Make a new friend! I’m not going to quote Jim Rohn here or tell you about the value of networking. It’s true that building your network is helpful, but that’s not the biggest advantage to forming authentic relationships with people. The key word here being authentic, as opposed to transactional. Our ability to keep moving forward is directly related to our support system, and yes, they can also yield new opportunities in the future.

Have you ever noticed how often we equate success with more? Whether that’s more products, more profits, more activities or more accomplishments, we buy into the belief that we have to do more to have more to be more. And that will sum up to success. And then along comes The Great Resignation. Where employees are signaling that the “more” that’s being offered — even more pay, more perks, and more PTO — isn’t summing up to success for them. We visited with leaders who are redefining what success means now. Their answers might surprise you.

As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Connie Steele.

Connie Steele is a Human-Centered Future of Work Expert, Author, co-founder of management consultancy Flywheel Associates, and host of the Strategic Momentum podcast.

Having been a marketing and strategy executive working at Fortune 500, start-up and scale-up organizations, and now consulting with C-level executives, Connie has observed firsthand how business is no longer rigid and linear but collaborative and fluid. Connie has always been intrigued by the “why” behind companies and careers that thrive and she has spent the last ten years studying workplace trends that are now permanent changes.

Today, she partners with organizations to help them adapt to the new world of work so they can drive real progress in their company. She is also passionate about helping individuals navigate the ongoing changes in the workplace so that they can achieve personal and professional fit in their careers.

Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today?

In our last interview, I talked about how going independent changed the course of my life and career. Today I’d like to talk a little bit about the man who inspired me to leave: Steve King.

Steve was a CMO at a big tech company, on track to be CEO, when he took a year off. During that year off, he realized that he didn’t want to go back to that corporate world or the c-suite. He wanted to be there for his kids; he wanted a little suburban house and a minivan to drive his kids to baseball practice. So instead of going back, he started a small business with his wife.

Steve and I met when he was working as a consultant with the organization I worked at. He was brought on board to help us better understand the small business audience because his firm studied the future of small businesses and how the worker was changing. He shared his knowledge and predictions, which included the growth of the gig worker and the macrodynamics behind it. He also conveyed how technology was going to be a driver of different opportunities in the future of work — the first time I’d ever heard someone say “future of work.” This was in 2010.

His knowledge and understanding of how the landscape was going to rapidly evolve, coupled with his personal journey to independence, stuck with me.

Two years later, I chose to leave my corporate job and take a different path.

We all have myths and misconceptions about success. What are some myths or misconceptions that you used to believe?

Growing up, I thought the pathway to success had to be very linear and sequential: you get into a top college, that opens doors to work at a top company or in a prestigious profession, and you progress up through the ranks to get yourself to the highest levels in your organization or field. All of this to achieve the goals of financial wealth, respect, influence, and a powerful network. And along the way, you should really get married and have some kids.

How has your definition of success changed?

I’ve learned that success is deeply personal — and I’ve found tremendous value in redefining success as progress.

Instead of thinking of success as a binary, as whether or not I’ve achieved a singular goal, often a career goal, I try to step back and assess whether I’m making any kind of progress in the areas that make me feel fulfilled in both my work and life. For me, that’s about making an impact, constantly growing, and being with my family. And I get hints that I’m making progress when I have an opportunity to do things like this interview!

The pandemic, in many ways, was a time of collective self-reflection. What changes do you believe we need to make as a society to access success post pandemic?

One thing that’s been revealed in stark contrast is just how quickly the world changes… and in an ever-changing world, we need to be more fluid and adaptable.

And honestly, the main thing holding a lot of us back are the organizations we work for. We can’t just go back to the way things were. There need to be structural, organizational changes that better accommodate peoples’ priorities — and we’ll probably get there a lot faster if we can squash this lazy or entitled worker narrative surrounding the record number of resignations that have happened over the last year.

What do you see as the unexpected positives in the pandemic? We would love to hear a few of your stories or examples.

I love to see people feeling empowered to quit and take new jobs or create their own jobs. People are realizing they can choose a different way to work that better aligns and fits with their life situation and long-term goals, rather than staying the course because it’s predictable.

