and enlightening. Around that same time, Susan Cain’s released a book that I felt was written just for me entitled Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. Both of these reads helped me grow by acknowledging my true self and working towards becoming the best me I could be. This was very liberating as I stopped trying to be restricted to a common, cookie cutter version of myself. Instead, I embraced the differences that I used to deny and sought ways to use my natural talents and inclinations to benefit every environment that I could influence. Embracing myself and benefiting others is my new definition of success.
At a recent STCAtlanta meeting, my longtime colleague shared his advice to “Strive for success, not perfection.” That message hit me like a ton of bricks. I thought about how many times in life I’d obsessed, fretted, worried and been frustrated about things not being absolutely perfect. Yet, amazingly, the earth continued to rotate on its axis – the world did not end just because some project or deliverable wasn’t flawless. Similar to striving for success is what I call the Gambler Theory, courtesy of celebrated country music star Kenny Rogers. Part of the hook says:
you’ve got to know when to hold ’em
know when to fold ’em
know when to walk away
know when to run
There many definitions of success. Race car driver Bobby Unser said “success is where preparation and opportunity meet.” Renowned poet, activist, actress and professor Maya Angelou said “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” As I continue to connect with people to learn about their interests and share a few of mine, I believe that each encounter, conversation, and interaction – whether it aligns with my beliefs or not – helps me to become a better person because it sharpens my focus about my own identity. Personally, I want to continue to prepare and equip myself so that I can make the most of every opportunity.
So, how do YOU define success?