future work

Could Your Definition of Success be Too Small?

Success’s Dirty Secret

Everybody wants to know the secret to success.

We know all the famous quotes, read #allthebooks, and have our own idolized images of success in our heads.

To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends. To appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

But the truth is there is no secret to success. Despite what the gurus will tell you, there is no magic formula.

And that’s both bad news and good news. The bad news is that success is never the result of a lucky accident. The good news is the time is always right to make a new decision about the future you want to create.

Fun fact: the word “decide” comes from the Latin word “decidare”—meaning “to cut off all other possibilities.”

When we cut off the possibilities that aren’t working for us while keeping the ones that move us in the direction of our dreams, we create the kind of future we want and that equals success.

When do you think most about what it means to be successful?

If you’re like me, then it’s probably when you’re in the same room with actual successful people. And despite what we say success is, if we’re hard pressed to define it, we end up saying things like:

  • earning lots of money

  • having lots of respect

  • being the boss

  • being happy

At least this is what I learned about success when I asked a group of rising tenth grade girls this very question last weekend. I definitely wouldn’t turn down more money or more respect or more influence, but when I’m asked about success, I often say that success isn’t about any of those things at all.

True Success

Lately I’ve been wondering if the reason my definition of success has changed is because the trajectory of my life looks different than I imagined it. Have I adjusted my definition of success to fit my life or is my life a reflection of the hard (but very good) choices I’ve had to make to ensure my life doesn’t take a wonky turn for the worse?

The thing is most of us say we want to be successful, but without a clearly defined definition about what that actually means we don’t make a plan for ensuring that what we want will come to pass. The world is big and often scary.

This is not an EXCUSE.
It’s an INVITATION.

There’s clearly potential for every single one of us to make a difference. Using our unique gifts to make the world better today than it was yesterday is how we leave a legacy. It’s the measuring stick for determining whether or not we have lived a successful life. And sure, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by “the world,” but my world isn’t all that big, and I can definitely do something around here. After all, I would love to foster a strong marriage, raise healthy kids, and contribute to a thriving community. All of those things are real and possible!

How to be Successful

1) Make sure your goals reinforce your values. Prioritize the process. Discipline and success go hand-in-hand.

2) Remember that time and people are your most important resources. Steward them well.

3) Successful results come from successful processes. Don’t confuse good luck with true success. They are not the same, and if you are successful, it will not be an accident.

4) Failure is a gift. Successful people learn from their mistakes. My daughter has a sign hanging in her room that says: Unless you puke, faint or die, keep going. Thanks, Jillian Michaels. That’s good advice!

5) Success is a journey, not a destination. Change over time yields results. Although your definition of success will evolve as you mature, may you always remember that the quality and direction of your life will be determined through the choices that you make.

And finally, I feel like I have to say that as women there are a number of things that make us feel successful in our many different roles (wink, wink).

What makes you feel successful as a mom?
A wife?
A daughter?
A sister?
A volunteer?
A board member?
A CEO?

I bet that you have a different definition of success for each one of these roles. And sometimes those definitions are in conflict with one another, which means it can be really easy to feel like you’re failing in more than one area. Who hasn’t dropped the ball at least once? (I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve forgotten to pick up my own kids from school!)

I used to subscribe to the theory that we didn’t need to itemize our various positions, that we could simply lump what it means to be a success or a failure within the context of the most important facet of our identity:

“What makes me feel like I’m successful as a WOMAN?”

Things like adequate time with my children and a thriving relationship with my spouse and time to learn and grow made me realize that I was actually defining success in terms of what I was already achieving, not what was actually possible.

This is important because our lives are not stagnant. If we’re not growing, we’re dying. I’d hate to think that I have already reached the pinnacle of my capability.

A New Way to Approach Success

The Magic of “WHAT IF?”

“What if” is an extremely powerful phrase. We often start sentences with these two words when we’re grieving time gone by, but we use the same phrase at the beginning of sentences that enable us to dream about the future.

Today, think about your own “What If” moments.

What if you felt valued and appreciated and free to pursue your dreams?
What if you were free from the expectations that come from both work and motherhood?
What if you could connect emotionally with the work you were made to do?

Successful people are obsessed with creating value.

What if you could embrace your calling without the well-intended comments of others that the thing that makes you come alive isn’t worthy of your love, energy, or attention?
What if we didn’t care what they think? I mean, who cares if they can’t see how the things you love could lead to success?
What if we didn’t allow the limitations other people try to put on us to stifle our own potential for expression, connection, meaning, and joy?

