…Reframe what your job means for you. We are very driven by what our “jobs” are, especially at this stage in our lives. My partner told me a story about one of his mentors’ business school reunions. They said by the 15th year reunion, no one talked about their jobs anymore. My career is incredibly important to me, but remembering that being successful isn’t just about my title but about mentoring others in the workforce gives me more meaning.

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 Heather Eaton and Jane Dong.

The Stanford graduates are the founders of Frankly Apparel, an inclusive bra-less clothing brand and the first of its kind. Designed with larger cup sizes in mind, Frankly pieces give women the benefits of a bra, without actually wearing one. Every style is centered around adaptable support structures constructed through innovative sewing techniques and high-quality fabrics. Their goal is for women of all cup sizes can feel confident, supported, and uplifted. The Frankly movement is about so much more than going bra-less: their mission is to empower women to ask for more, starting with what they wear.

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?

Jane: Starting competitive golf at 14 and getting good enough to be recruited has really defined how I approach things, and golf was a huge part of my identity for a long time. I had just played a very mediocre JV volleyball season, and I realized that if I put in the time, I could be great at golf. Making that decision to single-mindedly pursue a sport and create goals and a plan, then getting it done made me realize that I could execute really well. It also taught me that while I was finishing dead last initially in local tournaments is okay and that everyone has to start somewhere.

Heather: Oh, man. Straight to the deep stuff! Growing up, we didn’t have a lot of money and I didn’t have the most stable home life. What I did have was some brains, good manners, and a whole lot of motivation to change my situation. My desire for a different type of life influenced every decision I made growing up and moving into adulthood. My academic achievements took me to Notre Dame, which opened my eyes to what was beyond my hometown. It took me to live in Ireland, where I discovered new culture and ideas. It took me to my first job at Deloitte (who knew this thing called consulting even existed?!) where I was able to achieve financial stability for the first time in my life. The curiosity to know what else is out there, what else is possible, has always been a driving force for me.

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

Jane: I used to believe impact was purely economic, and that softer things like community and reciprocity didn’t really matter for successful people. Now as someone who has some working experience, I realize that community and reciprocity are actually everything. I’m where I am today because of the communities that I am a part of, and reciprocity isn’t just a nice thing to do — it’s something that we should do for our communities.

How has your definition of success changed?

Heather: It’s easy to think of success as THE destination. The end-all be-all “win” at the end of the road. If you think of it that way, it can be nearly impossible to achieve, especially if you are an ambitious, driven person. Because when you achieve that success that you set for yourself yesterday, you immediately forget about it and just set yourself a bigger success goal. You’ll always be striving for the next level. One thing I’ve learned as I have gotten older is to celebrate each accomplishment as its own independent success. So, in the case of Frankly, we’ve had a ton of success. Hitting our Kickstarter goal in 5 hours? Huge success. Launching our first collection and bringing in over 30,000 dollars in the first month? Pretty darn successful! Hearing awesome reviews from our customers, many of whom say they’ve never found clothing that worked for them before? Heartwarming SUCCESS! Even if Frankly were to close its doors tomorrow (which I hope it doesn’t), I would consider it 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?

Jane: We need to think about what is mandatory and what is nice to have and continually evaluate that. The first example of this is once upon a time, all jobs were mandatory and in person. Being “remote first” was seen as something that was out of the ordinary and a disadvantage. Even when we were ideating pre-pandemic, we had a lot of investors who wanted us to choose — were we going to be a Chicago based company or a SF Bay Area based company, since we couldn’t be both. Now, being geolocated is a nice to have for us, and we are seeing many companies have to adapt their mindsets on what is necessary. It really has started a conversation of “what does work mean” as well.

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

Heather: I think one of the biggest changes in the collective consciousness is that our eyes have been opened to challenging the status quo. Whether that’s “why do I have to wear a bra?” (our favorite) or “do we really need to be in an office five days a week to work productively?,” we are questioning the way things have always been done because we were all forced into, basically, an alternate reality. I hope that we all take that level of scrutiny and apply it to other aspects of our lives that just aren’t serving us, or don’t make sense. That’s how you build a better world!

