“What are your biggest successes?” Blank. Some people, seasoned professionals in all their glory, have trouble listing successes and communicating them (takes one to know one…). One thing that used to throw me with this question is how relative this all is (bear with me). You have a goal, you reach/surpass it, boom, success. So far, so good. But what if there are no medals, no pedestals, no slayed dragons or anything of that sort? Is that still a success? If the outcome looks more like “still being around”, “still having a job”, “coming out the other end after a rough patch”. Sounds familiar?

Maybe your plan in the 2nd half of 2008 was crushing it in your job and getting that promotion. But then the crisis hit, and your tally at the end of the year was to not get fired (with a paycut). And somehow that just never felt like a success, as you celebrated it with a can of beer and a microwave curry as you rebudgeted your Christmas presents. Except it probably was a success, given the circumstances.

We live in a VUCA environment (volatile, uncertain, changing, ambiguous – you might be well tired of that acronym). Things shift, often faster than your plans can keep up. Just to be clear: None of these should serve as excuses for not pulling your weight or blaming everything on circumstances. If you’re honest with yourself, you probably know where you stand on this (if you don’t, ping me). These “making it through rough patches” were successes because the environment around the goal had shifted beyond recognition. This then made it look like a near-failure (or at least not like a roaring success of your initial definition). The problem was, your definition of success didn’t keep up.

I probably used to be too hard on myself (OK, scratch that “probably”). Goals and successes don’t exist in a vacuum, so make the look at the bigger picture and any readjustments needed a regular part of your practice. With that adapted view, I realized I am significantly more successful than I thought and this practice was much more suitable to the ever-shifting circumstances and environment and to my entrepreneurial journey as I’m beginning to understand it.  

That took a massive load off. Sometimes the hardest dragons to slay are those we carry within ourselves. And that too is success.

 What do you think?


6 thoughts on “Success and the dragons within

  1. Yes. There is this sort of illusion if strategy and goals perpetuated by education and business. The reality is that the big shifts (in your life, in your business) were not planned. So success on this model is much more opportunistic, serendipitous. You may not even recognise your biggest successes: a single comment you made, perhaps, long since forgotten. For this reason it makes more sense to live a Nietzschean life: affirming yourself in the moment, rather than the kind of grinding, religious teleological misery that our culture dictates.

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