Refining Success On My Terms

(Note: The title is Refining (not Redefining) Success; meaning improving by making small changes, in particularly an idea, theory or method in a subtle and accurate manner.)

Up until a galvanizing year in the last decade, I was ruminating on one thing and only thing as if I were fixated or crazed. I thought I was ready for a promotion in my professional career. In my personal life, I manage my own ‘promotions.’ My year-end performance reviews were stellar. I was everyone’s personal favorite and go-to person. I had the right sponsors, both peer and superior. I was doing the right thing, at least I thought I was. And precisely so, I thought that I was going to be inevitably thrusted to the next level. That did not happen, not what I was hoping to anyway. For the next year and half of so, all I did was complain how I was flouted. I became really good at it. And, I was equally unhappy.

One day I looked in the mirror (really, I did) and did not like what I saw. So I started the ‘Kadari Re-branding’ project. The project plan included how I wanted to look, feel, present myself and what role I would like to have. I was done hunting titles and began considering roles that truly made me happy and gave me the ‘cha-ching’ that didn’t make me impatient. That day, I realized that I am the only one that knows what I want, why I want, how I want and when I want – just like a new dress! The project plan had a timeline and I set myself checkpoints on my evolution. Also, it had five releases i.e. Kadari 2.0, 3.0, etc.; not that the progressing would stop after that but that was my bull’s eye. Bottom line, I refined my victory benchmarks.

Because in this scenario, I was ‘competing’ against myself. And that is the hardest. But I did well! The results were perceptible and commendations started pouring in. I was talking and walking my next role – whether it was lateral or ascending; it did not matter. That was a life-changing year. How I viewed life and revolutionized basic theories that made me impractical earlier, the new self-awareness brought so much tranquility and boost. I had two buckets for what I really wanted in my professional life – the ‘non-negotiables’ and ‘negotiables. From having a career that I was very obliged, I went to a career that I had complete control. It was what I wanted and not what others thought I wanted.

Along the journey I understood three things. First and foremost being that sponsors and hiring managers are humans just like us. They run a business, not a charity and they will do what makes best sense for the business. Also, there are criteria on how best one may fit in to their ethos and what the acuity of our brand. Now, some do look for their ‘mini-me’ and there is nothing wrong about that. It obviously worked and they wouldn’t mind doing that again. So, I stopped feeling entitled about being so good and getting offered the most longed for role on the globe. That is when I re-assessed my opportunities.

Secondly, for one to be promoted there has to be an opening to be used at that next level. It is a matter of faith too. But unless there is someone willing to take that risk, forestalling a promotion and feeling disconsolate after is a downright waste of passion. Even if all stars aligned, there is always a chance that something may go wrong in the last minute, there might be an organization change forcing new leadership or new stratagem, ingestion of new blood or outside talent. Again, there is nothing wrong with how organizations maneuver. These singularities made me understand how susceptible we leave ourselves when not in control.

Thirdly, if organizations care about you, they will take care of you. Otherwise take it as a hint to plan for the next move or may be refine redefine success criteria like I did or stay put and be miserable. I am sure there will be a time when I will plan my next move, but I chose to refine my success criteria. The intentions are rather artless:

  • Be exceptionally good at what I currently do rather than being mediocre at the next level. Or better yet operate at that next role that you make it easy for all involved or find alternative path
  • Engage in community give-back programs. The recognition that I got from being a part of such gave me so much happiness, inner-strength, not to forget the industry visibility. I am ecstatic when people I’ve touched randomly scream my name when I am grocery shopping
  • Pay forward. What goes around comes around. It gives me immense joy that I am investing in my future with a pronounced likelihood that I might work for them some day
  • Coach my direct reports even if the next job they move into is mine. After all, I am here because of those who invested in me and I’d like them to avoid all letdowns I came across
  • Network, Network, Network
  • Keep learning new skills at any and every chance, both technical and soft. Never know what hiring managers are looking for

You might ask me why refine and not redefine. In my opinion, if you have a job and you have been sustaining it quite well, that is success. From there on, you don’t have to redefine but simply refine. These are mine, what are yours? Would you rather be me or better? The choice is yours – it always was.

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