What does success look like to you? Because it’s been a pretty unnerving concept for me.
I was interviewed about five years ago by a journalist who asked me whether I considered myself successful, and my instant response was no.
It felt un-Australian to call myself successful – I mean, who on earth would feel normal doing that? It’s like you’ve got tickets on yourself, or you’re too big for your boots.
But I walked away from that interview reflecting on my response and now, years later, I think it was a real shame to water it down, because five years ago, I was successful.
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I grew up in a small country town called Kingaroy in regional Queensland and I was never given a leg up, so every single job I got, every single career win was hard fought, and hard earned.
I don’t feel like I’m kicking as many goals these days amid some really high-stress work scenarios and coming back from COVID, but back then it should’ve been an easy yes.
“It felt un-Australian to call myself successful. I mean, who on earth would feel normal doing that?”
So, why was it so hard for me to tell that journalist I was bloody proud of myself? It got me thinking recently about what success truly means, and then it made me wonder when I’ll start genuinely, freely, feeling successful myself.
I’ve had the conversation with a few of my friends who I consider very successful, and surprise! They struggle with the term, too.
LinkedIn conducted a ‘Success Survey’ some time ago, but it stuck with me for its interesting results. The research found that a massive 77 per cent of Aussies define success simply as being happy, and 50 per cent said work/life balance was the true definition of success.
If that’s the gauge, well, boomshakalaka – theoretically I am the most successful person in the country.
But in all honesty, these days, I would say my pie-in-the-sky dream of absolutely knowing I’ve made it, and knowing I’m successful, would be to travel business class overseas. I have never been able to afford business class tickets overseas myself. I have been lucky enough to score a couple of work trips that forked out the funds on my behalf, but never on my dime. Let me tell you, flying business class is an incredible luxury. There is nothing fun about flying economy for 15 hours.
But I’m a bit of tightass when it comes to my moolah, and right after I begin considering it, I remember I’d prefer to spend my savings on the actual holiday rather than the journey there.
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Imagine being at a point in your life where spending money on business class seats isn’t even a second thought. It’s just what you do. That is my gauge for success. Sure, happiness and being our own boss and work/life balance is high on the career wish list, but we’re talking about success here and let’s be real – we struggle to separate it from wealth and status.
The other thing that defines success for me is getting to the point where you’re not looking for the next job. It’s when you’re sublimely happy with the level of work you’ve committed to, and content with what’s going on.
When I was younger, I was always striving to be ‘Shelly on the telly’ and to host my own show, and now I appreciate that it’s probably not going to come to fruition. I did, however, get to co-host and eventually host Talking Married, and I do host Talking Honey, but I’ve never hosted anything that’s primetime.
Again, look, at the caveat I’m putting on success, a level of status I’m subconsciously searching for. Is primetime even that important?
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Maybe I’ve set the bar so high because I – and I hope many of us – have grown up with such mighty fires in our bellies. There ain’t nothing wrong with that.
But I’m feeling a little bit more relaxed about my career these days, and so I think it’s time I at least try to acknowledge my wins. I’m turning 50 this year and I need to start enjoying the hard work I’ve put in. I don’t want to be quite as scrappy and hungry as I was when I was younger.
So, if someone asked me today if I consider myself successful, I would force myself to say yes – but add that there’s so much more to come.
I’m not sure I’d feel 100 per cent confident in saying I’m a total success, but I’m working towards it. I just want it to feel right.
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