I’ve been having a lot of conversations with friends, family and colleagues about where I am currently and where all my efforts are headed. Young adults everywhere are charged with deciding at the ripe age of 17 what they want to do with their lives. In my case, it was expressed in choose a college and degree field. Make sure it is something that “makes sense and cents”. I assume like most young adults now, I was supposed to be clear about what my life goals were. So long as I was clear on my choice, it was my charge to make a reasonable decision on the next steps thereafter. I’ll say that I did my best.
The issue was I didn’t have a definition for what clarity meant. What I thought was “clarity” was really me blindly walking on a mirage of a straight line to career success. I was finding my way, but I was also doing the status quo. While I have no regrets about the journey so far, I am well-aware that I lacked some imagination in envisioning my future. I’ve come to realize that the lack of imagination I had was directly tied a lack of clarity I had around what my heart truly desired. It made total sense. How does one imagine potential and greatness with precision if they are fuzzy on what success looks like? It simply cannot be done. To be honest, it isn’t totally true that I was unclear, but I will own that I was superficially-clear. Anytime you are carefully balancing what you want with the opinions and criticisms of others you are going to come up short.
It gets boring and tiring to always be following the rules…my advice…break all the damn rules and smile doing it.
The past few years in business have reconfigured me in such a way that I had to become crystal clear on what I wanted for my life. Notice I didn’t say my “career”. You see, once I got clear on the life I wanted to live it became easy to infuse my career pursuits and business with the morals, standards values and mantras I live by daily. It pushed me to create a lane that was unique to me. As a result, I became emboldened and empowered to defy all of the so-called rules that were working against me. Having this level of clarity has not only been exciting, but freeing.
Here are three benefits I have experienced since becoming clear about the direction of my life and career:
1) I learned to say “no” often, without apology, and with confidence. I say “no” to business, to people I no longer need to be associated with; and to situations and circumstances that aren’t mutually beneficial to me or the other person. In other words, I do what I want, change course as needed and do so without saying “sorry”. Giving up saying “sorry” for living life on your terms is a hard habit to kick, but I have worked at it. When you aren’t clear, everything seems like something you should latch onto. I know now that I don’t need to do everything or know everyone — it’s all about finding the synergy in things.
2) Shiny objects, fads, “what everyone else is doing” doesn’t move me. I have long been a creature who is seldom moved and unbothered by the pomp and circumstance of others. However, I would be lying if I said I have never compared myself to others. It is what makes us human. I have been diligent in focusing on my own lawn. While I certainly keep a pulse on what is going on, I do my best not to get wrapped up in what everyone else is doing ( i.e. fads, best practices, shiny objects etc.). In the long run, it doesn’t have any bearing on what you are doing anyway. Not to mention, that unhealthy doses of comparison robs you of being able to be grateful for your own progress.
3) My brand and I are in the flow. My message, my brand and what I stand for are so much clearer now that I have clarity around the overall goal. I have spent the past few years rethinking and figuring out what I like, what I want my legacy to be about and making it a reality. I’ve come to realize less is more and sometimes the brand is simply the journey so far. Life in action. I’m essentially just working hard at living my best life.
Success is subjective and what you make it. If you haven’t achieved success in a way that is meaningful for you it is likely because you haven’t done the internal work required to give you the clarity you need to make the right moves. Make the time to think about where you are and where you want to be. Then, go for it.
I am growing a little community on Instagram called: Growth on my Terms. If you are looking for inspiration from everyday people on success, life and moving through challenges be sure to check it out and join the conversation: www.instagram.com/growthonmyterms.
I had the privilege of attending S.H.E. Summit two weekends ago as press. My attendance at the event was the culmination of a two-year promise I made to myself to get there. I stumbled upon this event a few years ago while on Twitter. I saw the hashtag trending and it immediately peaked my interest. I started reading all of the goodness on the hashtag which lead me to Claudia Chan’s website and from there I was hooked.
