In the corporate world, success is often defined as the achievement of predetermined goals and objectives, usually related to financial performance, market share, customer satisfaction, or other key performance indicators. As an employee, and even a leader, the corporate world can be difficult to find satisfaction within your success where such rigid benchmarks exist. According to a 2022 article in Forbes magazine, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America found in 2006 that nearly 70% of business leaders had such acute work-related anxiety that it interfered with their personal relationships and marriages. Quite simply, success is often tied to numeric results.
Most people recognize that money is not the same as success. But what about the Joneses, if we don't keep up with them how will we measure our worth? Interestingly enough, there is a shift within the competing lifestyle paradigm of how people define success. Evidence of this shift can be seen in the younger generations. Intentionally or otherwise, they have peeled back the layers of consumerism and societal economics. Within these layers we saw trends emerge such as the 'gig economy and the cataclysmic aftermath of the pandemic and great resignation. The younger generation is teaching us that money and material gain does NOT make the world go 'round.
As children, we are often encouraged to set realistic goals for our future as adults. Teachers and parents want us to be doctors and lawyers while mini me just wants to be a poet, maybe a cowgirl, or dig up dinosaurs, or Batman. When material gain is the key marker of success our future career outlook becomes far less interesting. Have you ever tried explaining a six-figure income with stock options and a corner office to a six year old?
One of my core childhood memories is of watching my dad sit down at the table every two weeks with a stack of bills and his checkbook. For what seemed like hours, and half a pack of cigarettes, he would just glare at the numbers with disgust. More often than not, the stack of bills outpaced the stack of money. His advice to me was simple...get a job that pays the bills. It doesn't matter if you like the job; job satisfaction was irrelevant. Making that money was everything and, if you are lucky, you might get to retire at age 65 and live off a small pension until you die.
The doom and gloom of every other Wednesday altered my brain chemistry. From a very young age I always swore to myself that money would not control me. For better or for worse money will come and money will go. It's not that I dislike money; I love money, but I don't value money as it relates to my success. I don't view my wealth i.e. my success by monetary constraints. However, and it goes without saying, that when I made the transition from corporate world to small business ownership money was certainly a considering factor. Maintaining a healthy bottom line and profit margin is crucial to the longevity of Anthologie Soap Co.
So how does an entrepreneur measure success? Once we remove the emotional triggers surrounding the topic of wealth and money we sit in a much more advantageous position to consider total compensation versus the dollars and cents. That being said, and if I am being completely transparent, I myself have a tendency to gauge my success in something far more nefarious than money. Instead, I often catch myself chasing the dragon of outside validation. Validation equals value. I am a work in progress. Old habits die hard and it has been a real challenge to reverse that mindset. It has taken me some serious shadow work with my ego to redefine what success looks like. Social media can be a dangerous trigger. It is very much a "pick me, love me" environment and it can be very disheartening when content goes unnoticed.
It starts with realizing that societal expectations of success are toxic and detrimental to our full potential. Those limiting beliefs must be unlearned. The truth is that success is multidimensional. For me, a success rebrand looks a little like this:
- Validation can only be a benchmark for success when it comes from within. Especially as an entrepreneur it is vital that we not seek out our value in the opinions of others. Be open to other perspectives and advice but don't fall into a hole of despair if your business doesn't look like the others.
- Broaden your understanding of performance. Does your business performance match your personal performance? Financial security is awesome but creating a legacy is ever-lasting. Are your relationships as strong as your bottom line? Let that be your motivator.
- Evaluate your priorities and pivot as needed. A benefit to being an entrepreneur is agility.
- Happiness DOES matter. Emotional freedom as an entrepreneur is worth its weight in gold. Embracing that can make you a better person, a better human, and a better version of yourself.
- Take inventory. Not inventory of products and goods but inventory of wins and losses. It might surprise you to see the balance sheet swing in your favor. Celebrate yourself.
- Scale your success accordingly. The "small" to your business is subjective. Let your vision be bigger.
As an entrepreneur, success can be redefined beyond just financial gains. It can involve achieving personal goals, making a positive impact on society, building a strong team and culture, and finding fulfillment in the work being done. It's important to determine what success means to you and align your actions accordingly.