A few weeks ago, I was invited to sit on a panel of experts during a conference about excellence in entrepreneurialism in my hometown of Richmond, Virginia. I happily agreed — not because I had reams of wisdom to share, but because the other panelists were so damn impressive. I couldn’t wait to soak up their wisdom.
Selfish, I know.
During the panel, my good friend and long-time mentor, Neil, shared a nugget of knowledge with the room full of bright-eyed and bushy-tailed entrepreneurs that I fell in love with. “As you seek to find career fulfillment,” he cautioned, “there are three metrics of success you can go after with gusto: money, lifestyle or meaning. You can’t have all three — only one or two at the most — so plant your flag and choose wisely.”
Neil went on to say how important it is for entrepreneurs (and anyone else for that matter) to define success in each bucket before deciding which one should be the lead horse.
Here are some clues to get you started:
- How much is enough? Are you excited about making $50,000 a year, or will you feel unfulfilled until that number looks more like $500,000?
- What does the ideal work/life balance equation look like for you? How much freedom do you need to attend school field trips, volunteer at your church, or just shut your email down and breathe?
- What cause or mission gets your blood pumping? How can you incorporate it into your career path so you feel excited (and not deflated) when you show up to work each day?
I like this framework — a three-legged stool of sorts — that forces you to prioritize what’s most important to you so you can consciously build it into your next career move.
As Neil and I were catching up after the event, he was mid-sentence about his beautiful wife, Ellie, when he interrupted himself by saying, “Holy shit. I just realized you might be the one person I know who created a company that has all three attributes I mentioned earlier — money, lifestyle and meaning.”
Holy shit is right.
I was taken aback by what might be the greatest compliment I’ve ever received. Like most women, I usually duck and run at the first sign of a compliment. But in this instance, I must say, I wholeheartedly agreed with Neil.
Now, am I some miracle worker who managed to defy the odds and develop a career that has three strong legs to stand on instead of two? Absolutely not. Don’t put me on that pedestal.
I’m no different than you. And the secret to my success is no secret. I’ll spell it out for you right here.
I simply took those three pillars and defined success in each and every one (with the help of my life coach) before I started my company, The Mom Complex.
I didn’t use other people’s definitions. I didn’t — and still don’t — care what other people think is successful in terms of revenue, balance and mission for my company.
Here’s how I define success for my company:
- Money: We’ve reached a comfortable revenue platform at The Mom Complex, and we’re not interested in clamoring and clawing our way to more and more money, because we’re wise enough to know that road leads to more and more headaches. I finally learned when enough is enough. [But trust me, that knowledge didn’t come overnight.]
- Lifestyle: It’s imperative to me that the people who work at The Mom Complex (including myself) have a sense of balance, peace and joy in their lives. We’re not machines put on this earth to work our asses off and save relaxation for retirement. We’re human beings trying to live our best lives during the one shot we get.
- Meaning: We come to work every day to make the lives of mothers easier. We even painted it on the wall (above) to keep it top of mind. We’re deeply motivated to work alongside the biggest mom-focused brands in the world to make everything from mealtime to grocery shopping less excruciating. Maybe it’s heroic, maybe it’s selfish, but it gets us out of bed every day to do the best work of our lives.
Whether you’re starting your own company or climbing the corporate ladder inside someone else’s, I believe you can indeed strive to have money, lifestyle and meaning as the wind in your sails.
In other words, I believe you can have it all. But only if it’s your own definition of “all.”
Toss out what your mother, father, boss, neighbor, ex-husband or best friend thinks is “enough” in each one of those buckets and create your own definition.You’re a grownup for God’s sake. Stop playing by everyone else’s rules.
Know when enough is enough. This is your life, your happiness, and you should be operating under your definition of success.
Period. End of story (well, blog post).