What Is 'Success'? - Redefining Success In 2020
"Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it." - Maya Angelou
e’re bang in the middle of another year, and there’s no denying it - 2020 has made us question every aspect of our lives - be it work or personal. The year has been disproportionately rough for the working population globally.
Market crashes and job losses loom large (trust us, we feel the pain with every ‘I lost my job’ post on LinkedIN), as we experience an unprecedented economic upheaval alongside the health crisis. As the world re-examines how it lives, works and communicates; some new patterns emerge, and so do a few older ones.
Forced to slow-down and take a pause from the constant hustle; professionals from across the world are re-discovering their roots. They are getting reacquainted with the ‘Why's that kick-started the most ambitious projects, the ‘burning need’ factor that catapulted small businesses to success, and the human connections that are capable of fostering a lifetime of growth and fulfillment. These have always been with us, but somewhere along the highway of international flights, urgent meetings and never-ending task-lists - they got sidelined.
A thin, but brilliant silver lining along the horizon of this new era of work, is that as a collective of professionals, creatives, innovators and thought leaders - we are re-examining and redefining what the ‘hustle’ truly means to us. We’re revisiting success in our own, unique ways.
We asked you, our readers - a bottomless source of insights and epiphanies - what ‘success’ means to you today, in 2020. Through your answers, success quotes, and our detailed research - we explore. Read on for more!
The True Measure Of Success -
“Success to me for the longest time meant money, position of power and authority, an ability to influence others. But with experience and age, I’ve come to realize that these definitions are ever-evolving.”
- Pooja Mathur, Entrepreneur.
Here’s the good news - Success is subjective. Contrary to popular belief - there is no singular definition on how success is measured that can match and neatly fit into every human experience. Even within the spectrum of an individual’s life, what makes people feel successful varies depending on the life-stage they’re in and evolves with time.
A significant indicator of how varied people’s perspectives to success’ is that for so many people, on a personal level - success is always elusive. For example: Mary, who is an apprentice to a gardener, wishes to one day plant her own beautiful flower garden. She measures her professional success by how close she is to that achievement. As years go by, and Mary focuses on building the perfect floral landscape in every project that comes her way, her knowledge about gardening evolves. And with it - her definition of success. Suddenly, the innumerable floral landscapes are great - but insufficient to make her feel like a ‘success’ in her own eyes. She now measures it by understanding how to create and nurture the perfect kitchen garden. And to her example we say - well, isn’t that the nature of human life? It’s the reason we innovate and try to understand the stars - that curiosity, learning - drives us and ultimately defines us.
“To me, it’s about finding what brings me contentment and the feeling of freedom that I secure from it. It’s also about trusting the process and being able enjoy every bit of it.”
- Vyoma Raval, Content Strategist.
So no, ‘success’ is most definitely not a linear experience - birth, education, job, marriage - or whatever society wishes to box it into. It varies from person to person, evolves, and is devoid of boundaries. Here’s an insightful video we love from ‘The school of life’ about how there are many ways to be successful, once we break away from the status ideals of our societies.
Success is an inside job -
“Success to me, today, is investing in myself substantially in every possible way - monetarily, in terms of mental peace, or the kind of work I do. It is asking myself everyday - ‘What do you want out of this - what are you making of this situation in time?”
- Jigmey Wangchuk, Concept Manager.
You can’t pour from an empty cup - and boy, has 2020 been a testament to that! While it is certainly okay to take the time to give your career and work life a deep thought, being adaptable and investing in oneself - mentally as well as professionally - has been paramount in developing AQ - Adaptability Quotient.
Adaptability Quotient (AQ) is the fundamental ability to prioritize what’s relevant to the present times, unlearn obsolete patterns of functioning, face challenges head on, and get comfortable with change - even through a crisis. Professionals with a high AQ usually are:
Always interested in learning, up-skilling and evolving.
Open Minded, creative and they think outside the box.
Care about multiple perspectives and seek to give and benefit from mentor-ships.
Have their own measures and drives for success.
Like never before, professionals are actively seeking out mentors, learning new ways of doing things, channeling creative energy and trying their best to up-skill, in order to adapt to the global crisis. This has led to many people re-examining their parameters of success and realizing that true success lies within - and the sense of genuine accomplishment lies in constant learning, evolution and collective growth.
“Actively learning everyday, setting actionable goals and never giving up on my dreams is what success means to me!”
