My Biggest Revelation of 2015
I think that one of my biggest revelations of 2015 was defining success for myself.
For so many years, I had defined it by what society and my colleagues and my industry prompted: the right clients, the right income, the right title on my business card. And it was exhausting. It was daunting. It was seemingly impossible to do everything right….because it was by someone else’s standards.
Earlier this year, I printed new cards with no title. I still kept track of my income, of course, but I refused to let it lead my decision-making process like I used to. And when I stopped categorizing the “right” clients only by their brand recognition, profile and stature, I found the “right” ones were the ones that I wanted to work with – big and small – where I would truly get excited about moving the needle and doing great work.
And I realized what success really looked like to me. And I had it all right in front of me. No glass ceiling. No more climbing the corporate ladder. It was all right there before me, in that very moment…and in 2015, I finally saw it.
My definition of success is being able to do good work with good people while still having the time and flexibility to enjoy my very good life.
It’s not complicated. It’s simple, actually, but for whatever reason, it took me a really long time to be able to define it, feel comfortable with that definition, and most importantly, strive for it. It means being able to do after-school pick up a few days per week. It means being able to only schedule calls and meetings mid-week so that I can start my week and end it on a productive, focused note. It means traveling when I want to travel, not when I have to. It means looking for clients and colleagues who are like-minded in their approach to career, family and work/life balance. It means having a lunch date with my husband on a sunny Friday and answering emails at 9pm sometimes to make up for it. Yes, it also probably means a little less money than I would have had I stayed on the corporate path. It means a business card with no title (which is actually kind of cooler, in my opinion) and having to hustle a little more each month to maintain my bottom line and to network outside of my little (but mighty) home office. It means no retirement plan beyond my own and none of the superficial security that comes with a standard 9-to-5.
But what I came to realize this year is that my definition of success isn’t just about my professional life. My personal life plays just as important of a role. And the fact that I can embrace both with the same passion and time and energy is beyond what any title on any business card could mean for me. That is the measure of true success to me and I am not going to spend one more day of my life chasing it. It’s time to embrace it.
Am I lucky? Absolutely. But did I also work really hard to build the life I have? Absolutely. There were sacrifices and endless hours of worry and insecurity along the way. There were slow months and busy months and nights when those 9pm emails turned into midnight marathons. There were opportunities missed and opportunities gained and a lot of time stressing about both.
But there was also that moment, earlier this year, when I realized it was everything I had ever wanted it to be. And I had made it happen. And I was going to appreciate every ounce of it – the professional and the personal. And that was my definition of success.
Yours might be different. It might mean even more time at home or more time on Wall Street. It might mean being able to write every day or cook for the people you love or finding time to volunteer twice per week. It can mean so many different things to so many different people. But I urge you to figure it out. To define it for yourself, not by how society wants to define it for you. And most importantly, I urge you to embrace it. To own it, to speak up for it, to strive for it and to pat yourself on the back once you have it. Because being able to define what success looks like to you – and only you – is really the only way to truly achieve it.