What does success look like to you?



I just read The Honest Answer to Why You’re Not Successful (It’s Not What You Think), and there’s a reason why this is the top highlight:

“What holds you back from success is never the obstacle itself. It’s how obsessed you are with finding the solution.”

I think most of us start out the same. We have dreams. We set goals. We can see what success will look like!

. . .we just have to figure out how, when, and where to do all the work in between. No problem, right? Other people have done it! Look at all the reviews that author has! Look at the sheer mass of drawings in that illustrator’s portfolio!

Then, such is the nature of such things, life often gets in the way. You miss first one deadline, then another. You feel derailed, dejected, and other demoralizing Ds. If you’re not careful, you can find yourself in a setback that lasts months if not years.

Before we get into the obsessing part, here’s what we’re forgetting:

1. That success you see others have mostly, largely, almost certainly did not come overnight. Take the concept of going viral. You know how suddenly a certain video is all over your Facebook feed or on YouTube? All your friends are talking about it! It’s awesome!

Check the date on that video. I haven’t done any research into this, mind you, but so much of the time, my eyeballs show me that the video has been out there for awhile—even two or more years. That’s positively ancient! And yet here it is, the first time I’m personally seeing it. Doesn’t mean I’m living under a rock, but it does mean that things take time—especially when everything else is out there struggling to go viral, too.

But taking time isn’t as attractive as the success point.



2. When the should-dos start piling up, we should focus on the Can-Dos instead. We spend a lot of time chastising ourselves for things that are often beyond our control.

Say your end-goal is to have 50 reviewers on your book by X date. X date is not, unfortunately, a hermit in an inviolate cave. Things are going to happen. The cave may get put on a Hermitage Tour. Or it may happen that this cave also hosts a very large, very disgruntled bear.

When hijacking times come, think like this: What one thing can you do today toward your goal? Is it to research top reviewers on Amazon? Is it to email four reviewers a day? Even doing just a little bit instead of not-a-bit will get you further than you were before.

You’re probably already thinking of things to do, so I’ll go on to #3.



3. Comparisons are evil. Right now I’m drawing a blank on when comparisons have ever helped a person really think better of themselves, long-term.

“Well, at least I’ve got more reviews than that author!” —okay, sure, but someone’s probably saying the same thing about you, and in the end, what does that really do for you, anyway? What time are you wasting comparing yourself, for better or for worse, that you could be spending on your can-do steps toward your goals and dreams?

Envy and resentment come naturally, as does bolstering ourselves up with the good feels.  It happens. The trick is not to get caught up in those games. Remember, it doesn’t matter what the actual object is: Someone’s always going to have fewer and someone’s always going to have more. Focus on what you can do so you won’t hijack your own path.


This has nothing to do with comparisons; I just thought he looked adorable. http://www.pinterest.com/Toptenepic/funnsmile-animals/

So far, so good, right? Here’s another quote from the article:

If you aren’t reaching the levels of success you would like, you need to ask yourself, plain and simple,

“Is this something I am obsessed with?”

Yes, you do have to have that drive, that ambition, that gumption; he’s absolutely right.

I do think there’s another facet to this and it’s all in the approach to success. So here’s point 4.

4. Sometimes, we have to change our definition of success to succeed. Most of us, when we dream of being a published author or an illustrator with commissions busting down the door, only envision that actual success point. It’s not a surprise; it’s very enticing! Often it comes with complete Immers-o-vision, where you can practically see, feel, and smell the awesome.

But if you’re feeling too bogged down while getting to that point, you may be more likely to give up along the way. So perhaps it’s not a matter of not having that goal or not having the ambition or obsession to get to that goal. It may be just reframing what success looks like…for now. For this year. This month. This day.

  • This day, I will write a blog post (done!).
  • This week, I will interview three authors (two done, one to go!)
  • This month, I will block out time (give myself permission for) a recreational, non-book-marketing, non-worrying activity!

You get the picture.

A success is a success. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: All big things are made of little things. Success—your dream, your goal—is no different.

So I ask you, because I really want to know:

What does “success” look like to you? And how are you getting yourself there?


How I Went From English Major to Yammer Community Manager

“What are you going to do with an English major?” my friends would tease.

“What are you going to do with ANY major?” my adviser would flash back, all beetled brow and bespectacled.


He was, of course, an English professor, but he was still correct: What you do with your studies is up to you. For I really have found that as an English major, I can do anything.


Looking for work after college, my career actually started out in finance: Processing repossession paperwork, handling checks, talking with customers, and data entry.

But I made it known high and low that I was available to do any writing or editing necessary. So I also wrote technical manuals, policies, internal newsletters, and other documents. None of this was in my job description.


Finance Part 2: Moving On Up 

Due to a split in job functionality that I won’t go into now because it is exceedingly dry, a position opened up where I would be doing some of what I was already doing, but in a different department.

I said, “Give me your words, your phrases, your jumbled sentences, yearning to be free.”

