When I was I corporate, there were definitive markers on my career journey. At AT&T we had numbers to tell us where we were in the hierarchy. An a2 was entry, while a4 was the career level.
When you got to 5 you were a project leader and one step away from the magic number: 6, which was managing a team.
While most of us sat in hideously burnt orange cubes with half walls, managers got grey cubes with full-sized walls. The grey cube itself became a symbol, just as getting the “corner office” is in other environments.
At first I could’ve cared less about being promoted past a 4. I was trying to climb anyone’s ladder. But in time, I began to feel the promotion would be a way to get more money and perhaps be a reward for all the work I was putting in. The nights, weekends and holidays where I was called on to give every spare moment to my job.
Unfortunately getting to those hallowed levels wasn’t easy, and had more to do with who you knew than with how hard you worked. There were managers who were known never to promote any of their staff, no matter what. While others were more fair and managed to actually support their employees in their career development.
It was the luck of the draw, though. You might work for a good manager, or one who sucked. Your entire career depended on who pulled the strings.
Once I left that environment, it was tough to figure out where I was as an entrepreneur. How could I chart my progress? By the dollars I was making, the dollars I was keeping? The number of clients or the number of products? What was the magic number? How would I know I’d arrived?
“Too many people miss the silver lining because they’re expecting gold.” ~Maurice Setter
After years of managing my career, I was at a loss. So, like most other people, I was drawn to the siren song of “6 Figures or Bust.” That was the magic number. When I got there, I could sit back and it would all be smooth.
But as I’ve continued, I’ve come to terms with that fantasy. As Maya Angelou said, “when you know better, you do better.”
It took a lot of tears, sweat and lean times, but I got it. There is not one marker of success.
Sure, one marker should probably be that you can turn a profit, even though there are many “successful” companies that haven’t.
Countless companies have had extreme ups and downs – have crashed, burned, been revived and cracked up again. It’s not a straight line from start to success.
Lately I’ve been looking at nice websites, clever logos, improvised titles and engaging “about me” pages, and wondering, where am I?
Do I need to create a brand or pick out special colors or call myself some impossibly hip title? Chief Envisioner? Fairy Dust Spreader? Creative Diva-in-Chief?
What do I have to do to finally make it? Who do I have to be?
“We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be.” — Anne Lamott
People who contact me see that I’ve done lots of stuff, and they react based on what they see. But I don’t always feel like I know what I’m doing, even though they might believe otherwise.
Will a logo help me to feel like I’ve arrived? A new website? Or is the answer solely in my bank statement?
When I thought about how I should pull everything together, I had to stop and think. I’m a writer, I have a podcast, I blog and write books, I teach workshops – isn’t that what I wanted to do?
Can I just accept that I’m where I’ve always wanted to be – even without all the trappings that I’m “supposed” to have?
It can be hard to recognize you’ve already arrived when you think success is supposed to look a certain way. But it’s not like being back in corporate and having a level number or a grey cube to tell me who who I am and what I’ve done.
“Life is very short and what we have to do must be done in the now.” – Audre Lorde
Now I get to decide what my success looks like. I get to say, I’m where I want to be. So what if it isn’t super slick and neatly packaged in just the “right” way?
Where do you want to be? What is your ideal? Possibly you might already be doing it… being it…living in it.
Instead of the constant striving and struggling and climbing to get to that elusive thing called, success, maybe you should stop and take stock. If you’re defining your own success, there’s a good chance you’re already there.
Copyright © 2015 Deborah A. Bailey