Shut up and listen. Listen to other people and the way they have been successful or to those that define success differently than what you believe it is. They have done something right to make themselves happy.

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 Dr. Debra Warner.

Dr. Debra Warner is a Forensic Psychologist and leading trauma expert focusing on male survivors of trauma. She is a published author and celebrated keynote speaker. Dr. Debra is the CEO of Dr. Debra, LLC, which includes the Listen and Love University and Discovery Tours, and she is the co-founder of the S.C.R.I.P.T conference.

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?

One experience that has shaped who I am today was my TEDx talk in Palo Alto, TX in September of 2018. I am passionate about ending the stigma surrounding male survivors of abuse. I wanted to share what it is to be a man in a society that largely ignores male victims of sexual trauma but was not sure I had an audience who wanted to hear about it. I was unsure if others felt as passionately as I did about stopping the stigma and giving these men a voice and a chance to be listened to and believed. After I wrote about my husband’s experiences with sexual trauma and my experiences as the spouse of a survivor in His History, Her Story, I was asked to create a TEDx talk on the topic of male survivors. It was well-received and increased the visibility of males as survivors of sexual trauma. It created the #mentoo movement and has allowed many men to feel comfortable and confident in sharing their experiences to help other men. It also showed me that people do care about the topic and gave me more confidence to pursue my passion of giving these men a voice and a chance to heal.

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

One misconception I had was that hard work is the only thing needed to be successful. People also need to believe they can succeed. They need to be willing to accept criticism whether positive or negative. To be successful, one has to work well with others. Success isn’t a solo activity. To be successful, one has to work toward a goal. Working hard for the sake of working hard may not add up to success if the individual is not working toward something.

How has your definition of success changed?

I used to think success meant money and materialistic things. Success doesn’t mean that. Success means what you produce helps other people. If what you are doing is making a positive change in this world that is successful. You only get one shot in this life. You have a choice to do nothing, define success by material possessions, or you can have success that can outlive you. That success means you helped in your community in some way, which will live on long after you are gone. Another way to define success is to understand your limitations and realize you may not make global change in your lifetime. You are only one person and as long as you are focused on creating a better world, even if only in your neighborhood, you are a success.

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?

The biggest change needed is to listen. It starts with being open to hearing about the struggles of others and learning about the struggles of our world and what it needs to heal. Regardless of beliefs or political affiliations, we can not ignore the fact that the skies were clearer because we were driving less, waterways like in Venice were clearer and wildlife was returning to areas they hadn’t been in, in years due to human activity. We need to come together as a team, a community, to fix these problems instead of individualizing them and pushing it off on to someone else to fix as if it is not our responsibility.

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

Some positives I have seen are people who were busy, always running and working, finally getting the chance to stop and smell the roses. Increases in the use of technology and software such as Zoom help parents be able to stay home with their children. There were so many homes where parents have to work to support the family and children rarely saw the parents. The pandemic gave families the chance to spend time together. It has put a lot into perspective for a lot of people. These people have realized all the time spent commuting to and from work and missing out on quality time wasn’t worth it anymore. It is time they can not get back. With working from home, they can be there to help their kids, play games, watch a movie, tell their children a bedtime story, and so much more. I was one of those parents. I was commuting 2 hours each way for work 5–6 days a week. I did my best to be there for the important things for my children, but I know there are other things I have missed out one because of the long commute. Having the opportunity to work from home has given me new moments and memories to cherish.

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. Shut up and listen. Listen to other people and the way they have been successful or to those that define success differently than what you believe it is. They have done something right to make themselves happy.
  2. Apply what you have learned from listening. It may seem silly or unusual, but it could help you to realize what matters and what it means to be successful.
  3. Put in the work to make changes in yourself and in your community. Never stop. Once you have made a personal change, don’t stop there. Keep going and keep moving forward.
  4. Share your story. Many of us want to keep our success strategies to ourselves, but do not do this. Help others to be successful by sharing your story.
  5. Mentor someone. Find someone or multiple people and help them to be successful. It could be a co-worker, classmate, the kid that you tutored, or a friend who needs encouragement. Find someone and give them a chance to be successful through mentorship.

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

Life would improve because we wouldn’t be so focused on materialistic possessions as a way to define success. We would start to care about each other on a deep, more meaningful level. It can move us toward accepting and embracing differences.

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 obstacle standing in the way of success is our own ego. We can sometimes get in our own way and become deaf and blind to injustices and the needs of others. We are so focused on things and not each other that we are forgetting what really matters. We can overcome this by remembering that each person has something of value to teach us based on their experiences. We just need to be willing to listen.

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

I look to my children and other children. They are seeing and experiencing things for the first time. They are learning and growing, and we have many opportunities to make sure they become caring, empathetic individuals. They will create and redefine success as they grow and learn new and better ways for a brighter future for their children. I also find inspiration in the people I mentor. I had a student that was schizophrenic. They were told they wouldn’t succeed and couldn’t because of their schizophrenia. I did everything I could to help them succeed in the program. They are amazing now. They have written books, gone forward, and created success for themselves. They didn’t listen to those that said they couldn’t, but instead chose to listen to the ones offering support and guidance.

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.

Johnny Depp would be one person for me because he was a victim of trauma. He was seen as the perpetrator because he was a male, and it has affected his personal and professional life. I would love to sit down with him and hear his story.

I would also love to sit down with Richard Branson and discuss an opportunity to be the first Forensic Psychologist in space!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Readers can visit my website and I can be followed on Facebook at Debra Warner, Psy.D. and Instagram @drdebrawarner

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