The Success Trap

Twice over the last two weeks, the topic of job satisfaction has come up with friends. In both instances, said friends were feeling unhappy with their jobs. Unchallenged, as it were; unsuccessful, as though they should be doing more.

In both cases, I reminded them that having a job like that frees up a lot of time and energy for things that are, ultimately, more important, like healing, self-improvement, and service.

I realized a while ago that material success is an ego trap. A shiny distraction from what really matters.

Read about the day I threw my career in the trash.

I fell into that trap early in my life. I felt like I needed to make something of myself, career-wise, in order to matter. To be seen as successful by others. To prove to myself that I’d made something of myself (by placing that designation in the hands of what other people thought of me and my life choices). I set out to become successful at everything I did. And boy, did I do things.

I sat as Vice President of the Board for a nonprofit and helped scale it from a small organization taking in $75k a year in donations to half a million.

I started three businesses: one doing branding, graphic and web design; another one doing all of that, as well as messaging, SEO, UX/UI design, lead generation, content creation, scaling operations, pitching and funding, revenue models, and whatever the fuck else a client wanted to throw at me. I grew that second business 400% from year one to year two. The third was simply adding readings to this little blog here.

I gave keynote presentations on digital storytelling. Workshops on social media. Sat as a panelist on digital marketing. I gave seminars on digital fundraising for nonprofits. I did photo shoots with professional athletes and wrote and directed public service announcement commercials for my nonprofit.

I ran a fashion tech startup and launched a national brand ambassador program. I coached young entrepreneurs on how to communicate their vision and make their business goals a reality.

I was…am…a very accomplished human by earth standards. I came. I saw. I did (really cool) shit. And at the age of 33, I realized that none of it mattered.

When I moved to New York, I knew I didn’t care what kind of job I had. I have a journalism degree from one of the top programs in the country and had spent four years running my own consulting business and I was fully prepared to wait tables because I just didn’t care anymore about anything except finding myself and being of service to others.

I didn’t want to help people make more money or plan their next exit strategy. I wanted to help people feel comfortable in their own skin. I wasn’t going to make the world a better place by [insert stupid tech company mission here], because you can’t change the world if you’re still operating in the systems that destroyed it in the first place. The way for me to make the greatest impact was by helping people change from the inside out, and there’s no dollar signs attached to that because it’s invaluable.

The Coaching Success Conundrum

Coaches today are 100% focused on their own personal success, and that success is measured by the pissing contest they’re having with other people in their industry. You can feel the envy and the desire to be admired with every Instagram bio claiming a six and seven-figure business. “Look at me. I’m successful.”

Of course, measuring your self-worth and success based on other people’s (read: society’s) perceptions is the trap I mentioned above.

Being a millionaire doesn’t equate to being successful. Most of the ones I’ve met are miserable people, can’t hold down healthy relationships, and are never truly satisfied with their lives because they bought into the lie that money and fame would make them happy. They spent their whole lives pursuing dollars and exposure instead of the things that actually mattered: mental health, emotional health, personal growth, family, healthy relationships.

So once you’ve reached a level of moderate financial success, why keep pursuing the almighty dollar?

The greatest leaders out there aren’t driven by profit. They’re driven by purpose. Passion. Mission. Impact. Helping people. Changing the world. Money is secondary.

To quote Jeff Brown:

You can’t measure success by the number of people who follow you. You measure it by how true you are to [your] path. Because if you aren’t true to your path, no amount of societal success will ever gratify you. And if you are true to your path, the way that the world receives you is of little significance. Because you have already found your way home.

One of the first things I recommend for all of the practitioners out there trying to make it: define what success looks like to you.

Not what it looks like to society. Not what it looks like to douche canoe spiritual influencer. What success looks like to you. And measure yourself based on that.

For me, personally, success if measured by:

The depth of impact I have on someone’s life.

The level of integrity I bring to what I do.

How fulfilled and satisfied I feel about what I’m doing.

And (some day), if I’m able to live comfortably while doing it.

^ In that order.

Nowhere in here will you see number of followers, being a millionaire, being famous, etc. I already know I don’t need any of those things to be happy or feel like I’m making a difference.

So. What does success look like to you?

Xo,

Ash

 

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1 Comment

  1. Ash – your presence is so needed in the city, where there is so much “chasing it” going on. Sure, there are some who enjoy chasing it, but for most I think it feels like a gerbil wheel that never stops. Like you said, it’s so easy to get caught up in. Your friends get a boat, you need a boat; your co-workers get a summer place, you need a summer place; etc. I like knowing you’re in the mix, sharing your wisdom and being such a grounded, bad-ass, amazing woman just by being!

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