At my retirement celebration dinner, my daughter surprised me with a heartfelt toast. I was incredibly touched to hear her say how much she looks up to me, how she admires my work ethic and that I inspire her. In fact, I did have a fabulous, successful career made even more meaningful by my daughter's reflections that night. And as I contemplate my path forward, it is positively liberating to consider what success may look and feel like in my "second act."
Success, 26 years ago, started with finding a job where I could use my communications skills. I was a writer at heart. I was thrilled to land a job with an established financial services firm, and soon I had my own "news beat" within the organization. Success! I worked long hours, always striving to produce the highest-quality creative copy. Soon, a CEO I interviewed took notice of me and asked me to join his business to create a marketing and communications function. From there, my career took off. I was offered (and said yes to) every new initiative, special project and new role. I was encouraged to learn the business, so I stepped out of communications and flourished in management roles in operations and servicing -- as well as in audit, human resources, regulatory and community affairs.
I enjoyed my work, and achievement was important to me. I was happy to work diligently to accomplish more because success in my career made me feel happy and secure. Work-life balance? That sounded perfectly boring and unambitious to me! I read a meaningful quote and taped it to my computer: "Balance your diet and your tires, but don't balance your life; give it everything you've got."
Looking back, I may have slightly misinterpreted that quote. I took the most minimal maternity leave and happily took conference calls and meetings within the first week of leave. Remote working meant I could eliminate wasted time in rush-hour traffic and work more and more hours at home and in hotels. The invention of the Blackberry added a real convenience -- I showed very little restraint, always watching for the next email, the next problem that needed solving. As I advanced within our new global organization and held increasingly larger roles and responsibilities, my commitment intensified. It was necessary and I was happy to interact with London colleagues at 5 a.m. and Asia colleagues at 10 p.m.
I did experience moments of enlightenment where I took better charge of myself and my time --exercised, drank more water, found time for a proper night's sleep. I realized that success was coming not only due to my work ethic, great mentors and a bit of luck, but also perhaps due in equal measure to my business know-how, leadership and talent. Success for me was defined as before but with added attention to my personal well-being.
Still, there were some missing parts. The drive and work ethic that led me to achieve and succeed also hindered me from achieving many other things. I wanted to do more in my community. I wanted to participate in extra-curricular activities to enjoy more time with family and friends. And while I had a few fits and starts, my writing was sidelined.
Today, I am exceedingly grateful that because of my career success, I can refine my personal definition of what success now looks like. My accomplishments have led me to this place, and I can forge a new path and write a new success story for myself. I am thrilled to be re-engaging with local community and leadership organizations. I mentored many men and women over the years, but I feel the need to do much more to help women at risk, to help women become economically independent, to help young women striving to build their work and family success stories. And I'm dancing! I can now commit to the weekly lessons my husband and I talked about for years -- bring on the summer wedding waltzes! And I'm writing again. Not strategic plans or press releases, but rather writing about ideas and stories that interest me. I hope to write stories others will enjoy reading and stories that help people contemplate and define their own definitions of life success.
My daughter tells me that seeing me try new things makes her smile, and that she can't wait to see what's in store for me. Me too.
Have you recently renewed your definition of success? Are you thinking it's time to do so? Please share! I welcome your comments and we can all learn from one another. Thank you!