Examine your assumptions about what is and is not a worthy pursuit in your life. Decide what kind of life you want to have and how you want to live it. That’s the only way to have a life that’s not dependent on circumstances, so when you lose the job, somebody you love gets sick, the kid goes to college, and the house forecloses, you can still feel successful.

Because let’s face it: the things you love most almost never have monetary value. That tenth grade definition of success—the one that was about money, and influence, and respect, and being the boss—when you decide to be the boss of your life, the influence and respect will follow. As for the money, I can’t promise that, but I do know that when you have the love and support of your family and friends, you find that you can feel happy and successful with less of it.

Here’s to your success!

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Mission Driven Monday--Jennifer Robinson

Meet Jennifer Robinson!

She and her husband are the founders of My Audio Pet, which was born out of a need to create new work for their family after her husband was let go from his corporate job. Jennifer and KJ hit the ground running, hustling hard, and putting one foot in front of the other until some big companies took notice, including Oprah Magazine and Good Morning America. She’s a firm believer in the power of prayer and her unofficial motto is: “Keep going.” God’s grace lives in the midst of the mistakes.

The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.
— Isaiah 50:4

Important Links from this episode:

My Audio Pet: the tiniest, cutest, most kick-butt blue tooth speaker on the planet. Makes a great gift! Use Code MISSIONDRIVENMONDAY for 20% off until 10/31/2019.

Living Beyond Yourself: Exploring the Fruit of the Spirit by Beth Moore


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Choices and Consequences: Is Unpaid Work Holding You Back?

Dream Jobs

I write a lot about finding your purpose and figuring out the work you’re meant to do.

I blame it on my childhood.

We’re asked at a very young age what we want to be when we grow up. We usually reply based on what we’ve seen, either in our neighborhoods or on TV. There’s probably a disproportionate number of people out there who wanted to be things like teachers, doctors, and policeman.

When my son was in kindergarten, he wanted to be a garbage man (his words, not mine).

At the time, we thought it was funny and cute.

Hanging off the back of a truck, wind whipping through your hair…what could be better?

He’s 15 now, and his new dream job is one he calls “fragrance mogul.” I don’t think he’s seen many of those around, but he likes girls, and I guess he’s started caring about whether or not he smells good when he is around them.

There’s a bunch of kids going off to college, and they are stressed to the max. Everyone is asking them where they are going to school and what’s their major. Students like my daughter, with ambiguous majors like Leadership Integrated Studies, get asked a follow-up question, which is typically a variation of “What do think you want to do with that someday?”

How could she possibly know the answer to that question?

Our first jobs rarely determine our final destination.

Case in point: I used to work in a hardware store, and my first job out of college was as a trainer in a gym.

Don’t get me wrong. Work is necessary. Work is good. My daughter’s been working since she was sixteen. All the jobs we have in life prepare us for the work we’re meant to do.

Humans were created to work. But there are so many different kinds of work and ways in which we can work and possibilities for the future that I would never want to lock my 19 year old daughter into just one way of thinking. She’s young and smart. I’ve never told her to choose a major based solely on the fact that she needs something concrete, something “she can fall back on.” I have faith that she can figure out work because she’s figured out so many other parts of her life.

And she’s got time.

So many of the jobs that sound interesting to me now did not even exist when I was her age. I never could have imagined the work I’m doing now. But (and this is the big thing), I knew what kind of life I wanted, and therefore everything I was learning would not be wasted, no matter what the future held.

Choices and Consequences

But the point is that we often don’t think about the consequences of our choices.

Twenty years ago I made a choice.

I made a choice to leave full time paid work in order to stay home and do full time UNPAID work. It was a choice I made, and the consequences were many. I have no regrets because this unpaid work has been fulfilling in other ways

If my son had thought through the consequences of being a sanitation worker, a valiant occupation to be sure, and something we can’t do without ( Does anyone remember New York’s great garbage strike of 1968?), he may have chosen a different path—even as a kindergartener. However, he didn’t think about the fact that it’s pretty stinky riding behind the garbage all day, that HE would be pretty stinky, too, by the end of it, and that lifting garbage bags hour after hour is some kind of back-breaking labor. In hot weather, on cold days, and even when it’s raining, sanitation workers are on duty.

The garbage never stops.

But just because we get older doesn’t mean we think about the consequences of our work. Maybe you have found yourself on the business end of a poorly executed choice. For example, I once thought it would be fun to run a company, which would probably mean time away from family, travel, late nights, stressful working conditions, and possibly even more education.

Is that what I really wanted?

