I‘ve been listening to a lot of podcasts recently. My favorite is She Percolates, a podcast narrated by two Navy wives centering around women and success. Jen and Danielle post new episodes of the podcast twice per week. On Wednesdays they interview inspiring women who are living different versions of success. And on Friday, they chat over coffee about random topics.
They ask the same round of questions for each interview but the answers are always different and interesting. I always think about what I would say if I was interviewed for the podcast. Here are my thoughts.
What is your definition of success?
If you asked me what I wanted to grow up to be when I was a kid, I would have told you a veterinarian. If you asked me the same question when I started college, I would have told you a teacher. If you asked me that question again towards my junior year of college, I would have told you a journalist. If you asked me that question now, I would tell you… I have no idea. The truth is, my goals and aspirations for life are constantly changing. They evolve with my interests and life stages.
A few years ago, I decided I wanted to pursue teaching again. I wanted to teach middle school English. (When I was in college I wanted to be a high school math teacher.) After being in the teaching certification program for a couple of months, I realized teaching was no longer a goal I wanted to achieve so I quit the program. I struggled with that decision for a long time. I felt like a failure for quitting. Not only did I waste a substantial amount of money but also time and energy. But I wouldn’t call that endeavor a complete failure because I learned quite a bit about myself during this process.
When I think about success, I’ve always viewed it as an end goal. I want to have a successful career so that I can retire and live comfortably. But this idea of The End downplays other successes attained throughout life. I graduated high school and college. Success! I lived on my own for years and eventually purchased my own home. Success! I dated and got married. Success! And of course there are many, many smaller successes throughout life.
So, I guess my ever-evolving definition of success includes being proud of myself for accomplishments and recognizing that I am capable of achieving goals. Success is not an end goal but rather a journey of accomplishments.
Can you name a specific moment or event in the past that caused a shift in the way you define success?
The event that I described above about quitting the teaching certification program was a huge rift in my thinking about life in general but especially about success. My grandparents gave me the money out of an education fund to enroll in the course. I was so excited about becoming a teacher. I wanted to change the world one middle school student at a time. And then I realized that not only was there a whole lot of paperwork involved in teaching but that I just didn’t have the heart to teach. The thought of getting up in front of students terrified me. The pressure of coming up with creative and comprehensive lessons plans was not something I could wrap my brain around.
I spent so much time stressing about the course. Each class meeting filled me with dread and anxiety. And I began to realize that I just wasn’t cut out to teach. I remember emailing Nana begging her for guidance. In one sentence she summed up my decision – you are an adult. What?! You mean I can just quit something if I want to? I don’t have to ask permission from anyone to change the course of my life? That sentence opened up a whole new world for me and I decided to quit the program.
When I think back about this time, I don’t have a single ounce of remorse for quitting. I have never thought about wanting to teach again. The only thing I regret is the amount of money I wasted. Sure, that was an expensive way to learn that I didn’t want to be a teacher. But I also learned that I was capable of making big, adult decisions.
Can you draw any similarities between what you thought you would be doing and what you’re doing now?
I never thought I would still be working for my family-owned outdoors store. In fact, I quit working there for a couple of years right after college. I was convinced I needed to find a “real” job. I had aspirations of writing for a magazine or a public relations position. But I graduated college right at the peak of the recession so jobs were few and far between, especially for a recent college graduate with no experience.
I ended up working two other jobs during that time. One was an administrative position and The Worst Job Ever. The other was my “dream job” at a local radio station which I soon realized wasn’t near as dreamy as I thought it would be.
In 2011, a position became available at my family’s store and instead of begging for my job back, I wrote a 10 page proposal on how I could grow the business through social media and web sales. I got the position and have been with the company ever since. These days I have many, many tasks aside from social media and the web and some days I struggle to wear different hats and balance my responsibilities. But right now, this is the place I need to be.
What are two characteristics that have helped you achieve success so far?
Being stubborn and spontaneous. I can be incredibly stubborn and hard headed but I’ve found that I really like to learn the hard way. I know that sounds crazy. Why would anyone want to learn the hard way? But through some of the mistakes I’ve made in life, I’ve learned some great lessons. I can also be incredibly spontaneous. Sometimes this is bad (like when I spontaneously decide to buy things) but other times this is good (like when we try a new restaurant or I pursue a new passion). Spontaneity can open you up to new beginnings. Thanks to a spontaneous date with Adam, I found my husband.
What is the best non-financial investment you’ve made in yourself?
This is a tough question but I would have to say all the time I’ve spent on the Internet. I know my parents probably thought I was wasting so much time as a teenager surfing the web and talking with my friends on AIM but I love the Internet. I love all of the possibilities it brings and they way it can both simultaneously bring people together and tear them a part. I love learning how to do coding and design. I love watching social media grow and develop into new technology. These days, if I have a question or want to learn how to do something, I talk to my friend Google first.
I know my husband probably gets annoyed with me at times because of how connected I am online but this is how I communicate. I’ve learned some hard lessons thanks to the Internet but it’s also opened up a lot of doors. The Internet has provided a source of therapy for me when I needed it most. I can easily share my life with family and friends. We can stay connected no matter where we are in the world. And I just think that’s really, really cool.
What does your typical day look like?
I’m awake and in the shower by 7:30. From there I scramble to get ready and walk out the door by 8:45 at the latest. I really wish I was a morning person. I love the idea of waking up early and having time to slowly start my day but I have never been a morning person and hit snooze until the last possible moment. I spend the whole day working. My tasks for the day always vary. When I get off work, I usually head home to make dinner. One night a week Adam and I play on a pool league. Sometimes we’ll make plans with friends but for the most part we are homebodies during the week. After dinner, we hang out and unwind. Adam watches TV. I write blog posts or browse the Internet. By 10:00, we’re both ready to head to bed. I’m someone that requires a lot of sleep. I also think it’s really important to go to bed at the same time as Adam. If not, I’ll stay up until the wee hours of the morning and end up sleepy the next day.
Rapid Fire Round! Time for some fun answers…
How do you like your coffee or tea?
I like my coffee with lots of milk. I love lattes and caramel macchiatos. Being from the south, I like my tea iced and sweetened.
Where do you find inspiration when you’re in a rut?
I’m constantly saving articles that I read online. I love Pinterest, though it can be overwhelming at times. Instagram is full of inspiration. Normally when I’m in a rut, I get outside and clear my head. Adam and I often go fishing but sometimes I don’t even fish. I’ll read a book in the grass or write in my journal.
If you could sit down with one person and have coffee for one hour, who would it be and why?
This is a really tough question because there are so many great people in the world to choose from. My great grandmother (Mimi) ranks high on the list. I was too young to really appreciate her wisdom and I would love to hear her stories from growing up through the Roarin’ 20s and WWII. She was also a beauty queen so it would be fun to hear about her experience with pageants. I just think it would be really interesting to hear her perspective on the way things were “back in the day” before so much technology. If she were alive today, I think she would be in awe (or may be appalled?) of how things have changed.
Something good happens, how do you celebrate?
Food, always food! I think the last real “celebration” we had (other than a wedding and all that fun stuff) is Adam’s reenlistment. We went for happy hour at our favorite seafood restaurant – $6/dozen oysters and $3 wine. We’ve probably celebrated some other smaller achievements sometime between last year and now but that’s the one that stands out to me the most.
How do you define success? Leave a comment below or share a link to your own answers to these questions.