Recently, I read an article on 5 things every successful woman does. It was vague. It was a pole of a few people that a particular media outlet deemed to be successful, and it gave examples like “Carve out your own place in the world,” and “It’s ok to take things personally.” Duh!? What?
Come on! First, why would this list be geared towards women only? There are common things that successful people do; not just women. Success doesn’t depend on if you have a penis or not.
Secondly, duh? Of course you need to carve out your own place in the world. If you do what everyone else does, daily, what’s so special about that? And “It’s ok to take things personally.” Ok, this is ground-breaking. Not! Unless you’ve had a lobotomy, you’re human, and what others say affects your mindset, at least a little.
Enough article bashing. Let’s get on with it.
I’ve met many successful people over the course of my career. What I’m about to write holds true for most of them, as well as myself.
Success needs to be defined, first. To some, success means wealth in terms of dollars and cents. If that’s your definition, you can stop reading this now. I’m not going to tell you how to get rich.
Success, to me, means finding a way to follow your dreams and attain happiness. Maybe not permanent-every-moment-is-blissful happiness; but in general, you define success as being a happy person.
Now you ask me, what do I need to do to be this kind of successful?
First, I will tell you, if you focus on personal happiness first, the financial success will follow. In time. Not immediately. Heck no! It’s called getting your act together, paying your dues, and working hard. Even then, will you be guaranteed a windfall? No. But whether you like to carve wood or get exhilarated by organizing your closet, there is a way that your skills and passions will intersect, and if you have the drive, you can monetize what you do, even if that means being able to have a little extra cash on hand to treat yourself to a nice night out every now and then.
Notice, I italicized the words “if you have the drive”. I’ve met and know so many talented people that work in a bubble. They are artists and writers, thinkers and creators. Their vision and creativity will blow you away. However, they either want to remain anonymous, or retain what they do as a personal hobby, and therefore, they never get what they do off the ground. Which leads me to my first quality of successful people:
1. You need drive, baby! If you just dabble in something that makes you happy, you will “Oooh!” and “Aaah!” your friends; but don’t expect it to make you millions or launch you into famedom. You have to consciously get up every day and make your passion your work. You have to work at it at odd hours while raising children and holding down a full-time job. You have to sacrifice free time and devote it to your craft. You have to get out there and meet people and not fear their opinions about what you do. Motivation usually comes from within. If you’re not feeling the desire to “do”, then maybe what you’re doing is fulfilling for you on a certain level, but adjust your expectations accordingly. Without drive, you can’t go anywhere. It follows as true for cars as it does for people.
One of the best pieces of advice I received was from a friend who told me when my daughter was born that I need to schedule HER day; not the other way around. She should not be the one dictating to me when to feed her or when she wanted to sleep. Oh no. I needed to take charge. After I followed that advice, I found myself sleeping more soundly at night, and I was able to predict when she would want to eat. OMG! The obvious worked.
The same applies to yourself. Start small. Set a time you get up at every day of the week and a time you go to bed. Physically, you’ll start to feel better. Our body clocks like predictability.
Secondly, I don’t care if you’re running 3 kids to soccer, gymnastics, and iPad practice, they have schedules, and so should you! Pencil in some time to commit to do what makes your heart sing!
Does that feel selfish? It is. Don’t feel bad about it! Here’s why:
3. Successful people take time for themselves. We live in a world of high stress and chaos, where our boss/spouse/kids/pets are constantly making demands of our time. Most of us put everyone else above our own needs. I’ve got news for you; that’s not always good.
If you take time out for yourself; whether it’s to sit down and write for a half hour every night, or go for a massage twice a year, you will hit the ground running again as a better mother/father/sister/husband/employee/person. I guarantee you!
When I take time away for myself, it recharges my batteries. I have a higher tolerance for the unpredictable and the unplanned stresses of life. Instead of losing patience, I find myself better equipped to deal with bumps in the road. I’m a better mother/worker/friend/lover after doing “the me thing”. (I may have to #hashtag that. #TheMeThing)
4. Learn to say “No!” This is probably the hardest thing for me to do. I hate saying “no” to people. I’m afraid to hurt their feelings.
Some days, I receive hundreds of emails. Different people wanting to sell me things or sell things for them; others wanting me to support causes (many of which are inspiring and wonderful). More emails asking me to get them into an event or promote something that their mother’s brother’s cousin does. Some people want face-to-face meetings for everything. I could go on.
There is only one of me.
And there is only one of YOU.
The point is, your time is valuable. Treat it that way. Anyone who is successful, who feels successful, will tell you, they prioritize their days, and they pick and choose who they will talk to and spend their time with.
Don’t be at everyone’s beckoned call. You aren’t Cinderella! (And if you are, can I borrow your shoes? Glass slippers sound cool!)
But seriously, you can tell people “I’m busy,” or “I’m sorry, but I don’t have the time for this,” or even a version of “Thank you for thinking of me, but I already have something planned/going on/am booked/have to shampoo my hair/etc.”
Once you start saying “no”, it gets easier. I promise! You will feel better and be able to schedule your days, and also cut time out for yourself.
P.S. Kids can hear the word “no!” too! If they want you to play ball outside with them right now, or sign up for extreme skateboarding practice that requires you to be their chauffeur 4 days a week, it will not devastate them if you explain to them that you will play with them later, or their participation on the track team is enough. Children need to learn that being told “no”, is sometimes a part of life, and it doesn’t mean you love them less.
5. Develop a thick skin. Contrary to the advice the article gave, I find it useful to not take things personally in certain situations. Not everyone’s opinion counts. Nope. It doesn’t. The most important opinion is yours. Beyond that, a measure of success is, ironically, if you have haters.
People are people. Success breeds jealousy. When you appear happy and successful, there are those who support you; but the flipside is those who throw up their hands and feel like they weren’t given what they deserve, and they project their frustration/anger/sadness/insert-negative-emotion-here, on you.
It’s not right. It’s not fair. But it happens.
Sometimes I write something, and I don’t read the comments right away. I wait for a moment when I feel strong, and then I do read them; but I read them knowing that just as I have expressed an opinion, every other person has the right to do the same thing. And if it appears to be a personal attack, I take a step back, and I try to remember that what someone says is usually a reflection of something going on in their own life, and it’s not directly speared at me.
Words can sting. True. But I won’t ever let someone’s words curb my passion. If you do that, you let them win. You become that unsuccessful story; the person who gave up. Who wants that? Not me.
6. Never give up! Successful people never toss aside their dreams, goals, aspirations, and loves for anything. Despite non-believers, in spite of obstacles, and notwithstanding failure, people who achieve success do not let failure stop them. If they don’t succeed in doing/selling/pleasing/creating on the first attempt, they try again and adopt the psyche of “The Little Engine That Could”. “I think I can! I think I can!” This mantra, will become “I did it!” in just a matter of time, when try-ing, leads to tri-umph.
And with that, I wish you well! May you attain greater levels of success in your pursuit of happiness than you ever dreamed of! There is no “key” to success. There’s a whole key ring, full of possibilities to unlock doors for you that lead to fulfillment of your heart’s desires.