We make the choices we can live with.

And all choices are not created equal.

As I’ve watched my children get older and my friends, stay-at-home moms mostly, go back into the workforce, I’ve noticed that even now we forget what our choices mean.

We want so-called REAL work because it means that the years we spent at home raising our children, volunteering at school, and keeping house were not wasted. We can add value. And if we can, we should…Right? And let’s be honest—kids don’t get less expensive as they get older. We trade diapers and preschool for drivers ed and tutoring. They need and want more than we can possibly give them.

Going back to work is the next logical step.

So we go back to work and discover that we are still needed at home, that children still get sick, that teachers still have conferences, that the laundry and cooking do not cease simply because we are not there to do it. We can enlist the help of our spouse and kids, but everyone is busy. So, so busy.

And we realize that what we really want is not necessarily more money, but more time. The kids are getting older. They will leave us soon. We only have four more summer vacations. Three. Two. One. And then suddenly they are off to college. And family vacations are a thing of the past. At least the way they used to be.

Where did the time go?

Real Work

I want you to know that the work you’re doing now IS real work. It’s important, and it matters. In a LinkedIn article I was reading just last week, 91% of employers say that soft skills are more important than hard skills when looking to hire a new employee. These skills are becoming increasingly important, not just in the workplace but everywhere. Those are certainly the skills I can practice, teach my kids, and cultivate in a variety of non-traditional unpaid ways.

Just because I was (and still am) what some would call a stay-at-home mother, I don’t necessarily do a lot of staying home.

According to the LinkedIn report, these are the soft skills companies need, but have a hard time finding:

1)    Creativity
2)    Persuasion
3)    Collaboration
4)    Adaptability
5)    Time Management

Where better to practice these skills than in the context of motherhood and volunteerism and community service? 

Think about what you’re doing right now. If you’re not doing REAL work, can you think of anything that’s preparing you to lead with the soft skills necessary for the future?

 It’s so easy to think that time spent at home and time spent not earning real money, is wasted time. And this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Your soft skills are getting stronger every day.

 It is possible to chase your dream without running away from your life.

You are not stuck.
You are not stigmatized.
You are not a doormat.
You are not a slave.

You are smart, and special, and someday (but maybe not now), your dreams will actually be closer than you think.

 You will not always have children at home.
You will not always need to be the one who does the cooking and cleaning.
You will find, if you’re willing to share now, that which you have, that when the timing is right, you will receive exactly what you hoped for.

Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.
— Galatians 6:4-5 MSG

Ready to take it to the next level?

 

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Mission Driven Monday--Amber Pert

Meet Amber Pert!

Amber Pert helps turn young dreamers into real-life doers. Her Navigator book series chronicles how leaders across a range of disciplines built their brands. Amber is passionate about purpose, and she brings it to life through the inspiring words she shares with young leaders. I loved hearing about her vision for the future because kids truly ARE our future. Experience is a great teacher, but for young people--learning from the experiences of others is EVEN BETTER. Follow your mission, not the madness.

Important Links from this Episode:

Wellspring Crew—Information and Navigator Book Series

Book she recommends: Measure What Matters

And a book I recommend: Barking to the Choir by Father Gregory Boyle

Millennials and Money

Ready to take it to the next level?

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Mission Driven Monday--Abbey Glass

Meet Abbey Glass!

When you were a little girl, did you ever make clothes for your Barbies or baby dolls? Did you spend hours drawing fashions in a notebook? Abbey Glass is a maker, too. For as long as she can remember, she's been making things. Today, she is the owner of Abbey Glass Studio, a fashion design and manufacturing house located in Atlanta, Georgia. But that's not all she does. Abbey is motivated, driven, and committed to pursuing the biggest challenges she possibly can.

In this conversation, we talk about the challenges and joys of owning your own company and transferring your personal values to the brand you're building.

At the end, the conversation takes a philosophical turn as we talk about what it's like to be a business woman who is not married and does not have kids.

Follow your mission, not the madness!

Important Links from this episode:

Want to be the most stylish woman in town? You can! Click here.

Visit the Flagship store in Atlanta.

A Podcast Abbey likes: How I Built This

Ready to take it to the next level?

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Always FREE SHIPPING with Code MDFREESHIP

What's Your Kryptonite? The One Thing That Can Derail Your Dreams

Dreams and Regret

Today, I was watching my younger son play soccer and I overheard two parents talking about college majors. One mom said her brother-in-law went to an acclaimed arts school and graduated with a major in Photography. His dream job was to become a photo journalist at National Geographic, but for the last 20 years he’s been working as a paramedic. “He never enjoyed taking photos of people,” she said. “And besides, you don’t exactly find international photojournalism jobs in the want ads.”