I have been to quite a few conferences over the years – each of them with a different mashup of pros and cons. Here’s what I appreciated about S.H.E. Summit:
1)The speakers were relatable. Each speaker shared their stories honestly and ended with sincere calls-to-action that spoke to their dedication to seeing all women thrive. Part of what energizes attendees to take action with any information acquired from your event is: Their ability to see themselves in the speakers and/or the stories being told.
2)They didn’t miss the opportunity to include men in the discussion. From the men who attended as a attendees to those who graced the stage, there was an important dialogue at S.H.E. Summit around how the empowerment and progression of women is affecting men. This is a conversation that is usually scoffed at by hardcore feminists, but I appreciated the difference in perspective.
3)Their programming was designed to address the whole woman, not just parts. When have you ever gone to a conference where you can get professional inspiration while finding out that there is underwear that exists to eliminate the god-awful maxi pad all women have to endure during that time of the month? Yes, this happened. We had the privilege of hearing from dynamic founder and serial entrepreneur Miki Agrawal of Thinx, Period Panties ( sorry not sorry, guys). Miki has created panties that are powered by technology that allows women to ditch the pad. Not only were there unanimous gasps in the room by the women in attendance, but we were all so captivated by her charge to remove the shame that is often synonymous with menstrual cycles for women around the world.
Miki wasn’t the only captivating voice that day. We also had the pleasure of being introduced to Tiffany Dufu, Author of Drop The Ball ( due to be released in Feb. 2017). Tiffany spoke to me personally because she shared her story of striving to be a perfect mom. She called her particular condition “Home Control Disease” (HCD). HCD is a condition that she defines as “having the need to have everything done a certain way – her way”. After her attempts at perfection failed her consistently, she started to redefine what success looked like.
For Tiffany, success boiled down to these three things:
1) Having a purposeful career
2) Cultivating a juicy partnership
3) Leading a healthy lifestyle.
With a new definition of success and letting go of perfection, she decided that it was okay to “drop the ball”. This meant that she would forgive herself if she missed responding to birthday party invites. It also meant that, she only manages what she can and lives with the imperfection of everything else. This is something I personally grapple with as I try feverishly to manage my three children, wife duties and my business.
Although I well know that I’m not alone in my mommypreneur plight, it was reassuring to know that it was okay to “drop the ball” if it means more peace and less pressure in my life.
Claudia Chan, Founder of S.H.E. Summit
If these two ladies weren’t enough to whip us in shape, we got hit over the head with the “Women & Money: Why We Struggle in the Relationship & Practical Steps to Financial Empowerment” panel. This panel encompassed Judy Dougherty, VP and Head of Strategic Initiatives at Prudential, Deborah Owens of Owens Media Group, Lisa Nichols, CEO of Motivating the Masses, Silvia Tergas, Financial Planner at Prudential and was moderated by S.H.E. Summit Founder, Claudia Chan. Their message to us was to not leave our financial futures up to chance. What I appreciated about the discussion was that it talked about the difference between wealth versus income. Deborah Owens of Owens Media Group cited that “wealth is an inside job”.
Typically when we hear about acquiring wealth, it is spoken about as something tangible that we can go out and conquer. It was refreshing to hear them encourage us to do the internal work first so we know how to sustain and build upon the income when it comes.
As you can tell, S.H.E. Summit was chock full of inspiration and activation to get you moving towards chasing your dreams. My overall takeaway was: Success should be defined individually. Much of the pressure and shame women and men feel around how well they are doing in life stems from very general definitions of success that are rooted in how much money you have in your bank account or the items in your closet. Walking away from the S.H.E. Summit I felt empowered to help the women in my life and my clients to redefine success on their own terms. When you are focused on the things that are important to you and you are actively taking steps to achieve your goals – you are indeed a success.
