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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Success

I met with a friend today.  We are the same age.  We both were career focused in our 20s.  We waited to get married and had kids in our 30s, right as our careers were peaking.  We kept working but we stepped back a bit- which was made easier by the recession.  In her case, promotions were disappearing.  In my case, my business slowed to a crawl.

Now our kids are kids- not babies.  Business is beyond picking up.  Opportunities are coming again.

She may have a chance to take a "promotion"- or maybe it will be a "no-motion"- bigger job, same money.   It would require a move.  Disrupting her family.  They have friends.  Her kid has friends and activities and is doing well. 

I work in an industry where is it always about more.  More business.  Constantly.  And since I work with money, it's about more money.  That's how they define "success"- how to be successful is simply how to make more money.

When I quit corporate America, my boss was baffled.  I was on a fast track program.  At the last company, they referred to us as hi-pots- high potential.  She asked why, as did my previous boss.  I simply said "Because when I look up, there is no one I want to be." 

It may have sounded arrogant coming from a 25 year old, but it was the truth.  I had been conditioned that being an executive VP or a CEO was the key to "success."  But when I looked up, I saw single, lonely women (because they had all shared, at one point over wine, that they were in fact, very lonely), divorced men, kids in rehab, kids still living at home, shaky marriages with affairs-- the stuff they make telenovellas from.

And every once in a blue moon, there was someone on an org chart that seemed happy.  But so often that was the person everyone talked about behind their back because they left early on Thursday to coach their kids' basketball game.  Or they took an hour over lunch to work out.  Because they did talk.  Commitment meant 60 hour weeks.  The company above all else.

In my last corporate job, I was horrified to find that I didn't have time for the community band.  I have always been active in the communities in which I lived.  Music is my outlet.  Wednesday nights at 7 pm, I had rehearsal.  One night.  At 7 pm.  I swear my boss would intentionally try to keep me late to test me. After missing 2 rehearsals, I started leaving work so I could make it on time.  My boss noticed.  Where was my commitment?  I believe I said it was to me. Those 2 hours a week were fun.  I had given up nearly everything else.  Had started to gain weight.  Rarely saw my friends.  It was 2 hours.  I wasn't asking permission.  It was my LIFE.

I lasted 9 months in that job.

Then I started my business and I probably worked more hours but it was for me.  With a purpose.  So that one day I would reach a point of enough.  It was calculated.  It was planned.  When I had my kids, recession or not, I was able to spend time with them.  I scaled back my hours, worked more efficiently, hired good people and kept it going.  I netted less, but the business grew.  My husband is a teacher and we both have been able to spend time with our kids.

Of course, my business would have grown even more if I had worked 60 hours a week.

Which a few people have commented on.

But would I have those memories of playing on the swings in the park?  My kids don't remember, but I do.  It was fun.

And this isn't about motherhood.  Even when I was single, I took Friday afternoon off.  The market closes at 1.  There's not much I can do after that. So I enjoyed the afternoon- did my appointments then (dentist, hair, etc.).  I would go to the bookstore and pick out a book for the weekend.  I'd pick up a movie at the video store.  I'd take a bubble bath, read my book, watch my movie and relax.  My "me" time.  The guys would all meet up for happy hour and schmooze.  I didn't.  Fridays were mine. 

Now, with kids, time is so much more precious.  They will be gone and on their own soon in what will probably be a very short time.  I enjoy them.  I like my time with them.  For the time being, they seem to like me as well.

The business is doing great.  I love the impact I can make on people's lives. 

So my friend and I chatted about having enough.  We both make enough to ensure a comfortable lifestyle and retire as we planned. 

The people giving the "success" training at events?  Divorced.  Workaholics.  Lotsa money and bling.

They look down on me.  I'm not "successful." I must not take my business seriously if I don't make seven figures.

If my friend turns down this promotion, she will be set to the side as a mommy tracker.  There will be no more offers.  It doesn't work like that.

I asked her if there was anyone in her company, above her, that had a better life?  Nope.

We are happy. 

It's not the jobs, the kids or the husbands that make us happy. We are making choices that make us happy.

The title on our business cards doesn't matter.  More money won't make life any sweeter.

We have enough.  As defined by us.  Not by anyone else.

We have successful lives. It doesn't make us career slackers- in the end, the company can let you go, clients will leave-- but you need to be happy with yourself. Work is not life.  It is a part of a much bigger picture.  A component.

Somewhere I feel we've lost that.  Every self-help book is about having more and doing more.  What about having enough?

A glass of wine with your friends doesn't cost a lot (depending on your taste).  A walk.  A bubble bath.  A good book.  A bike ride. 

I posted earlier this week that you shouldn't forget to love your life while you are living it.

I believe that to the core.  Today matters and tomorrow is coming no matter what, if you're lucky.  But you have to enjoy all the good things about today.

And to me, that's success.