Twenty years! There’s a big difference between being a paramedic and a guy who takes pictures.

And his sister was right. You don’t find that kind of job in the want ads. In fact, usually the kind of job we aspire to isn’t found in the want-ads at all. And I don’t think I’ve had a newspaper subscription in the last 20 years, so do the want-ads even exist anymore?

This guy is probably a good paramedic, and he probably says he loves his job. Everyday is different, after all, and saving lives can be very rewarding, I’m sure, but if his dream is hanging out in the African jungle only to find himself forever navigating the urban jungle, I can only imagine the kind of regret and disappointment he feels.

How Kryptonite Works

Even if you’re not a fan of Superman, you’ve probably heard of kryptonite. You know it’s the one thing that strips Superman of all his super powers. I don’t know if I’m remembering old episodes from the 1950s or if this is just how I imagine it in my mind, but in the presence of Kryptonite, I see Superman falling to his knees, unable to move, barely able to speak, certainly bereft of his superhuman strength and his ability to see through walls and that sort of thing.

Sometimes people will talk about kryptonite like it’s a real thing and not something made up in comic books. We all have our own version of kryptonite, the thing that keeps us grounded and unable to move forward. I think the biggest one is predictability.

Choosing safety and security over adventure.
Choosing what’s predictable and profitable over what’s preferable.
Choosing what’s right here, right now over what could be.

Predictability is safe. It’s nice to know where that next paycheck is coming from.

Before the Kryptonite

Do you remember what it was like to be in college? Maybe you were like me, a little naive and a little nervous about the future. Back then, did you wish for a predictable life or an adventurous one?

No one told me I’d probably have to be the one to create the kind of life I really wanted. My dream job was unlikely either to be handed to me on a silver platter or waiting for me to discover in the want ads. So I built a resume based on all the things I had already done rather than the things that were preparing me for all the things I wanted to do…someday.

When I’m in the zone, far away from my kryptonite, I feel a lot like Superman. I can see through walls—or at least I feel like I have a leg up on overcoming the challenges in front of me. I have the bandwidth to outrun the figurative speeding bullets charging toward me, and the strength to tackle just about anything.

Note: There will always be roadblocks on the road to success. Please don’t allow the comfort of predictability be the thing that keeps you from trying something new.

When we do things the same way, at the same time, every single day, our brain begins to work without us even thinking. We don’t have to adjust or adapt. We just have to be. Just like fictional kryptonite keeps Superman from being able to use his superhuman strength, so we too, are paralyzed. I have never felt weaker than when I am doing repetitive work I don’t really care about.

Back when I was in college and I had all those big dreams, I had no idea that I was responsible for creating the life I wanted. I thought everybody just got an entry level job after graduation and then twenty years later-voila—they were promoted to VP level positions.

Sometimes that’s how it works. But not always.

If some UN-predictable things hadn’t happened, like getting rejected from medical school—TWICE—or getting pregnant with my first daughter, maybe I’d still be climbing the corporate ladder. But because something unexpected happened, I shifted my thinking and leaned in. I discovered new interests, pursued new adventures, and started volunteering and leading things that put me on a new path and toward a new definition of success.

Since kryptonite causes pain and paralysis, overcoming it is anything but easy. In every instance I’ve ever had of overcoming my personal kryptonite, (the dreaded predictability), I can honestly say that our family has benefited. I’ve met people who literally changed the trajectory of my life. I’ve been inspired by stories of life change. I’ve created and built things I never could have even imagined if I had remained stuck doing the same thing day in and day out.

What’s that saying?

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
— not Albert Einstein (although no one really knows who said this)

Don’t let predictability get you. Yes, it’s safe. Yes, it’s easy. But I can think of at least ten ways the paramedic could have begun his journey toward photo journalism. And while I want to be one of those positive people who says “It’s never too late,” the reality is for every year you put off a dream the road back to you becomes littered with hazards. Predictability becomes the easy, default moda operandi. Families, obligations, commitments, and stuff make going off-road difficult, if not impossible. When you’re young, you have less to lose and so it’s easy to take risks. Plus, your relative inexperience with predictability keeps you from becoming too comfortable.

Questions to Ponder:

What are you working on that you’re excited about right now?
What do you love about what you do?
How can you make this year better than last year?
What’s next for you? And what’s keeping you from making one honest-to-goodness change right now?

Ready to take it to the next level?