I was starting to ask myself a lot of hard questions, some of which had never occurred to me to ask before. Chief among them, “What does success look like?” You see, I knew exactly what success looked like in the corporate world. I understood the people, the hierarchy, the roles and assignments, as well as how to navigate those things to continue to move up the corporate ladder. Technically, that’s success. I was successful at work. I did great work and people seemed to like working with me. I knew the answers to the question “What does success look like?” at my corporate job.

However, the question changes dramatically with the addition of two words: for me. When I started to explore the question of “What does success look like for me?” I was initially at a loss for words. I had no idea, no real guesses, apart from some glib answer that people spout off when complaining about the job that’s making them miserable. It was some vague notion of not having to work anymore and laying in a hammock in the shade. Beach optional.

Truth be told, I’d never spent much time thinking about the for me part of the question. It was an unnecessary input. I knew what I needed to do to become successful at work and I set about doing it. As you can imagine, I was grossly underprepared for the shocking realization that defining success for me was actually WAY more important than how any company defined it.

I read every book on purpose and meaning that I could get my hands on. I was desperate to find my calling. The thing I was made for. The one true work for me. And for 20 years, I felt like one of the cast-offs on the Island of Misfit Toys in the Claymation holiday classic.

I didn’t find purpose or meaning, partly because I lacked an understanding of my authentic self. It was disappointing, frustrating, maddening even sometimes. Where was my one job? Where was my calling?

I kept on reading the articles and books that were telling me I could find it in 3 easy steps. But it never materialized for me. I had lots of interests. I had a great set of skills and strengths I could deploy. If only I could find that secret, one thing that had eluded me my entire life.

Finally, I had to call shenanigans and malarkey. This conspiracy has gone on far too long.

I don’t believe there is one job or one type of work for each of us. I know now I could take my strengths and talents and find lots of ways to deploy them meaningfully. I’d found a way to be successful as a telemarketer, a web developer, a waitress, a computer help desk person, a front desk clerk at a hotel, a project manager, a requirements analyst, a technology educator, a product manager, a team lead, a presenter, an IT leader, and plenty of other roles.

And that’s true for every single person on this planet. We can all be successful in myriad ways.

I’ll grant you that some individuals have managed to find work they truly enjoy that gives them meaning and challenge, pay and benefits, autonomy and the like, but according to Gallup surveys, that’s less than 15% of the global population. In an 80/20 world, finding your one true calling would be considered the exception to the rule, NOT the rule.

So, what to do when your purpose is as mysterious as how the flux capacitor makes time travel possible? The best approach is to do some more digging to discover or uncover your authentic self. Once I started to resurface the me that I had lost along the way, a funny thing happened. The best way I can describe it is a lack of resistance. Everything stopped being So. Unbelievably. Hard.

All of a sudden, things were simpler. I was still working hard and committed to quality work, but the obstacles in my path were cleared or were easier to get around than they had been in the past. The resistance I’d felt up to that point wasn’t there.

It was a strange sensation to be sure.

In the past, I’d figured out how to be successful in lots of roles in lots of ways, but never as defined by me. For all my roles, it was a lot of work to assess the people, processes, and systems and the corresponding definition of success for any organization. It was challenging and stretched and grew me in different ways. But it was never satisfying or fulfilling. It felt much more like a check-the-box activity rather than anything remotely enjoyable. It was a path filled with friction.

When I started to move toward the “for me” part of the question “What does success look like?”, the friction dissolved. It didn’t magically make everything easy without any challenges, but it did remove a layer of resistance that I didn’t even realize I’d been bumping up against my entire working life.

Defining success for me helped me move beyond the “one job for every person” fairy tale and into an exciting world of possibilities.

#PositiveAction Examine what success looks like for you in any realm where you haven’t defined it yet. Starting points could be career, exercise, parenting, free time, relationships, making a difference, etc. You’re awesome if you’re hanging out here, so I know you get the idea.

This was an excerpt from my bestselling book, Success Authentically: Unlock Excitement, Purpose, and Joy At Work. Loved it? Grab a copy below. 

 

 

Top image by Fernando Latorre from Pixabay

Well here we are, at the most anticipated year-end that I’ve ever known. It’s been so – what’s the word I’m thinking of? No, not unprecedented. Different. It’s been so different in so many ways.

I know most people are going to call it a dumpster fire of a year and it definitely had its moments. But it was also a successful year.

I know it was a mess! It still is, really. But there’s also success hiding within it. Here’s what I mean.

For my work, I had to re-think how I delivered education and coaching services. The pandemic changed the way I interact with people and organizations. But I was still able to help over 200 people this year. That’s a whole lot of people that have learned to surface their authentic career story, grow their confidence, communicate their value and find their best work!

I couldn’t do that work the way I’d done it before. It was dramatically different than how I thought the year would go. And yet. I know how our workplaces, families, and communities are transformed when people are doing work they love, so helping even one person do that would be successful in my book.

And speaking of books, did you know I published 4 this year? Crazy, right? I actually spent a lot of time in 2019 writing the first book, but Change Authentically wasn’t ready until February of this year. It almost feels like January and February 2020 were their own distinct year since those months were so dramatically different than the rest of the year!

I published two short e-books during the pandemic, but the majority of my writing time this year was spent on (you guessed it!) Success Authentically. It was an idea that kept nagging at me until I had no choice but to sit down and start. It was not convenient timing, since I had recently been promoted to teacher for my two school-age children who were thrust into the ever-challenging world of virtual learning. Given the constraints on my time and the unknowns at the start of the pandemic, I shouldn’t have even tried. And yet, I wrote a little bit every day until one day, it was magically complete. When I launched Success Authentically in December, it became a best seller on Amazon!