I didn’t really say it like that, but they gave it to me nonetheless. Policies, manuals, other documents—and now customer correspondence. Ah ha, the outside world!

This department also had an e-commerce website. So…


I looked up “finance guinea pig” to one-up the cat, and got this. I guess that says it all.

Marketing & IT-ish

In a promotional move I found very lucrative, they created a marketing position where I’d write the copy—and design the graphics to go with it—to populate on the website. That meant I also had to learn some HTML and what exactly goes into making a .gif do its giffiness.

HTML is comfort coding. I do give a retroactive wince to the quality of some of those .gifs (I was particularly proud of a black and white image morphing into color), but with the purpose being to catch customer attention, they kept me doing it.

I still wrote offline manuals and policies and customer letters, of course.


Marketing & IT-ish Part 2: Consolidation

The director of the actual Marketing department got sick of all the marketeers scattered around in other departments, writing our own stuff, no oversight. Oops!

So he brought everyone into his department, and there I was in Marketing for real.

My dowry was that e-commerce website. In essence, I was assigned to work with my own department almost exclusively, both in print and online. Oh, the projects we had!

And then came a new website to add to my repertoire, with a new platform: IBM WebSphere.

We had an hour’s worth of “Click here, then here” training that was highly inadequate. So I wrote the manual for that too, because I knew it was up to me.

I still remember the flurry of wireframes and copy, of key stakeholders and meetings, of global conference calls and design.

Full circle: That new website was dedicated to the financial branch of the company.


Global IT

Massive layoffs at old company! Hello, new company!

My IBM WebSphere expertise got me in to the Global IT department (I brought my manual to the interview), because the position was primarily to help build websites for teams around the world, and then train them how to manage their sites through this platform.

But this position was a contract position, so I knew that a time would come when I’d be rolled off…


Marketing & Social Media

…and rolled off I was, but now I was in a good position to decide what, exactly, I wanted to do next.

During the massive layoffs mentioned previously, Old Company bought everyone a month’s worth of outplacement services. This really dug deep. I’ve mentioned before on my blog about how being unemployed can make a person start to doubt their self-worth. It’s important to remember that the only thing you actually lost was a job. You did not lose one iota of your skills, knowledge, or experience.

So when I really sat down and looked at all that I had accomplished, I also looked at what I enjoyed doing. It was clear to me: I loved that mix of Marketing and IT. I wanted websites. I also wanted creativity. How could I get both?

I attended every free webinar about social media that I could. I checked out books from the library. I read articles. I also used LinkedIn to post what I was doing.

The head of that company’s online career resources website saw my posts on LinkedIn and got intrigued.

So there I was, back in that company, only now on the business side in Marketing. I had a website to maintain and copy to write. But I also added on the corporate social media accounts, and learned all about engaging with the public as if they’re *gasp* people and as if we were people, too!

It was a beautiful mix.


Marketing, Social Media…and Yammer!

Current company!

After the social media contract ended (the website got axed, so one thing led to another), I knew without a doubt that I wanted to continue with social media. I loved interacting with people, and giving them what they needed to get them where they wanted to go.

I rode in to the Marketing department with the intent to help fire up external social media outlets and start engaging with the audiences that were there.

As well, I had a community to play with for customers. That was the other half of my job. Mind you, we had a false start: We were using the wrong platform for our organizational culture and audience base. I can say we learned a lot about what not to do.

Then I looked into Yammer and realized that we could use this both for internal and external customers. I liked the platform and look and feel. And we were already a Microsoft shop, so why not try it?Yammer Holidays

Two thriving communities later, I’m a manager now and have been moving more fully into strategic campaigns, data, and analytics, while my direct report handles the daily social media posts and interaction.

I remain directly involved with my Yammer communities; I’d say that’s more than 50% of my job, but so are the campaigns, data, and analytics! (Being an English major, my percentages make up more than 100%.)

What I Discovered During All Of This

Looking back, I see an almost linear line from English major to Yammer Community Manager. Yet I never thought I’d end up in a position like this while I was in college or early in my career. Being in a world where I can be creative and analytical, that combines the business and IT sides of an organization, is super fun.

I also apologize to anyone I’ve ever inflicted scope-creep on.

How did you get to where you are today?

(This post is part of the Share Your Career Story summit on the Microsoft Tech Community.)

Join my online community workshop! (In person.)

Soon to be on SlideShare, I predict–

On December 13, I have the honor to give a workshop for BMA Milwaukee participants:

What An Online Community Can Do For Your Business (and Your Customers)

Many B2B companies build reputations on in-person connections, whether that’s part of what they actually sell, or the customer service they provide. So in a world where direct mail and maybe even faxes are still used, does an online community make sense?

Spoiler: It does!

But now you have to find out how to go from “Let’s try it!” to “This is actually working,”
including why you should NOT panic at this concept:9091.jpg

Sign up here. We’re bringing breakfast.