My ambition to succeed has always made me feel like a hamster running on a wheel—a hamster that never sleeps, never takes a water break and is fueled by multiple cups of coffee.
My innate tendency to constantly push myself is why I moved to New York City two years ago. I was following a dream with the hope of being successful, but instead the experience left me feeling empty, tired and unfulfilled.
This hamster needed to get off her wheel and find her path. I found my way back to the Pacific Northwest and Eugene, where I landed a job at Turell Group. And, while I have only been here three months and am still finding my footing, I finally feel like I am no longer spinning.
But I have still wondered: “What does it mean to be successful? Am I successful now? Will I be successful later? Who decides whether I have reached success?” Who knew that I would discover the answers to my questions at the Eugene Young Professional Summit.
During the first keynote speech, I connected with the honest account of the professional journey of Jessi Duley, the founder of BurnCycle, because it paralleled my own path so closely. After finding her career in New York City unfulfilling, Jessi moved back home and found a way to use her passion for fitness to make an impact on people’s lives by starting her company. Fitness is not my focus, but Jessi’s story assured me that my choices in the past year, to change careers and move home, were valid. But it also made me reflect on my questions about success.
As I listened to other speakers, met more young professionals and drank three cups of free coffee, I kept thinking about success. When I had the opportunity to hear from the owners of Artis Flora, a florist in Eugene, speak about how they found a way to do what they love in their work, I wondered, “Is this what success looks like?” Listening to them talk on finding ways to incorporate their passions into their job was inspiring and motivating. I knew these women were successful, but I still hadn’t fully solidified what that word meant or why I knew they exemplified it.
It was in the last few minutes of the day, during the closing keynote speech, that the answer to my question finally came to me. Alex Banayan, the author of the book The Third Door, decided to challenge his family’s expectation of him of becoming a doctor. Instead, he went on “The Price Is Right” and won, then used the money to interview celebrities and entrepreneurs to write his book on the secrets of their success. While laughing, as Alex recounted a story that involved following Larry King around a grocery store, I had my lightbulb moment—there is no one true meaning for success.
The realization was liberating. I constantly felt that I needed to push myself like a coffee-fueled hamster to reach success, never really getting where I thought I should be, because what I was running toward was unattainable.
In reality, everyone I met and heard from at the Eugene YP event was the embodiment of success—whether they were just starting a career, running a business or pursuing a professional or personal passion.
I left the summit feeling more motivated than ever to push myself harder—not in an attempt to reach imagined success, but to be my best self and to make a personal and meaningful contribution to my community—because that is my new definition of success.