It’s funny. Becoming a best-selling author was not on my list of things to do in 2020, but that sure feels like success, even if it is different than the goals (which now seem hilarious!) that I set at the start of the year.

I volunteer my time for an organization that is dedicated to catalyzing a global solution to the climate crisis. One of the key components of that work, up until this year had been in-person education and conversations to help people understand how they can be part of the solution. You would expect that this work would have been on hold after we couldn’t gather in groups this year, but we were able to pivot, imagining a different way to achieve the same goal. I volunteered more than 60 hours with the Climate Reality Project, mostly from the comfort of my own home this year. The Milwaukee chapter of the group (where I’m a co-chair) grew our membership by 3x and launched a new monthly education program. So yeah. Success was definitely hiding in our challenges there too.

Of course, there’s also been lots of challenges at home. Having 4 people trying to work and learn and live in the same place isn’t easy, but we’re finding ways to make it fun, even if it’s different than before. Like everyone else, we’ve changed how we interact with our family and friends (excited for the day when hugging those far away folks becomes a reality again!). We’ve changed holiday traditions and created some awesome memories. We’ve been frustrated, angry, and disappointed. But we’ve found success in being together in different ways (virtual spring break, family book reading, picnics in the yard, and more). This year helped us all build resilience and it helped us get more intentional with our time together. And that’s the most important measure of success I can think of.

2020 wasn’t all bad and it wasn’t all good. It was different. Just like every other year.

#PositiveAction Look at your year to see the success hiding within it. If your list isn’t what you hoped, you’ve still got 2 weeks to change that!

 

Programming Note: There won’t be a blog post next week as I prepare for some time off with my family. Yup, it’s with those folks I see all day every day, but I’m still looking forward to our very different holiday!

 

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

 

What is disappointment? It’s the experience of having reality not align to our expectations. Basically we’re hoping for one thing and get another instead. Pretty sure we’ve all felt it and felt it acutely in 2020.

Recently, I experienced a major disappointment. I had been hoping for and working hard toward one outcome (for an award/recognition), only to not see it materialize after all the effort I’d put in. It was crushing.

But in a year that has handed out more than an average number of crushing disappointments, I was in good company.

I talked to a friend that same day who was experiencing the disappointment of the sale of their house unable to go through as planned. A few days later, I talked to another friend who has been brave enough to return to school for an entirely new degree, but is disappointed with field work that has been far more challenging in unexpected ways, causing her to doubt her choice to return to school.

Can there be success in disappointment?

Absolutely. You just have to be willing to look for it.

For my friend with the college challenges, the disappointment is changing the approach for the remainder of the field work, but it’s not changing the brave new direction that’s been set. She’s staying in the degree program to eventually gain employment doing work that matters deeply to her.

For my friend with the house drama, it’s changing the timeline of when they will move and how they will accomplish it, but it’s not changing their decision to move. Moving was and is the success measure and they will hit it. Eventually.

As for me, I needed to remind myself that although awards and recognition are nice, they aren’t my measure of success. I’m not here to be the most highly decorated coach in the industry. I’m here to help as many people as I can find work that they love because our families, workplaces, and communities are transformed when people love what they do. When I looked at my disappointment with reset expectations, it was a lot easier for me to see the success and to celebrate it.

The punk-rock poet, Frank Turner said it best, “Everyone can find a song for every time they’ve lost and every time they’ve won”. So whether you’re killing it or getting killed by it, turn up the music and take another look. You might see more success than you expected!

If you are struggling with disappointment (from mild to crushing and everything in between!), check out my new book Success Authentically: Unlock Excitement, Purpose, and Joy At Work. You’ll find a brand-new approach to success!

 

#PositiveAction Take a good, honest look at your latest disappointment. You may be surprised to discover there’s a lot of success hiding in it!

 

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

We’ve just finished Thanksgiving, which is the unofficial start to the holiday season. This year, more than any other in recent memory, our holiday celebrations will be different from the past. Will they be successful, though? That’s up to you!

The holiday celebrations that my family enjoys don’t look like the ones we see on TV. They aren’t the perfectly prepared images on social media. There’s no spontaneous snowball fight or caroling door-to-door or 5-course meal on fancy china. There’s no diamond jewelry or car with a giant red bow on it.

So if it doesn’t look like all the holiday images we’re shown, is it unsuccessful?

I guess that depends on how you define success.

If your number one goal for the holiday season is to have a spontaneous snowball fight, then you should probably start with being in place that has snow. It’s not going to happen somewhere warm.

If you’re hoping for the fancy meal, you’ll need good food and lots of plates.

If you want a certain gift, tell someone or buy it for yourself!

The point here is that you need to decide for yourself what will be most meaningful for you. It doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s celebration. You get to define success for you and you get to collaborate with the others in your life that are celebrating with you.

A successful holiday season for me includes more intentional time together (yes, even in the year of constant togetherness!!) playing games, watching holiday movies, and singing songs. It includes special, once-a-year, homemade treats. And it includes extra time for people and causes we care about.

It doesn’t include a whole lot of other things because none of us consider them necessary for success.

If you are looking for an exciting new way to think about success, my latest book, Success Authentically: Unlock Excitement, Purpose, and Joy At Work is here just in time for the holidays! 

#PositiveAction Take time today to think about what the most successful holiday would look like for you. It’s easy to make a plan once you know what’s important!

 

Image byBUMIPUTRA fromPixabayplus the cover to Success Authentically!