An essay: reflections on success

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
So what is success? For me success is defined in your own mind.

Submitted: August 14, 2016

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Submitted: August 14, 2016



An essay: reflections on success

Recently I have felt less than successful.

In fact I think failure would suitably describe two weeks of my life in the recent past. I think we all get like this sometimes, but it has provided me with an opportunity to reflect on my life, and in this case I have had time to reflect on what success is, particularly for me.

If you gauge me through the normal western society lens of success - material wealth and a great career - then there is no doubt I am a very successful person. I am that confident, articulate person who you often wish you were. I am a self-made multi-millionaire, who won a scholarship to attend Harvard Business School. I live an exciting and fulfilling life. I have freedom, I work in a job I love (which I would do if they did not pay me) and long term I have much more money than I will ever need. I have three homes, and I move around between them. My son is a silver frequent flyer. The money I am spending on three nights’ accommodation in Rio at New Year is obscene, even for me. I date wealthy and exciting men, or, I decide not to date wealthy and boring men. Not coming from a sporty family, my son plays in a working class hockey team, because they encourage participation.  I mix it with everyone and everything. I love to have fun. Oh – and have I said - I am genuinely nice person.

My life is what everybody says they want – right? But I wonder do they really? Do we really understand material success, and how people like me get there?  Or even how we define success? Maybe I am only successful because so many people tell me I am?

So what is success? For me success is defined in your own mind. For many people it is just getting up in the morning and going to work. It could be spending the day caring for a family member or loved one. Oh - right - you started reading this because you are keen to have a different kind of success... ambition, money, fame, awards. Yes well I guess success is traditionally defined that way in our society, and yes for many years I subscribed to this view. I guess you can view success a different way when you gain success. It is an interesting paradigm.

I have a theory (yet to be tested) that the majority of self-made high achievers in western society have had a harder path through life than some. Our base starting point is that we have something to prove to the world, that we want to be recognised and validated externally. For me that started when I was 13 years old, and it took me many years to realise the only validation required for me was internal. Despite that my ambition and drive were always noticeable. Helped along the way by my friend Chris Howard, there was no stopping me.

So was all this easy? The short answer is no. Anyone who tells you that they are an overnight success either really lucked it in, or is lying. The greatest tip I can give is that courage, commitment and persistence are the main qualities you need to succeed in this traditional way.

So what does material success look like? Does it look like me? Does it look like you? Is this really just about money? They say money cannot buy you happiness, but as the saying goes, I am living proof that you can be happy and wealthy, and it is definitely better than being less wealthy. But when do you know when to stop? Is having a million dollars enough? That used to be a lot of money once, but not anymore. I remember dating a guy about 10 years ago who took great delight in telling people that I was a "self-made millionaire". I kind of wanted to tell him it was no big deal, but it was something he aspired to himself. How could I burst that bubble?

So now I am a "self-made multi-millionaire" and I have a strategy to stay that way. I guess I could keep going and add to this wealth, but I can't really see much point. I proved everything I needed to a few years ago, and really it is only money. I am a single mum. What am I going to do in a mansion in the most expensive suburb? Why would I risk my wealth to create even more money? I understand why people do, but I am more circumspect now. Maybe this is what middle age looks like? I do however always keep myself financially less comfortable in order to motivate me to work to my higher level. My financial plan has 15 more years of work for me, but the money I make in that time will be incremental. Personally I'd rather hang around really smart people who challenge me intellectually, than just focus on money.

So what are you trying to achieve?  And at what price? I realised early on that fame is a double edge sword. If you are in the media, most of it will often be less than pleasant. I have shunned publicity in recent years, and live modestly and normally. That for me is success.

I have a friend who also lives a suburban life despite having sold her business for many more millions than I will ever will. She said to me once "We went to Paris for the weekend to the Rugby World Cup. The money we spent flying first class there and back for the family for 4 days could have built a school in Africa". I suspect she never told the other mothers at school what they had been doing that weekend!

In this day and age of social media, I don't try and hide my jet setting lifestyle. Why bother? I love my life and I want to share that with my friends. My friends are so important to me, almost as close and important as my family. My true friends are the ones that know me well, and love and care for me. They are authentic, real, loyal and fabulous. Each one unique. I am very blessed.  That is success for me.

And maybe the real measure of success is integrity.  It is treating people well, and when you make mistakes, it is really important to realise you need to learn from the mistakes.

I said that recently I did not feel very successful.  This is because I did not treat someone very well.  I am the one who had been in the situation before. I was the one who knew how to manage the situation. But in the end my behaviour did not match my emotions, and my lack of integrity in my life led me to emotionally self-destruct. Someone who did not buy into the drama going on in my life, was subjected to it by me. I have been mortified, embarrassed, humiliated. Ouch... Yes just stop me now.

To this person, so recently collateral damage in my life, it was so lovely to meet a down to earth values driven adventurous soul packaged completely differently to everyone around you. I am so sorry I did what I did. I did not mean to distress you. I think of you fondly and positively with no ulterior motives or goals. Life is too short to be any other way.  It is clear to me that you will forgive me for my behaviour much sooner than I will forgive myself. I have needed to reflect and learn.

I think that truly successful people learn from their mistakes, and we treat all people, irrelevant of their background, with respect and integrity. But we should never lose our passion for life - that is what makes us great.  Go out and create your own success.  Do you not be afraid to be unique – be you.

© Copyright 2019 Alexandra Kirkwood. All rights reserved.

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