I was a Snapchat and Instagram beast that day. Check out some of the highlights of my day below:
I am deep into a book called: No Fears, No Excuses: What You Need To Do To Have a Great Career by Larry Smith. In this book, he asserts that: “the grown-up world is where talent goes to die.” Reading this statement jolted me gratefully inside – as this is something I have come to realize in my own career journey and in the scope of coaching my clients in business.
You may be thinking that this statement is: “harsh” or “an unfair generalization”. Perhaps, you’re right, but I will wager that you are not necessarily wrong, but rather predictable. I say you are predictable rather than wrong, because you belong to a subset of thousands – if not millions of people who believe in a precept of work that is fast becoming a dinosaur. This precept of work includes: Choosing a degree field (preferably something that will allow you to support yourself upon graduation), studying hard even if you hate your field of study, finding an internship where you give your gifts away for free, only to search for whatever job the economy will loan to you. This my friends is the age old definition of success and job security. The unfortunate outcome of all of this is: The lot of unhappy people and wasted talent living and participating in a society that appears to being conversely impacted by a perceived lack of skilled workers.
While what I just outlined is not indicative of everyone’s career; it is the reality of the majority. Very rarely do I meet someone who says: I love my job and it is allowing me to utilize my full range of talents. In my head, I know of a handful of people in both my personal and professional circles who truly love the work they do. I know that “love” makes people uncomfortable, so let me define what “love” means in this context:
The handful that “love” their work are:
1)Doing work that aligns with their natural talents, interests and passions.
2)Fulfilled by the work, interactions and daily dynamics of the job.
3)Reinforced by having their basic needs for compensation, benefits, flexibility, long-term growth, challenge and continued learning met in return for their efforts.
Most people are not “in love” let alone fulfilled in the way I just described above. Every week, I observe the sentiments about work as we inch towards Friday. Most people, appear to be happiest from Thursday through Saturday. Sunday is a reminder that work starts in 24 hours on Monday – which brings on the inevitable social shares and/or griping about the drudgery that is returning to work. Put plainly, people are miserable and feel stuck.
Coming back to the title of this article which is: Is the “grown-up” world where talent goes to die? Is it true? I think it is. We start children off conditioning them to conform to the world rather than disrupt it. This conditioning often forces them to ignore their interests, innate skills and passions in favor of the road most traveled, lucrative and accepted. In doing this, we ship them off to university to study what seems like the best option for them. Sometimes it works out and other times a pivot emerges to the dissatisfaction of the parents, because of course we are supposed to have our entire life figured out at 22 – how reasonable!
Should we be lucky enough to get a job after graduation, more advice comes our way. The advice is: “Work hard, keep your head down, follow the rules and you will be promoted and successful in no time.” In “no time” is the operative word, because in this current economy promotions seem to be rather elusive and hard or good work is no longer a silver bullet for success on the job. By the time, people look up – they have a home, 2 cars, some kids, a dog, bills and a job that is a terrible fit for their skills and lifestyle; but the bills have to be paid, so onward with more drudgery.
For every person that works a job there is a dream and creativity deferred in the journey towards personal and professional success. We have all been conditioned to believe that holding a job whether it is a passion or not is a badge of honor – your right of passage into adulthood. More money, more bills, and more material effects are just a few of the things that define your adulthood in our current society. The problem with this rat race of superficial success is that it is superficial. Success is subjective and therefore much more to having longevity in your career than the degrees, certifications and clocked years of service.
Agreeing or disagreeing with this statement of talent dying in the grown-up or corporate world doesn’t matter. What matters is that you take a moment to realize what you want your life and contributions to stand for and taking stock of where you are so you can ensure that the two align. Here’s a hint: In the coming decades, success will not be defined by your retirement package, the money in your bank account or the amount of hours you worked – it will be about how you made an impact (however small) in your part of the world.
I spoke about success and what is means to be an adult in the modern world on my Periscope show: Ask Czarina Live. You can watch it below.