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  • Writer's pictureShandy Welch

Who Determines Success?




“Leaders operationalize their values into behaviors that they hold themselves accountable for.” Brene Brown


It is easy to forget that we are the conductors of our own lives. We create the momentum and the perceived barriers. Often, what one person sees as an exciting challenge, another sees as a dismal obstacle.


The power of perspective.

How we align our expectations and define “success” will determine the life we have.


Imagine each day you run a hill to get exercise. In the beginning, you do your best but feel utterly exhausted at the top. After a month of training, you reach the top, only to find yourself exhausted once again. Have you failed to improve and wasted time, or have you not recognized that it is your expectations that have perpetuated a feeling of failure? Did your narrow definition of “success” construct this reality? Did someone else determine the rules?


The hill has remained a steep incline, what you didn’t account for is your speed, the strength of your quads, the new appreciation of the roadside flowers, and your joy as you neared the top. None of these factors were present a month ago. Yet, you still viewed your training as unsuccessful because you felt winded.


You judged your success narrowly and didn’t account for all of the other variables.  Finding opportunities to celebrate and recognize incremental wins will build momentum, long-term engagement, and energy.


As we look at our careers, we discover challenges, obstacles, near misses, and triumphs. This is life. Without them, we would find stagnancy and boredom. Undulations have no place in determining success or failure. These are the very things that keep us engaged and thriving.


Can you experience failure and success simultaneously? You are, after all, the creator of your self-imposed judgment.


 John Wooden, a well-regarded UCLA basketball coach, defined success as: 


“Peace of mind attained only through self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you're capable.”


If your definition of success is tied to a title, adoration, or notoriety, you will quickly be disappointed. It is you who holds the perceived value. Finding strength in external validation is short-lived and futile.


Try to release yourself from seeking judgment (positive or negative) from others, opting instead to look inward to find contentment in yourself, knowing that you showed up without regret and did your best. The outcome is secondary, and the success or failure is merely information as to what is your next move.


Lean into curiosity rather than judgment.


Success is running the hill each day, born from the grit that you developed, and from the insight that you have gained. You showed up consistently with determination, focus, and clarity.


Consistency and mindset will guide your actualized success.


My Challenge to You:


  • How is your definition of success impacting your team? Is there an alternative approach that may bring more connection and engagement?

  • Do you stop to celebrate the effort, or do you only celebrate the finish?

  • Ask yourself what is more powerful, external or internal validation.


Becoming mindful of how you approach each day will set your leadership apart from others. It will create new experiences and lead your team toward finding excitement in things that might otherwise drive trepidation.


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