I turned 50 last week. And then I was asked to write for LetsGoBoldly. Lucky me!So I thought, what would interest readers of this site? I guessed you might want to know what it takes to be successful in life? I think this is an interesting question because everyone’s definition of success is probably slightly different and if you were asked to write a story, you would probably come up with a very different definition – but don’t let that put you off – everyone has a story to tell! I am also certain that my musings would be very different to a lot of other 50 year olds. Am I really 50? I can’t believe it! But my Grandmother is 97 so I figure I am only half way to the end!
Let’s go back in time for a moment. When I was at school in the 1970’s and 1980’s in Australia, success was about having friends, being brainy but not too brainy, getting good results but not too good results, playing sport or getting involved in the arts and enjoying the holidays.When I started work, success was a little bit harder to define. As I was working full time and studying part time, getting up in the morning and getting to the bus stop without running there with wet hair could be classified as a success!
In my first role, I had to meet the requirements of my ‘career recruit’ status and push past some common stereotypes in a very patriarchal organisation. I was married and female at the age of 20, so it was assumed I would just ‘run off and have babies.’ In the end, I left before I got pregnant after 11 years of loyal service (much longer than many of my married male counterparts).
Overcoming stereotypes and proving to myself and my colleagues that I was capable was empowering. By the time I left my first job, I had a lot of transferable skills, I had completed a lot of study and I had learnt to manage staff from a very young age.Then I moved from Adelaide to Melbourne and my whole world turned upside down. After being the eldest of 27 grandchildren and four children and having a close knit circle of friends, I lost my sense of identity as virtually no-one came to visit. I also became a mother and was sacked whilst I was pregnant.
It took me six and a half years to stop being angry about that. It took me a long time to adjust to motherhood (my brain was not ready to slow down). But my highest value of wanting to spend time with my children outweighed any full time job offer that came my way. Put simply, I have spent the last 20 years doing a huge variety of jobs on a freelance, contract or consulting basis and I have absolutely no regrets about this lifestyle choice. Of course my children will tell you that I have spent my whole life in front of a computer – because for most of the time I was working at home, I completed tasks in front of a computer screen.
As they are now leaving home, I can still sit here in front of my computer screen but more importantly, I can treasure all of the other activities we had time to do because I wasn’t working full time. I don’t remember missing any concerts or performances and I only missed one sporting activity. We travelled, participated in camps, scouts, voluntary work and church activities. We went to outdoor festivals, danced in parks and had weekends away. We went outside of our comfort zone (like going on the flying trapeze) and spent time with friends. We have celebrated birthdays, Christmases and other holidays with new friends and we have travelled back to Adelaide to re-connect with old friends.
On the work front, I have been extremely fortunate. I have worked with some of the most inspirational people you can imagine. These are not people seeking celebrity status, just the quiet achievers making a difference in their world and the world around them. I have constantly learned new information, developed new skills and been ready to smash something in frustration on several occasions (my children still remember the time when I was so frustrated about them not doing the dishes, that I yelled that I would do them and started by smashing a plate on the floor. They came at once and never argued about doing the dishes ever again!).
Most of the time I wanted to smash something it was because of an IT problem. Who would have guessed?
You may be the main instigator, founder or designer of something amazing – but in the end, we must all collaborate to achieve success. You will need someone to help you with some aspect of your enterprise, you cannot possibly hope to do every single thing yourself. Even if you were foolish enough to believe this, there is probably someone else in your life making it possible for you to devote yourself to your goal (like the parents who encouraged you or the partner who manages the household because you are busy).
Developing your competence involved education and experience. Coaching helps you improve. You will probably go through many coaches on your journey to success. Each one comes along for part of the journey and in my view, takes you to another level before you need the next coach to take you to the next level. Coaching will enable you to review what you have done, seek feedback, analyse and improve. Coaches provide the much needed encouragement and positivity that you may not find from family, friends or colleagues. You are paying them to support your efforts – and the best coaches will be completely open and honest and empower you even more.
I have never met a lazy person who feels as if their life is successful. Of course they tell me that they save a lot of time by not doing the things that they don’t want to do. But if I look at the genuinely successful people who have an amazing sense of success, they have worked out what it takes for them to be successful and they do it – consistently. They are often early risers. They usually exercise regularly and eat well. They are inquisitive and curious. They do not accept the status quo and they challenge boundaries but they also know their own boundaries.
This means knowing when to say yes and when to say no. It also means being willing to take a risk and say yes, but if it goes bad, saying no next rather than gambling with another yes and risking more. Success requires discipline – like staying healthy and getting enough sleep rather than being consumed by screen based activities.
I go all tingly when someone I meet overcomes whatever is challenging to them. It could be as simple as talking to someone at a networking event. If they find this difficult and they learn how to overcome it and do it, I am as proud of them as I am of the person who has trained for months to run a marathon. If it seemed impossible before you began, you must celebrate when you achieve your milestone. Find various ways to recognise your achievements and those of the people around you. Say thank you as often as you can. Be positive and encouraging to the people you meet. I still remember the person who said I was ‘proactive.’ I have lived by that motto since 1987.
Planning and preparation are always important – but you also need to sit back and review what has happened. Look at the pluses and minuses. Are you on track? Are you heading in the direction you want to go? What do you need to do to either change direction, continue moving forward or abandon a lost cause? True success comes when you are willing to let go, regardless of the investment you have made if you now find, based on a prudent analysis, that you need to stop doing something. Yes, it can be tough, but it is so worth it.
At this point, I would like to personally thank you for reading and possibly sharing this story – but more importantly, I would like to acknowledge all of the people who have come before me, joined me on my journey and will appear in the future.
Everyone you meet has the ability to inspire you in some way (even the negative parts can inspire you – one of my harshest critics was one of my best teachers).
Success is more than a word, it can be a way of life. How you choose to define success is up to you. Please feel free to incorporate any of these ideas in your future!