Imagine a crib with a mobile of tennis balls overlooking a baby with ping pong paddles taped to his wrists so he can try to swat at them. This baby was Andre Agassi. His father worked him so hard since an early age and he became one of the best tennis players of all time as a result.
When Agassi won his first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon, he called his dad to tell him the news to which he responded “You had no business losing that fourth set”.
Andre Agassi worked his ass off to become one of the most successful tennis players, but he hated it mostly due to his father. He confessed in his autobiography, Open, “I play tennis for a living even though I hate tennis, hate it with a dark and secret passion and always have.”
I saw similar parenting methods to Agassi’s father in the Korean culture I’m from. Tiger moms were a real thing. Children were pushed to work hard towards a certain path the parent had in mind for them, which was usually to become a doctor or a lawyer. Much of their leisure time had to be spent studying so one day they can make a lot of money.
This cultural standard indirectly influenced my life and defined for me my beliefs of what success looked like. I developed the common belief that success meant getting good grades, getting into a good school and getting a good job to make good money.
I managed to get into pharmacy school and ended up getting a six figure salary right out of graduation because I thought it was the right thing to do.
I was considered successful by common standards, but the big problem was I didn’t feel successful.
It took me more than half my life to consider maybe my definition of success was wrong to begin with. The issue was I let others set the standards for me. This explained why no matter what I accomplished, I never felt good about it. It was never my own goals I was trying to achieve. It was someone else’s.
So one day, I took a moment to reflect on what were some of the results that mattered to me most and used it to redefine what success looked like for me.
I knew the type of work that matters to me most involved:
- Using critical thinking to solve problems
- Empowering others to activate their talent and potential
- Being a part of a talented group to develop innovative creations and processes
I was working as a pharmacist, which was a job I didn’t love because it didn’t involve these activities as much as I would’ve liked, but it paid the bills. I also knew I wanted to change my career to do more coaching and speaking, but the reality was I still needed more time and funds before I make the full transition.
So the next question I asked myself was, are there any positions in my line of work right now where I can be involved with the type of activities I enjoyed the most?
For me, I knew it involved being in a place of leadership. I’ve led teams on humanitarian projects around the world and also led high profile film productions and always enjoyed being involved with the work it entailed.
With all of this in mind, I applied to a pharmacy supervisor position. I had absolutely no experience in pharmacy leadership, but by clearly communicating my Why along with sharing my outside leadership experiences, I still managed to get the job over other more experienced candidates. This was a two level promotion to pharmacy supervisor from staff pharmacist all within 12 months from when I first was permanently hired.
I felt a little burst of success because now I’ve positioned myself to do more of the type of work that matters to me while figuring out how to make my next big transition.
I no longer suffered from the Success Paradox. I began enjoying my work and being more engaged with both my day job and my own business. My mood began to improve and I grew a much bigger sense of fulfillment.
Success can be much closer than you think when you stop letting others define it for you.
Maybe you aren’t feeling as successful yet in your life because like me, you’ve chased what other people consider success. If you take a moment and begin thinking about what types of acitivities fall in line with your Why, what would your new success measures be?
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