One of the people who joined my team last year, Maggie Glenski, was part of The Great Reshuffle (or The Great Resignation, whatever you want to call it). Like a lot of people, she suddenly went remote in early 2020. Then she had a kid at the beginning of 2021 and it was sort of an ah-ha moment for her.

She realized that her job wasn’t getting her excited to get up in the morning, she realized that she had these dreams she wasn’t making any progress towards, and she realized that the schedule just didn’t fit her priorities anymore. So she decided to go solo and start her own communications consultancy.

She’s doing really well — and she shared on an episode of my podcast how taking this leap has made each day more rewarding and given her a lot of momentum to keep going forward.

We’re all looking for answers about how to be successful now. Could you please share “5 Ways To Redefine Success Now?” (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. Shift from focusing on the destination to the journey. if you’re hyper-focused on the end destination all the time, you’re never going to feel like you’re going fast enough, you’re never going to feel like you’re successful enough. You’re going to miss all of the small wins — and that’s what really energizes you to finish the marathon and cross the finish line. This is why I think it’s so valuable to redefine success as progress.

2. Start measuring success as a feeling vs. a hard metric. This is your most powerful tool in shifting your focus from the destination to the journey. I think of Catherine Bowman, an accomplished medical researcher, board member, medical student, speaker, and change agent I talked to on Strategic Momentum. At 8 years old, she made a promise to her mother that she would develop one of the first pharmacological treatments for lymphedema, an incurable and painful disease that is often a result of cancer treatments. She didn’t necessarily know what metrics to track to know if she was on course toward meeting that goal, but she felt she was going in the right direction — and that’s what kept her going. And I’ve noticed this in my life, too. If I get a message from someone on LinkedIn saying they love the message that I’m sharing… There are no book sales, there’s no consulting, it’s not contributing to any meaningful metric. But I know I had an impact, even a small one, and that makes me feel successful. And it gets me to keep trying.

3. Just do it. The thing holding most people back is fear. But the best way to go from “I can’t” to “I can” is to try. I know this can be frustrating advice for some people — the whole point is that you’re afraid and it’s hard — but you don’t have to start by jumping out of a plane. It can be something as small as reaching out to someone. One of the biggest obstacles to my success has been my fear of putting myself out there, my fear of sending that email, and I just kept building it up in my head until it became an insurmountable obstacle. But when I started to take that step, which was a lot easier to eventually take because I had support from my team and family, I realized it wasn’t nearly as hard as I’d built up. And I can look back and see all of the progress we’ve made since, too!

4. Make a new friend! I’m not going to quote Jim Rohn here or tell you about the value of networking. It’s true that building your network is helpful, but that’s not the biggest advantage to forming authentic relationships with people. The key word here being authentic, as opposed to transactional. Our ability to keep moving forward is directly related to our support system, and yes, they can also yield new opportunities in the future.

5. Try something new that is out of your comfort zone. We live in a world that is constantly changing and the rate of change is only ever going to increase. It’s not always possible to anticipate what’s going to come next, but it is possible to better prepare yourself for uncertainty. This is what a lot of people refer to as a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset. Again, this doesn’t mean you have to jump out of a plane. You just have to build up the muscle so that, when it’s important, you have some practice in getting over the fear.

How would our lives improve if we changed our definition of success?

If you can redefine success as progress, you can experience success on a daily basis. And you’ll be constantly improving at the same time! It’s a little slow, it’s gradual, there will be a lot of twists and turns, but it’s so much more fulfilling.

What’s the biggest obstacle that stands in the way of our redefined success? And what advice would you offer about overcoming those obstacles?

The biggest obstacles most of us face are the expectations we’ve internalized from society. A lot of us grew up being told the same story I was told about success: college + job + title + money = success. And even though that didn’t make most of us happy, we still hold ourselves to that standard.

There are two things you can do to help you overcome that obstacle: deep, intentional introspection and therapy.

Where do you go to look for inspiration and information about how to redefine success?

I’m inspired by other people’s stories: guests I get to talk to for Strategic Momentum, those who have also pivoted out of their career, biographical documentaries, and the people I meet in my everyday life.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He, she or they might just see this if we tag them.

James Corden, for his bringing all of his talents as an actor, comedian, singer, writer, and producer together in new, innovative, and entertaining ways.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can subscribe to my podcast, Strategic Momentum, and follow me on LinkedIn or Instagram.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.