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4 Ways to Define Personal Success

March 28, 2016

Are you successful? Hopefully, you’re running a successful operation and you come to work every day with a smile on your face. But defining true personal success is often difficult.

You could be running a massively successful operation, while your personal life is crumbling all around you. Or, just the opposite may be true. Your personal life may be nothing but endless joy, and at the same time, you can barely keep the front door of your store open.

Life, both professional and personal, seems to be an endless balancing act. You often feel like a juggler, trying to keep a dozen balls in the air. It might work for a while, but it doesn’t work all the time.

Recently, the Business Journals ran an article entitled, 5 Questions Super-Achievers Must Ask Themselves. It talks about the new movement of rethinking productivity that includes financial success, emotional success, and a fulfilled personal life. Apparently, even super-achievers have to take a day off.

Whether you’re a super-achiever or an underachiever, maybe we can set some parameters that help you recognize not only a successful operation, but a successful life.

Numbers: Nothing defines success more than the numbers. It’s easy to like a look at your bank balance and tell whether or not your successful. (One look at my bank balance and I know that I need a different way to define my success.) If you are operating a museum store, you have a raft of numbers that help you define yourself as a successful operator. There is profit and loss, shrinkage, staff turnover, growth, sales volume, and comparative industry standards. The numbers offer an unblinking evaluation of your success. If you’re seeing growth and profit, you have found at least some indication of professional success.

Time: The clock is an unyielding master. As a busy retail professional, it’s not unusual for almost every minute of the day to be spoken for. Your store has a specific opening time and a specific closing time. But that’s just the beginning of the story. During those operating hours, your time is spent handling the inventory, working on staffing, marketing, grant writing, banking, meetings, and, hopefully, spending some time with your customers. The clock ticks steadily as you fall farther and farther behind. You’re lucky if you can grab lunch. In the time spent away from work, you deal with family obligations, grocery shopping, endless errands, and the desire to exercise… a little. If you found some mastery of the clock and efficiency in your operation and you still have time left over for your personal life, you are a success.

People: People… you can’t live with them and you can’t live without ’em (even if you’d like to try). Your variety of relationships is a massive indicator of your personal success. At work, your relationships are the very definition of your success as a store operator. Business relationships are vertical in nature and you need to be successful at both ends of the stripe. Obviously, your business success relies on your ability to deal with your boss(es). And for nonprofits, bosses come in a variety of flavors. You may have an immediate boss (the hiring and firing kind), but you also may have board members, other department heads, and, depending on your situation, influential volunteers, chair people, and even public officials. At the other end of the stripe, you have your staff. You rely on them to make you successful. And they rely on you to make them successful. It’s a genuine Ying and Yang relationship that you can ill afford to take lightly. Their success is your success. If you have built a loyal staff that has your back then you are a success. On the home front, the success of your personal relationships often heavily influence your work and your overall demeanor. If you have found the balance in your life to satisfy those who are most important to you, then you have put yourself on the path to personal success.

Recognition: People often define themselves by how other people see them. It’s not unusual that people don’t recognize their own success until someone recognizes it for them. In other words, you may need a pat on the back, an “atta boy” by the boss, or a formal award before you start to recognize that you’re doing a good job. Unfortunately, recognition can be a long time coming, even if you’re doing a fabulous job. Hard work is often overlooked. You need to recognize the success that you’ve achieved and give yourself credit for it. Learn to recognize your own success and don’t forget to recognize the hard work of your staff.

To measure personal success you need to be able separate the tangible from the intangible. A new car parked in the driveway may signal some success to the neighbors. But in your heart, you’ll know if you’ve achieved your own personal goals. Life in retail management is always a balancing act. The challenge is to find the ways you need to be happy, healthy, and motivated.

Steve White is a successful writer and entrepreneur living in Denver.

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