What’s your evidence of success?

“You will go on to change careers several times, write four books, and win a shelf of awards. But the framed certificates will fade and the golden trophies tossed in the trash, because applause is approximately .001% of success.

Sally Hogshead

When I was in primary school, success meant topping the class, and if I topped the standard too, wow, that was something to be proud of.

When I was in secondary school, success meant good grades, good friends, passing my piano exams honorably, and not failing the annual physical fitness test.

In junior college, success was good friends, Choir, being ‘noticed’ by boys I had a crush on, and my first relationship.

In uni, it was how to survive the next Law tutorial / lecture without revealing the depth of my ignorance to the whole class.

After I started working, success meant getting promoted, being able to go on overseas holidays, and being one half of a double-income couple.

Having just turned 49 and been through several career and life changes (including saying goodbye to a prestigious and stable career), I am beginning to redefine success for myself.

Yes, I am still working towards financial freedom and the location-independent laptop lifestyle, but I am also counting as successes so many things that cannot be quantified by external indicators:

  • Being in good health and having more energy and purpose than I did in my twenties and thirties.
  • Being a mother (I did not plan on being one, having had a somewhat complicated and dysfunctional relationship with my mum).
  • The good relationship I have with my children (in spite of me growing up with an absent father and having parents who divorced when I was 9).
  • My marriage of 22+ years (which did not start off well because my mother did not approve of my choice of husband).
  • My church family (who adopted us when we were new in Melbourne and have been like a second family to us ever since).
  • Friends from way back when, and friends from more recent times.
  • Supporters of my work (I am grateful for every single person who has turned up to my events, thanked me for something they learned from me, cheered me on, and let me know they have been touched or inspired in some way by my words and message).

  • All the challenging things I’ve attempted in the past 15 years that ‘forced’ me to show up with courage, do something new and unfamiliar, and risk financial loss, public humiliation, and having to start over from nothing.

  • Being wiser, more compassionate, more open to new ideas, and (hopefully) being less judgmental and black-and-white now that I have met more people and seen more of life.

    How do you define success?