A Jeffersonian Dinner

Images-1I went to a  Jeffersonian dinner this past week for twelve women and the top was; how should women define success?  It was engaging, interesting and intellectually stimulating. 

The age of the women at the table ranged from 25 to probably early 60's.  Our host had introduced everyone already through email where we were able to read each others bios.  We did a little meet and greet at the start and then sat down to talk.  The first question was "when in your life did you feel that you had success"….then the conversation began to flow.

What is interesting is the themes among most of us.  Nobody in the crowd defined success by money but by family, relationships, achieved goals, freedom to make decisions.  I can't recall the many thoughts that took place but it certainly got me thinking about the definition for myself. 

One thing to think about is that if you achieve success, then what comes next.  In essence, the path of life is a series of successes as you evolve and grow older.  It is funny what came to my head when I thought about when did I first think of myself as having success.

I was working for a guy and basically running the company with him operationally as well as running all of sales.  He gave me a serious amount of rope which is probably why I found success there.  He owned his own biz and I was his number 2. There was a day when a group of VP's from Dillards came to our showroom.  These guys, yes guys in blue suits, were basically the number 2s in the company.  I was giving them the pitch and I was definitely nervous.  I was nervous because before being in the wholesale end of the schmata biz, I was at Macys where guys in blue suits were the hierarchy of the company.  So I am pitching these Dillards men and the owner of the company comes up to me and whispers in my ear, you make more money than these guys.  It totally gave me pause.  There was something about that information that shifted my entire attitude, as I felt, hey, I am equal to you guys and that made me feel successful.

So, continuing down the road of success…certainly raising our children has been the most rewarding.  Perhaps because my career has been a strange long ride not a straight shot up a ladder that I have found it hard to feel successful.  There are fleeting moments where I think that was a nice successful moment but those moments never make me feel like I am successful.  Crazy perhaps and more than likely because a big load of baggage I carry around but that is my own issue. 

It was really an engaging conversation particularly hearing from other women who I consider all successful to hear how they feel about their own successes and the choices they have made.  Would a group of men speak differently than a group of women…perhaps but perhaps not.

Do I feel successful when I bake a killer pie?  Do I feel successful when I complete a project on time and on budget?  Do I feel successful that I can juggle so many balls and get shit done?  Do I feel successful when I see my kids do well and achieve their goals?  Do I feel successful when something I planned is pulled off perfectly?  Do I feel success getting a deal done? 

I do feel small shots of success to all the questions above so my take away from that dinner is that success is constantly happening in our lives as we achieve the small things because it is important that we feel good about our own personal accomplishments as we grow and move forward down our own life path. 

Really interesting evening.  

Comments (Archived):

  1. Rohan

    ‘One thing to think about is that if you achieve success, then what comes next.’Do you ever achieve success? Success feels more of a by product than a goal. Like what Eric Weiner said about happiness..’Happiness is a by-product! Its never works like I am going to be happy today. I am going to be kind to others today or I am going to have fun today or I am going to be more appreciative today works. That will help your happiness.’

    1. Gotham Gal

      I totally agree. That is exactly how I felt after leaving the dinner. You can never achieve ultimate success or then what? It is a total by-product of each goal and every day, every week, every year, every month we set new ones.

      1. rebeccastees

         I think of it as a desire to evolve.

  2. William Mougayar

    This made me think that there are probably 3 types of things you do that gives you satisfaction:- things you do for yourself (like doing your laundry or brushing your teeth)- things you do for others (could be volunteer stuff or cooking for others)- things others expect of you (work related mostly)Having the balance between the 3 is a good path to happiness. If you’re doing one of them excessively more than the other, that’s not so desirable.

    1. Gotham Gal

      the word balance is so overused these days but yes it is all about balance.

      1. William Mougayar

        True, it was all over your post a couple of days ago!

  3. John Best

    Ugh. I’ve rewritten this about 4 or 5 times. It’s a bit abstract :)Success is like light – simultaneously binary and a matter of degrees. Always subjective and immeasurable. A myriad of successes don’t equal a success. Tiny victories can get swallowed by a single failure, or even simply the perception, the expectation of it. Success can be luck. Timing. Outside our control.Success is nothing without failure, the herculean effort rewarded by failing to reach the finish line. Success and failure shape you. You can’t know one without the other. The exceptional is nothing without the execrable. I know I’m the product of both, and I am the judge of which is which. I am the one that fights to make the one greater than the other. When I don’t have to fight any more, then I’ll have achieved success. 

    1. Gotham Gal

      any failure and mistakes are the key to really good success.

      1. John Best

        Yes. 🙂 Following the recognition of the mistake, and learning. 

    2. leigh

      I don’t know if i’ve ever wondered about your gender but your first line now has me wondering 🙂

      1. John Best

        I’m taking that as a compliment 🙂

        1. leigh

          but of course 🙂

  4. leigh

    “Freedom to make decisions” rings absolutely true to me.  

  5. rebeccastees

    I think success is having the creative confidence to use the lessons you’ve learned from an experience to drive forward you next iteration.

    1. Gotham Gal

      I love that. there is something about being able to take your past to create more confidence, mistakes and all.

  6. rebeccastees

    For me, success is being valued in dynamic learning community. I’m very inspired by this quote……“Knowing that you’re lovable helps you to love more. Knowing that you’re important helps you to make a difference to others. Knowing that you are capable empowers you to create more. Knowing that you’re valuable and that you have a special place in the universe is a serene spiritual joy in itself.”  – Louise Hart