Define what it means to be successful for YOU. Pursue it, and don’t permit external influences to minimize or dilute your mission.

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 Kavita Panke.

Kavita Panke is the Disease Area Strategy Leader for the Neurodegeneration Portfolio at Janssen, the Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson. In this role, Kavita heads a diverse and experienced team of business leaders dedicated to bringing innovative therapies to people suffering from neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, MS, and rare neuromuscular conditions like myasthenia gravis and CIDP. Her work is at the intersection of science, business strategy, and patient needs, to build an industry-leading portfolio of neurology solutions at Janssen. Kavita has an undergrad degree in Biochemistry and an MBA. She is mom to Riya (13) and Devin (9) and pursues her passion as an avid and competitive runner, serving as Founder & Head Coach of Monty Milers Club and volunteer coach of Girls on the Run.

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 am extremely fortunate to be born into a family of strivers — on both my father’s and mother’s side! Being surrounded by professional, successful women and men in my immediate and extended family at a young age, I saw first-hand how hard work, believing in yourself, perseverance, and leaning on each other when help was needed, paid off in the long run. At the same time, they always made family a priority. It was not about making sure that the next generation had a better life than the previous one. It was about ensuring that the next generation was equipped to build a good life for themselves. I try to embody this work ethic in my professional and personal life. It is how my husband and I model behavior as we raise our children, and, at the same time, I’m very passionate about mentoring other professional women earlier in their career to never give up on their passion and ambition. This is especially true for those who may not have the same role models I was fortunate to have in my life.

In addition, growing up as an athlete, sports has made a profound impact on my life, lessons that have served me well in my professional and personal journey. One of my favorite take-aways is that life (and career) is a marathon, not a sprint. Stay in the race, and learn to find joy in the everyday!

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

The biggest myth is that there is only one path to success and that the path is linear. So often I see people burned out by chasing titles or a career path that may not fulfill them, which often derails career potential. The impact you make in your career and how your professional life enhances your personal life (and vice versa), should factor heavily into how you define what success means to you. Success is an outcome, not a goal. I strongly believe that if you pursue your passion, success is inevitable.

How has your definition of success changed?

For me personally, success is still about achievement and recognition, but most important, pursuing my purpose. My success is multi-dimensional. It is how my work, my family life and personal pursuits connect. And it’s also very much about finding my purpose and passion, and pursuing them, in all aspects of my life. When I evaluate what I do, I always ask myself, “Who has benefited from my actions? How is this advancing my purpose?” As the leader of a team that focuses on brain health, one of my definitions of success is how well we can globally deliver innovative solutions for neurological conditions with high unmet need. Our success will help transform the trajectory of people suffering from such diseases . In addition, a major tenet of leadership is talent development. I have found that a critical barometer of success is to be able to find ways to help others on my team be successful. This has evolved over the years as I’ve been assigned the oversight of increasingly larger organizations. Success, especially in such complex areas as healthcare, is truly a team sport, and it’s gratifying to be able to share the wins with colleagues you’ve helped to develop.

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 pandemic reinforced for me the importance around meeting each person where they are in terms of what specific ‘experiences’ allow them to be their best selves and deliver their best. This could be workplace flexibility, engaging your team in purposeful, community-based work, and allowing them time to pursue a passion project, whatever it may be. We also need to do a better job of drowning out the “noise.” It’s easy to get lost in a project, or become distracted by scrolling the news. I have found that building the muscle of short bursts of dedicated focus helps me to achieve more — to be a better leader who is mindful, not just “mind-full.”

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

Being home-based during COVID, I found that simple things matter more. Instead of focusing on rushing out the door in the morning, I cherished the ability to have breakfast with my children, as well as taking the time to set my day up for success — these were real positives. And, while I certainly missed the day-to-day contact with my colleagues, I think like many other people, I have had the private space to consider what really matters to me. I had more time to pursue what fuels me — running and working out! Not having to shuttle from meeting to meeting was extremely liberating. It also revealed that we have too many meetings — we could accomplish just as much, if not more, with less.

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

  • Define what it means to be successful for YOU. Pursue it, and don’t permit external influences to minimize or dilute your mission.
  • Pursue your passion. If you embrace and commit to it, you’ll stick to it, and success will come.
  • Find joy in the everyday. Not everything will be fun, exciting, or successful. Embrace the small moments.
  • Don’t give up, even when it’s hard. As in a race, the start is exciting, the end is the finish line- you made it!! But the middle is hard, and challenging — and… it’s where the magic happens. Don’t give up.
  • Celebrate successes — big and small. Once we achieve something, we often chase the next thing. Take the time to recognize the wins- both professional and personal.

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

As humans, comparisons to others is innate. We measure the worth of what we’re doing and what we have based on what others do and have — at work and when we recreate. This often spills over into our families. Raising children can be an extremely narcissistic experience and comparing our kids to others as a prideful indulgence is an easy trap to fall into. Social media has exacerbated and amplified both the comparisons and the insecurity. What if we really looked inside ourselves and thought about what we truly value and makes us happy? We would be living our authentic selves and pursuing our purpose, our joy. We would be living our dream, not someone else’s.

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 omnipresence of our external world often gets in the way . Our bosses, peers, business partners, family, friends etc. who offer opinions (often with good intent) of what success should look like can get in the way. However, believing in and staying true to your purpose can overcome any obstacle. As a global leader devoted to delivering solutions for neurogenerative disease, it’s about much more than selling products; it’s about looking at the full spectrum of disease and how we can develop solutions that will extend, improve, and, ultimately save lives.

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

As simple as it seems, for inspiration, I look all around me — my team, my co-workers, my family, amazing people doing amazing things against the odds. We don’t have all the answers, and it’s critical to reach out to see how others are doing it, and most importantly, why. What other people (whose insights we value) define as success and how they achieve it, can be extremely enlightening. While one’s definition of success is personal, it shouldn’t be absolute — as we go through the various phases of our life, what we regard as success may (actually, should) change. For example, earlier in my career, my definition of success centered around whether a particular project or initiative was executed flawlessly. As my responsibilities grew, my definition of success evolved from excellence in execution to building, leading, and inspiring people who ultimately drive the vision. Inspiration is all around us — you have to be purposeful.

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 would love the opportunity to share a private meal with the iconic Phil Knight, the creator of Nike! I have come to think of him and his organization as one of the most influential entities in existence. The creation of the ubiquitous tagline ‘Just Do It’, inspires everyday people that they can be an ATHLETE. He persevered against so many obstacles and built a billion-dollar athletic brand, which is also incredibly inspiring. He was a standout track star as well! HIs memoir, “Shoe Dog,” was a revelation. He epitomizes the mandate of “Refining Success.”

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Follow me on LinkedIn

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