Since almost the beginning of our days we are conditioned to be successful. For long ages success meant advanced career with a shiny job title, successful marriage/partnership, a couple of kids, well, you know the gist. We ask kids what they wanna be when they grow up and expect them to name their potential career choice as an indicator of future success. Once asked this question John Lennon answered “happy” and was reprimanded by his teacher for not understanding the question. Well, John Lennon is long gone, unfortunately I cannot say the same about the question.
In highly hierarchical organizations job title is often more important than a personality behind it. One could argue that entering a certain level in the organization is always based on person’s knowledge, hard work and interpersonal skills. Sadly, we all know that is not always the case. More often than not people choose peers around them not necessarily based on their high IQ or EQ but on good relationship and guaranteed support. I bet you’ve been in the situations where you caught yourself thinking “how on earth did that person end up in that role”😊 I admit I have.. more than once…
Hence here’s my question – does a job title really define your success?
I was really surprised when one of my friends, who became a life coach and started her own business named herself as CEO of her, well, one person company. I couldn’t really get it at the beginning hence I asked her about that. Why CEO when you don’t even have staff? Her answer got me thinking: “people take me more seriously. Believe me, more people wanna be coached by a successful CEO” she said. I wanted to believe that was just one person’s opinion, so I dug a bit deeper, made little research by talking with others and checking titles of various entrepreneurs just to prove to myself that my friend was not exaggerating. However conscious we are we tend to judge the book by its cover.
So then let me ask you this – what do we define as success? Is it as simple as having a corner office and a plate on your door (or, in current environment, your zoom window)? And then where does it leave people who decided to make parenting their primary career and devote their time and effort in raising children? Does the title “the most loved parent” make them total failures? I find it hard to believe. Although vast majority of them, sadly, do not feel like high achievers.
I remember when I was switching careers and after 10 years in legal field I decided to quit law for good, one of the reasons being my realisation that my passion was more in interaction with people than with documents 😊 For me that was natural step to my new exciting future. Imagine how surprised I was when some of my friends and siblings asked me if I really knew what I was doing? They were not sure I realised I was “losing” my position in the society and basically, downgrading myself. So, what for me was new and exciting adventure for them was pure ride down the hill.
It looks we are still being conditioned for “universally acknowledged success” which, in my opinion, ceases existence. It was very universal back in Soviet Union, for sure, but now… My description of success is different than yours. It reflects my values, aspirations and needs. It does not mean it’s better or worse, it’s just unique. Regrettably not everyone is able to accept that.
Nowadays you have to be brave to choose not to be described by title or position, but by your own personality. You have to have guts to disregard all the biases and preconceptions of those around you. Be prepared that not everyone will be able to handle your free spirit. If I look around, I see many people who work hard to maintain their current titles and positions. Some of them suffer because their hearts, obviously, are not bursting with satisfaction. They need way more mental and physical energy to sustain their current lifestyle even if it does not make them happy. Do they really feel successful, I wonder.. No, not on the outside, but deep inside… where nobody else sees them… I always ask them – is it worth it? Is the life you’re living worth what you’re giving up to have it? In other words, is the title you carry worth what you’re giving up to maintain it? If the answer is “Yes” – fantastic! You’re right where you need to be, carry on. But if the answer is “No”… Well, then I highly recommend having a cosy conversation with yourself. Because life is for living and enjoying. And, more importantly, it is temporary.
During my career I’ve met amazing managers and leadership members as well as the ones which were “not so good” 😊 I’ve also encountered incredibly qualified professionals which never perceived managerial or leadership positions by their own choice. Is a (senior) expert of [you name it] worth less than CEO of one-man company? I doubt. But that’s my view.
I really trust that it is possible to create and sustain an environment in every organization where everyone stands a fair chance to be judged by their actions, knowledge and performance rather than a title. The change starts from each and every one of us and our attitude to ourselves and to those around us. Start looking deeper, behind the title, to discover real diversity of success.