- Nimisha Chaskar, Pastry Chef.
Guess what? - An ‘AQ’ is not some elusive quality that some are born with and some are not. It is an ability that can be learnt, nurtured and built over time. Here’s a great article that lists 4 key learnable qualities when developing your AQ and priming yourself for success - no matter what’s happening in the world.
Success through LABOR of love -
“To be able to do something deeply meaningful, drive real impact, while being true to myself and maintaining my inner peace - finding my ‘ikigai’ - is what ‘success’ means to me today.”
- Anjali Mathur, Entrepreneur.
There’s one thing in common among working women and men who have a deep sense of purpose, passion and love for their professions - their idea of success is deeply driven by the contributions they make and the motivation to affect real change.
“For me, success lies in the quote - ‘Only those who attempt the absurd can achieve the impossible.’ - it’s a hand-written affirmation I keep in sight at my work desk!”
- Kalpit Dave, Senior Financial Planner.
They go about it meticulously too. While different people strive for different things, they all create a comprehensive framework for how they think about their success. They’re frequently found asking themselves the right questions to help them carve out their own path, while working on what they love to do.
If you would like to carve your own path and follow your passions, some key questions to ponder on, would be:
What brings you meaning and purpose in your work life?
How do you manage your work life balance in order to feel recharged and fulfilled?
How do you inculcate creative freedom and the joy of working?
What kind of people do you work for? How do they inspire you?
What’s your ‘Why’ - the reason that you do what you do?
What challenges you and pushes you to break boundaries and shatter stereotypes?
“Success is a journey. To believe in the process and continue to live one’s passion, unceasingly. You do what you do because it has your own heart and the accolades that follow are just by-products.”
Sarella Sreeja, Brand Communications, Freyr Solutions.
The first step to following your passions in life and attaining success through meaningful purpose and fulfillment is self awareness. Check out Coursera for the University of Edinburgh’s ‘Know Thyself’ course and take lessons on ‘the value and limits of self-knowledge: the examined life’. Nothing like musing on a little philosophy to get to discovering yourself, your motivations and your purpose more deeply.
Success, hard work and luck -
“Learning new skills, results that come from hard work and attention to detail, are certainly most visible parameters of success for me - but in 2020, acknowledging the contributions of all those who came before me, and the unique circumstances that made it possible for me to succeed, is a kind of spiritual success that’s become equally important to me.”
- Neha Sane, Lead Designer.
Any conversation about success in 2020 is incomplete without discussing the contribution of an external success factor that would exponentially affect the trajectory of one’s career - and by extension life. Privilege.
It is an undeniable actuality, that right from the country of origin, to various socio-economic factors, not everyone is in a position to receive the same kinds of opportunities, exposure and circumstances in life that contribute substantially to their success. All the people who came before you, contributed to your life and your situation - good or bad.
It is also a fact that no-one is in control of this. Nobody ‘chooses’ to be born in any kind of category or circumstance. Thus, it becomes doubly necessary for those who are born with privilege that helps them get ahead on the track of success, to share that privilege and bring others forward with them.
At the end of the day, any team is only as strong as its weakest link and the best way to combat this is to ensure a culture of collaboration over competition. Pulling up those who may not have had the same luck, drive or abilities will catapult oneself to a higher, richer kind of success that eludes even the best of us. We are all only something or somebody in relation to others - that’s the beauty of it all!
“Success to me means making, not “right”, but happy choices. Success means empowering myself, other working women and at the same time having the ability to pave the way forward and lift everyone with me.”
- Pooja Mathur, Entrepreneur.
This stunningly insightful video by ‘Veritaserum’ on Youtube, beautifully illustrates the above through a phenomenon called the ‘egocentric bias’ that makes every human being feel like they do most of the work in any dynamic. This bias exists in all of us at varying degrees, as we are most privy to our own perspectives. However, overcoming this bias is a great way to be humble, understand that we are all cogs in the wheel of progress and everyone’s contribution matters. We are all dependent on each other, eventually, for collective success.
We hope you found our analysis of various definitions of success in 2020 insightful and we hope it gave you some food for thought. What is your definition of success in today’s unpredictable world of work? Comment below - we would LOVE to know!
We often interview and write about women just like you who inspire and spur us into action in our ‘Women who inspire series’. Write to us at email@example.com for a feature!
Neha Sane - September 1st 2020