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

Jane: Figure out what KPIs really matter for your life. I now measure my success each week not only by what I was able to accomplish in my job but also how much time I allocated to self care, friendships & family, and the communities I’m a part of.

Heather: Practice gratitude! I know that can sound cheesy, but it really does work. If you’re anything like Jane or me, you are your own biggest critic. Being super tough on yourself can help you succeed, no doubt, but it can also affect your mood, motivation, and so much more. Reminding yourself daily about all the things you are grateful for changes your mindset to a positive one.

Jane: Prioritizing correctly (whatever that means for you) is success! Our greatest asset is our attention, and whatever we give our attention to just received our most valuable resource.

Heather: Celebrate others successes. Think about the last time you celebrated something big in your best friend’s life. Maybe it was a job promotion. Maybe they just got engaged, or bought a house! Maybe she finally got out of a bad relationship. Success comes in many forms, and I guarantee you were giddy for your bestie about every single one of them. Building yourself a support network — personal or professional — that delights in each others successes can help you recognize success that you might not have even considered success. Your friends and mentors will remind you that you are a badass that just accomplished something huge!

Jane: Reframe what your job means for you. We are very driven by what our “jobs” are, especially at this stage in our lives. My partner told me a story about one of his mentors’ business school reunions. They said by the 15th year reunion, no one talked about their jobs anymore. My career is incredibly important to me, but remembering that being successful isn’t just about my title but about mentoring others in the workforce gives me more meaning.

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

Jane: Honestly, I think we would all be way less tired and burnt out. We often define success by our latest rating at our job, but if we changed success to be more personalized, we would likely have chosen better roles and company cultures. Sometimes, a company is not a fit, and that is okay. There are roles and companies out there that have different requirements and different cultures. Many of us are a little too obsessed with prestige being equated to success, which often keeps us in jobs and roles that aren’t the best fits for longer than necessary.

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

Heather: I think what’s stopping us from redefining success is, like Jane said, measuring by someone else’s yardstick. If you’re someone who, like me, gets a lot of satisfaction from external validation, it’s a tough obstacle to overcome. It requires deep and honest introspection. Sit down and ask yourself:

  • What in my life is making me unhappy? How can I change or eliminate it?
  • What in my life is making me happy and bringing me joy? How can I do more of it or more things like it?
  • At the end of my life, what do I want to look back and say I have achieved? (If it’s helpful, set yourself different “arenas” such as work, family, friendships, financial, etc. Now prioritize each arena.)
  • What is tying the previous three questions together? Are they aligned, and if not, how can I make them more aligned?

If you find it difficult to answer these questions, don’t worry! One way to help figure it out is to keep track of how you’re feeling over the course of a week. What is bringing you energy and what is sapping it? Start there. Keep in mind that your prioritization may mean you have to make some sacrifices. If your #1 goal is financial success, you might need to keep grinding at a job you dislike for now. As you begin to make the changes you need to align with your own personalized version of success, enlist people to remind you of what success means to you. Share your plans and goals with a friend, partner, or mentor and ask them to help you celebrate interim successes on your new path to reinforce your new definition! Make sure to do this exercise at least once a year. Your goals and priorities will shift, and your definition of success along with it.

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

Jane: I look to my mentors from past roles, and though they may not necessarily have defined themselves as “the most successful,” they definitely have at minimum figured out how to manage their time and attention. To me, that is success, as so many of us have no control over our calendars and lives.

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.

Heather: I think we are most often compared to Sara Blakely, the founder and CEO of SPANX. It’s the highest compliment because we admire her in so many ways! She had a great idea, the grit to see it through, and the kindness and compassion to build an amazing culture and use her success as a force for good. We hope we can live up to the comparison!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Heather: Our website is franklyapparel.com. We’re also quite active on TikTok and Instagram, where our handle is @franklyapparel.

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