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This post is dedicated to Earl Erickson, Adjunct Faculty at the City College of San Francisco.

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      Image by kreg.steppe via Flickr

      During another downturn several years back, I learned a new definition of success.

      It was a time not unlike these times.  Many companies have folded.  Many people have been laid off.

      In the eyes of the world, these companies would forever be tossed in the “failure” category.  After all, didn’t they run their companies to the ground?

      I was, at that time, the owner of a public relations agency struggling to keep my clients and my employees.  While I was discouraged, I wasn’t defeated.  But I didn’t feel like “success” either, until I met professor Erickson from the City College of San Francisco, where I had signed up for a complimentary small business management class.

      Professor, how do you define success?”  A dark-hair middle-aged woman at the front of the classroom raised her hand.

      The grey-hair, balding professor in a navy suit looked up from his lecture notes and turned in the direction of my classmate.

      Well, it’s simple.  Once you have learned and improved upon whatever it is you want to learn and improve on, then to me, that is success!”

      That’s it?”  My classmate’s eyes opened wider and shot back instinctively.

      Yes, that’s it.”  The corners of my professor’s lips turned into a smile.

      I sat quietly, but my mind was processing that simple advice…

      Once you have improved, then you are successful.  Yes, I think that’s what he just said.

      Those simple words had a profound effect on me.

      I began reflecting on some business challenges, but came to the conclusion that hey, I was still a success!  Why, because according to my professor’s definition, as long as one have learned or improved from an experience, one is a success!  So on that particular day, no matter what I felt about the state of my business, I was proactively sitting in a classroom, improving my small business skills.  So, I have crossed a small, personal success milestone!

      After that, I started rewarding myself for little, personal victories.  Hey, I outreached to five prospective clients today.   Hey, I worked with our webmaster HelloAri to complete our website revamp.  Hey, I created a great marketing campaign today, etc. etc.  Soon enough, these personal victories grew and began manifesting as public ones, and we started winning more clients and awards.

      Once you have improved, then you are successful.  Yes, that was what he said.

      How refreshing!  Perhaps the secret of happiness lies in our perceptions of success.  Have you had days when you feel discouraged because you are so far away from reaching your goals?  Consider carving your goals into smaller pieces.  Say you’d like to run a marathon one day.  But it overwhelms you.  Why not start by going to the gym and runing for 10 minutes today and adding on the miles incrementally afterwards?  So long as you are learning and making progress, hey, you’re a success!

      What goals are you working toward?  What successes have you had recently?  Do share.  Remember to see them in smaller pieces, so you have more reason to pat yourself on the back and more reason to celebrate.

      Here’s to your success!

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      6 Responses to “A Fresh Look At Success”

      1. Sharon-
        Great post. Defining success can be tricky and I like your incremental approach. Everything is easier in smaller chunks. As long as forward progress is being made, success cannot be far away.
        I actually just completed a major goal of getting my first book published. The proof is back and now I need to approve it. It’s an exciting time. I got there because I focused on incremental tasks and by the time I knew it, the book was done. Now, I will focus on the incremental little successes to make the book a success.


      2. Sharon says:

        Jarie! So good to hear from you. Congrats on your book – this is awesome news. You are a success, many times over! 😉

      3. Thanks for this eloquent post. A great reminder that we do not always have to make it difficult. Each day I have small successes. Over time, they combine to great strides toward major goals.

      4. MichaelM says:

        Hello Sharon, What a great post and a reminder that both big goals are only reached by smaller successes and that we should enjoy (in the moment) each of those small successful steps. Today I am basking in my own little success of having passed two first round interviews yesterday, one of which looks really promising in SF. On to round two!

      5. Sharon says:

        Loren, thanks for your kind note. It is much appreciated.

        Michael, wow, exciting news for your two interviews. Hope you’ve given yourself a well-deserved pat on the back!

        Here’s to success!

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