Elevate yourself out of ME to a WE-mindset. When you are focused on the self, you are essentially separating yourself from others resulting in comparison, judgment, blame, expectations, and a me vs. them mentality. If success is redefined from this small place, it cannot thrive beyond it.

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 Erika Brechtel.

Erika Brechtel is a brand builder for women leaders for 20 years and founder of Élanoura, a new community of women founders making their mark and making it matter through impact. As the era of irresponsible entrepreneurship is ending, Erika believes now is the time for women leaders to step up and answer the call to create positive change through what they do and who they are. Having recently returned from leading her first Global Founder’s Retreat of women founders to Morocco to volunteer, she sees how women want purpose, connection, and impact now more than ever as they build out their businesses and the legacies they will leave behind.

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?

I grew up in Hawaii as a great granddaughter of two picture brides from Japan. I think about those two young women getting on a boat for the long journey ahead, having little say in who they were about to meet for the first time and marry, and how they ended up each raising large families of good people with good values, living well into their 90’s. They were poor farmers and yet, my grandfather and his generation ended up being the most highly decorated in WWII, and he went on to be the first two star Japanese-American general. My grandmother was a light in her community and dedicated her life to the service of others. I am humbled by these roots and by the knowledge that I have the CHOICE to do something with the opportunities this long line provided. Why wouldn’t I honor that by pushing forward in support of others if I can help in any way?

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

I am a typical Type-A, and so believed that success meant a life of constant achievement of traditional expectations: good grades, good university, good career, good husband, buy a home and start a family. What I realized at the end of that particular road was that something was missing for me — I had all this “success” as I had defined it, and yet I knew I had to do more. I accomplished all of what “you’re supposed to do” for other people and not for myself. I knew I could not live a fulfilled and authentic life unless I started to redefine what success meant for ME. And it is pretty scary when you decide to take the first steps down that new, uncharted road.

How has your definition of success changed?

The first self-limiting belief I had to overcome was to acknowledge that success for me does not look like what is considered successful for others. I had to create a new set of standards by which to live daily. And that starts with a lot of breaking down of what you thought you knew, then digging deep into what really matters to you — what lights you up, what is in your heart and soul? You have to know who you are, what you are about, and what you want, and that is going to be different for everyone. For me, it means getting to live my purpose everyday helping women make a mark through their unique value, and make it matter in their own lives and the positive real-world impact they have the power to create. It means getting to light a spark in others to elevate themselves, integrate what really matters to them, and create what they want to see in their world.

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?

I have seen women waking up to this as I have, that success does not need to be a constant grind and a list of achievements. During the pandemic, everyone everywhere was forced to reevaluate what really matters. We have discovered that quality time with quality people matters. Having purpose, connection, and impact — knowing that our time and our energy is making a difference somehow — matters. Especially for women, as we see the era of the tech bro and the girl boss not being as relevant as before, we have an opportunity to redefine what the business environment can look like. We can bring our natural empathy and awareness to empower those we serve. We can stand out by standing up for what we know to be true, and significantly change how businesses are impacting people. But women need the resources to make the evolution of business happen — not just the funding (which sadly only amounts to 2%), but the tools, inspiration, opportunities, and support.

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

During the pandemic, I have seen unexpected positives through my business supporting women founders I think because women, especially moms, were forced to take a step back and say, “You know what, this isn’t working for me.” They were forced to chill out on their own expectations of what they thought their lives should look like, and instead, ask themselves what they actually want their lives to feel like, every single day. There was a big disconnect there, and a big dismantling had to happen in order to move us out of the old constructs. I think about the women I just took to Morocco for our first Global Founder’s Retreat. I knew I had to physically get them out of their daily grind, push them mentally a little out of their comfort zone, emotionally have real-world interaction with the local girls where we volunteered, and bring them all together to experience it as a support group, for them to be jolted into getting a new perspective on how they were living their lives and what they ultimately want to do and leave behind.

We’re all looking for answers about how to be successful now. Could you please share “5 Ways To Redefine Success Now?”

  1. Elevate yourself out of ME to a WE-mindset. When you are focused on the self, you are essentially separating yourself from others resulting in comparison, judgment, blame, expectations, and a me vs. them mentality. If success is redefined from this small place, it cannot thrive beyond it.
  2. Integrate and align with what really matters to you. Once you have removed these blocks, you can expand into defining for yourself what I call your 4 P’s: your People, Purpose, Positioning, and Personality. You have to know why you are doing it, who you are doing it all for, and how you can uniquely and authentically bring your value to the world to make your mark matter.
  3. Create through inspiration and action. Success is not just what it looks like, but also what it feels like. We need both: we need the passion to drive us and the real-world action steps to make it real. Make a 2-column list for yourself and map out what success looks and feels like for you. What is a successful day for you? Are you living that now?
  4. Think about your legacy, now. Whether you are new to business or have 20+ years behind you, think ahead about what you want to leave behind and how you want to be remembered. It will provide you with a fresh perspective and new ideas about how to implement that every step of the way from here on out.
  5. Find your Collective of like-hearted people. Think of the potential collective power we have if we each did the above and lived, behaved, and created for others, with what each of us uniquely can do and give. Do you have a feedback and cheerleading group to continuously learn from, be inspired by, and support? Our successes and impact become exponential when we build each other up.

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

Releasing what you believe others expect of you and having the courage to step into your power and define what a successful life looks and feels like to YOU equals daily joy, gratitude, connection with others, fulfillment, compassion, grace, empathy — and then like a ripple effect you naturally spread that light to everyone around you. It shows up in your personal life with your family and friends, and in your business decisions through how you spend your time and resources. It improves everyone’s lives.

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

Working with women for 20+ years, the biggest blocks I see for women stepping into owning their own definition of success is a focus on ME. I call them the Syndrome Sisters: Imposter Syndrome, Perfectionist Syndrome, and Martyr Syndrome. By participating in these self-limiting beliefs and behaviors, we perpetuate an outdated way of thinking and living that says women aren’t enough or women are too much. “Stay in your lane (or kitchen), don’t stand out from the pack, do it all for everyone else” (and end up resentful about it). Is that any way to live? And what does that model to future generations of women?

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

I am inspired by those who step into their power and use it for good — real-world good. It starts when there is an internal shift from the ME to the WE when your power isn’t about exerting it over someone else anymore; it’s about how you can use it for the good of others. I think of people like Chef Jose Andres and World Central Kitchen, Mark Cuban and Cost Plus Drugs, Marc Benioff and Salesforce, and Ryan Reynolds. They have all achieved celebrityhood, power, and “success” yet decided that their success would need to go much further than that. And I ask myself, who will be the next WOMAN to do this?

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.

I think about what I just asked, who will be the next woman to use her celebrity and power for good. The answer for me is Serena Williams. She has the unique opportunity right now to lead the way for businesses to make an impact. She has the name, the fund, and most importantly, the drive to ensure her impact on the world — her “success” does not stop at tennis. I would be ecstatic to talk to her about how to support women business owners in incorporating impact into their businesses now, and how to support new founders in building their business with impact from the start. There is so much we can each do, together, to create massive change!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I am everywhere @erikabrechtel (instagram.com/erikabrechtel) and I am just starting a new company Élanoura focused on supporting women founders through enlightenment, engagement, and empowerment: @elanouraglobal and elanoura.com. Join us and learn how you can make a difference with what you do.

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