Success. Everyone wants it. Some have achieved it. Others feel they are constantly striving toward it. Success means different things to different people, but the problem is, as a society we tend to view success through only a few paradigms.
Some months ago, I wrote a post about the uncomfortable notion of work-life balance. In it, I suggested the real goal ought to be work-passion alignment. For if one is passionate about one’s work, it becomes one’s life. Mind you, when I say that, it’s not to imply that work then necessarily takes over one’s existence and all else is pushed to the wayside. Rather, it’s about finding engagement not as an employee, but as a person. It means to reach an equilibrium in one’s life where silos are minimized, where what you choose to do in your personal life bleeds into your professional life, and vice versa.
So, is that equilibrium a good definition of success? Perhaps, but then again, perhaps not. For one person it might be, but for another it may completely miss the mark.
Indeed, such a definition of success may, in fact, be quite out of alignment with many people’s thinking. Because like it or not, in our society, success is typically viewed through a financial prism. In organizations, the path to success is most recognized as up the hierarchy. Should an employee opt to not pursue ever higher levels in their company, they risk being labeled underachievers, disengaged, or worse yet, washed up. In the military, a soldier or sailor who does not advance through promotion is discharged for “failure to progress.”
The problem with perceiving success as either financial or hierarchical level is that it completely ignores the individual nature of the concept. A very wise person reflected that success “ much more means personal flourishing and fulfillment, happiness, personal growth, and intangibles of this order.” Untraditional thinking, to be sure, but right on the mark, I’d argue.
Within organizations, much lip service is paid to having the right people in the right positions, yet the incentives in place have little to do with value added, personal goals, and individual life priorities. But, some have argued, the dreams and aspirations of individual employees are not an overwhelming concern to the organization, unless those goals are directly aligned to organizational goals and objectives. Oh, what a mistaken notion, my friends!
The truth is that it is in understanding, cultivating, nurturing, and actively helping employees to formulate and pursue their own version of success that we can get the most out of each and every one of them. But doing so is to fundamentally shift the traditionally grounded organizational mindset.
It’s this transformation of accepted success to which I will be dedicated the upcoming series of blog posts. During the remainder of December, I will explore various aspects of success, what it means, what it could mean, what it means to leaders and organizations, and what it may mean for the future of our society. Along the way, I encourage others to comment, question, and provide their own insights and examples. After all, it’s a concept that touches each of us, often in very unique and personal ways, but also that impacts us as a community of citizens and people, seeking to carve out a better path in the world. So, please engage and enjoy this journey with me….I’m guessing it will be challenging, enjoyable, and ultimately insightful.