Rethink The Definition of Success
Like many other graduates, I entered the job market with an ambitious plan to climb the corporate ranks, earn a nice six-figure salary, and be successful. That last ambition sounds vague, doesn’t it? What does “be successful” even mean? I simply thought it meant a well-paying, prestigious career. So that’s what I aspired to.
But the definition of success isn’t so cut and dry. Something I believe each of us discover over time. Prestigious corporate careers can gift a great deal: money, status, perks. They can also take just as much in exchange: time, family, freedom.
When I left my high-flying corporate career to go solo and start my own business, I surprised many, who thought I would be giving up so much promise and opportunity. True, starting a business isn’t without risk. It takes a huge amount of time and effort to win your first few customers, and you don’t immediately replace your nice, reliable salary. But I’ve learned that it has given me things in life I wasn’t even aware I valued so greatly.
Take freedom, for example. When you run your own business, you have the freedom to do as you please. It is the opposite of the standard 9-5 hour job many companies offer. When you run your own business you work the hours you want, and take time off when you need it. Paradoxically, you are more likely work a greater number of hours than you would in a paid job, but it’s rare to feel the burn out because those hours fit in far better with your life.
Freedom also comes from the location you choose to run your business from. We’ve developed this human habit of gathering in big grey offices for large lengths of the day, but with technology as advanced as it is these days, it really is possible to run your business from anywhere in the world: a coffee shop, the beach, a foreign city. It does make you feel a sense of achievement, of success, when you can pick your laptop up and move to a brand-new location. Don’t underestimate the adrenaline and enjoyment you can feel about your work when you can look at beautiful and unusual scenery, rather than the same familiar office blocks.
There is little doubt that running your own business, if approached the right way, is also one of the best ways in which you can achieve a greater balance between work and family demands. I found this first-hand after my daughter was born, because when her nursery telephones me to say she is sick, I can collect her within 5 minutes without negotiating the time off with anyone else. It might sound like a small thing, but to me, having the power to do that is the real definition of success.
One of the less obvious benefits of running your own business, but one I think which is intrinsically tied to success, is how personally rewarding it can be to grow something from the ground up rather than simply working for someone else. Running a business is a highly creative pastime. If you’ve ever worked in a typical corporate office job, you’ll know just how difficult it can be to bring creativity and imagination to a career which is often ruled by procedures and politics. Being free of that, and having the autonomy to make decisions, take risks, and bring ideas to fruition, really does make you feel like you are achieving success in your life.
So there is the true definition of success. Throw away the rule book that tells you to value status and money, and start looking at some of the other things you can bring to your life and what they might mean for you personally. That could mean more quality time with family, or it might mean finally getting the time to travel the world as you’ve always promised yourself you would. Whatever your dreams, make that dream a part of your own definition of success.
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