Updated: May 4
Facing my fear: I was really surprised and a little nervous when the Do-Well band latched on to the concept of “Re-defining Success” at a recent FikaFink Café and asked if I would host a session on the subject. But it’s an important question so I took a deep breath and said…
“OK, when shall we do it”?
I am so glad that I did! You could even say it was a little “success” for me and one which I hope will do more good, than harm.
But what is success anyway? We use “success” (whatever that is) as a barometer for our lives, we even tell children how important it is “to be successful”.
It drives us.
It shapes what we chose to do, value, prioritise, invest in and how we see and treat others. But do we really know what we mean by “success”? Have we REALLY thought about it and what happens if we get it wrong? If we define success badly, selfishly, unfairly, what impact does it have on us, our young people, our businesses, the planet, the economy and society?
We have all seen the results of poorly defined success driven by our obsession with “growth”, size and financial reward. What better example than the recent “story of the week” - The European Super League placing financial gain above all else. And for once it got the response it deserved (imho)!
Imagine if we called out exploitative definitions of success more often and sent a message there is another way. Can we do that please?
In conversation: The session was planned for a Friday and attracted a good crowd, despite competing with lunch and the blazing sunshine! So, the scene was set for the discussion…
I needn’t have worried, we talked easily on the subject for well over an hour. We talked as parents, friends, employers, leaders and just plain humans, about how concepts of success impact the way we behave, influence, value and treat others, even the way we feel and our own mental health.
Everyone related to the issue, drawing important links to the importance of “purpose”, the impact constructs of success have on young people, what can be done to let them to make better choices, how it feels when we are not successful or when we chase hollow successes. We discussed vanity projects and ego and how defining success differently might change behaviours; and that maybe we can influence people to see a new, more inclusive definition of success.
We talked about how flawed measures of “success” are structural, built into our culture, systems and processes, and how easily we can be distracted from what matters by the pressure to hit the target, whilst likely missing the point! That to change things will take courage, to challenge the norm and really think about our “why” in everything we do.
We wondered why, as a society, we support the CEO of a betting company being paid millions, while others on the frontline of COVID struggle to make ends meet; and the role our definition of success plays? When we get it wrong does it lead us to act, value, judge, invest and reward in ways that can be harmful? We thought it does and that re-thinking and re-defining “success” is important in our attempts to build back fairer. That, without a change, we risk continuing to drive harmful and unfair behaviours and outcomes which fail to address inequality. That a society is not “successful” if we only considered economic measures.
We agreed that we wanted to do something and recognised the enormity of the challenge!
As the old saying goes… “Necessity is the mother of invention”! And if there is a positive to come out of COVID-19 and the events of the past fifteen months, it is an opportunity to make real change. A rare window for dialogue, challenge and new thinking, as we re-set, re-emerge and try with all our might to build back fairer.
The kind of opportunity which, sadly, only really comes from catastrophic events.
We want to grasp the opportunity despite the enormity of the challenge and agreed we can achieve great change through small acts! Each making a commitment to our own small act; enabling our children to be free and supported to make better choices, really reviewing procurement practice, challenging the status quo, keeping the conversation alive or even writing a blog!
We agreed this IS an opportunity; to re-define success around what really matters and drive a kinder, fairer, healthier, greener, happier society for everyone.
Now if that’s a “success” you like the sound of, what small act will you commit to?
*Hayley is the MD of Starts with you a social enterprise committed to creating opportunity and empowering people (www.startswithyou.org.uk / @startswithyou1). You can also find out more about her through her Twitter @HayleyHulme.
(Picture Credit: Times Magazine)