Success is a temporary state of being and its definition is subjective. Your definition of success will vary from the person sitting next to you, vs. your parent’s definition, vs. you boss’ definition, and so forth. The incremental degrees of success across the spectrum vary dramatically when we have different expectations within our own minds as to what the DNA of a successful individual appears to be on the outside, a paper resume, as a person.
Last month, we had “picture day” at work and I shared the photo with my mom. No more than a few seconds later my mom shared the photo across her Facebook feed. Her friends consisting of my former elementary school teachers, neighbors, family friends, ex-boyfriend’s parent’s, old dance teachers, etc. The caption read, “I am so incredibly proud of my daughter… you rock girl…. break that glass ceiling!” which I found supportive (thanks, Mom!) and the sentiment of my parents truly means the world. The photo and the caption didn’t necessarily catch me off guard (typical mom stuff, amirite??), but the comments sparked a few thoughts. Most responses were some translation of, “she’s so successful”, “you must be so proud!”
I say the following with a bold disclaimer that I’ve probably had too much coffee this morning so I’m completely stuck in my own head, but how do any of these people know I’m personally successful, if at all? Maybe the title, photo and peer validation are all leading indicators to a successful individual on paper. I can string together a few sentences for just about anyone and by traditional definitions, we all look successful. You put in the long hours and received a degree; successful. You earned the promotion; successful. Maybe just getting out of your bed to face the day was harder than anyone ever realized; and that’s successful. This comes back to success varying on a spectrum of definitions. Your success is no greater than my success. Your fails are no worse than my fails, or anyone else around you. Success is an emotion not a destination, and the feeling may only be temporary because it’s a constant battle of always trying to be better, do more, work harder, be smarter…
A title and headshot doesn’t automatically default you into a successful bucket. I know the I’m only 75% to my monthly goal so my boss certainly isn’t going to drop the word “successful” or any relating synonyms. I burnt the stuffed peppers in the oven last night so my fiancé may or may not call my cooking endeavors successful (slight charred peppers… anyone?) We, as humans, are too caught up in the superficial definitions of success that we often forget some of the basic human interactions are the foundation of a successful person. It’s not the corner desk, how many hours you brag about working, what your 5th grade teacher still thinks of you… it’s about being the best individual you can be, and lifting those around you to achieve the same.
My point, success isn’t derived from raising yourself on a pedestal to look the best while dimming the light of every individual along the way. Money, titles, and fancy things won’t bring long-term success, but who you genuinely are as a person will have lasting effects on those around you and translate to all aspects of your life. The most successful people in life may not be millionaires or own Fortune 500 cooperations, maybe the are, it’s not for me to judge. What I will judge is how the individual treats someone and not how they look on paper. To bring this all full circle, thanks Ma for sharing my photo and I promise the next time you do, I won’t go on a wild tangent.