Know what success means to you as a person — listen to yourself.
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 Tim and Su-Mari Hill founders of ILOLA TEA.
Always seeking a way to make loose-leaf tea easier to enjoy, co-founder Su-Mari Hill invented the Tea Disc after running a tea shop with the largest collection of organic loose-leaf in North America with husband and co-founder, Tim Hill. Together, the parents of five transcended the tea industry with iLola and are committed to keeping tea pleasurable and sophisticated, while making a positive impact for each person who sips it, the individuals harvesting it, and the soil on which it grows.
Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today?
Covid lockdowns — In a 2-week period we went from launching a product line to a key account across North America, to losing all our revenue indefinitely. This probably shaped many people in the world. For us, this created the opportunity to launch our Tea Disc conception to Tea by iLOLA reality. It was a season of unknown, an opportunity to step up and force a change. When our neighbors slept and those around panicked, we built, we hired, we developed, and we grew.
Lack of success in business — This is more a development of character and lessons that lead to identifying how to separate iLOLA Tea from everything else on the market. To understand the importance of creating a valley rather than a plain open field that you operate in. In the past, we had created many ideas and some amazing products, but there was no protection. It was based on developing a brand a story as quickly as possible and running as fast as the business could. It’s the Tortoise vs the Hare. To run like the hare means it’s hard to get the time to do it properly. By taking time to develop a patent, develop the brand, to do it better than we had ever done was a privilege and a blessing.
I went into labour with my twin boys and whilst in hospital I received a phone call that my mum had passed away in South-Africa from a heart attack. To experience so much joy and grief in one day really stretched my view on every moment and what we are capable of. As humans we are capable of so much more than we can possibly comprehend and it is when we are stretched beyond what we believe our limits to be, that is when we grow.
When Covid struck we lost everything in 2 weeks. We were making functional beverages for the restaurant industry. All our orders were cancelled, and we had to bring 5 kids under the age of 9 home. It really took us back to the drawing board. We started getting up at 2am to first and foremost work through where we were in live, where we want to be and how do we get there. We realized we were operating in a wide playing field that we could never occupy. And in a sense tea is even more saturated as one of the oldest commodities in the world. However, the tea disk was years in the making and getting favorable results on our patent gave us the niche market that we were trying to create.
We all have myths and misconceptions about success. What are some myths or misconceptions that you used to believe?
My Grandad once said to me, “If you want what someone has, you first have to take their entire life”. He meant both in that moment but also the journey that led to what I saw as success. One of the first myths I’ve thought on success was that there is only Success or Failure. In my experience, developing a successful brand, company, idea is not a single action that led to success but rather a journey of many ‘failures’ or ‘failed projects/businesses’ that lead to learning how to succeed. Realigning this myth changed my thought processes from success and failure to a journey to success. Creating this Tea Disc and the iLOLA brand was a journey of many, many failures in both business and product development. Learning to remove the noise, to focus, to stick to your guns or not.
I think the other myth or misconception is that success has a finale. Before you start the journey, you feel that maybe success is a beautiful house, a car, retiring at 40 on a beach somewhere, selling your company for a large sum of cash. To many this is success, to me I thought it would be until I started the journey. I then realized that to me success was two different things. The most important was raising my family in a loving home, being there for my kids, being a loving husband to my wife, a good friend, a good boss. The other became apparent more recently, I enjoy the journey of creating and developing brands, I enjoy the project, I love the thought of creating things that revolutionize or completely change how we look at or live our lives. Success to me would be to continue doing all of this as someone in business.
That success looks the same for people. Understanding that a win can mean anything from getting out of bed to a million-dollar account for a startup and that both is worth celebrating if that was a goal. However, if you don’t set goals, you don’t recognize the successes along the journey. It is so easy to just get busy and that is what iLOLA really strives to achieve. Nothing makes you stop and take a moment like the perfect cup of tea.
How has your definition of success changed?
Success to me is an understanding that it is a journey that may have never finish but should be savored both the good and the bad. Don’t get me wrong I have goals for myself and iLOLA and those are very important to moving forward. These goals are many and change as I change. They are financial goals and goals to develop iLOLA as a globally recognized luxury Tea brand; for others to base their branding and company around what iLOLA is doing; to change how we consume and view tea in the future. But it is also to understand that success is first found at home, to me, it is my foundation that holds me together.
It has evolved into knowing what success looks like personally, in our marriage, our family and then our business. If we are failing in one area the whole comes apart.
And the whole is necessary for success of the individual.
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 think we need to get back to community. I’m personally trying to learn to listen more and talk less. I’m challenging myself to talk to strangers more, no matter where they are from. I realized I had lost the confidence to do that.
I believe the environment and our personal health is extremely important. That’s why we wanted to create a functional product that was healthy for your body without all the microplastic packaging that we find, in what feels like everything. We felt that as a company it was our responsibility to reduce the waste problems in packaging. So, we took that on and brought as much paper and little plastic as possible.
A few weeks ago, we walked into a coffee shop and our kids sat at a table with an elderly couple. Immediately they started talking to the couple sharing every imaginable detail with the couple. For over an hour they chatted and at the end they told us it was the most entertainment they had since the pandemic started.
The pandemic has left so many people anxious, angry and behind their screens looking at other people living their lives. I believe getting out into nature, experiencing negative ions in your daily routine, talking to someone new, sharing a cup of iLOLA tea with a stranger is crucial experiences that we need to intentionally bring back or introduce. It will bring connection back, grace towards each other and success for our society as a whole.
What do you see as the unexpected positives in the pandemic? We would love to hear a few of your stories or examples.
I think there was an awareness of life again. Society started to appreciate being outside again, loved nature more. We moved out of the city, looked for new jobs that we loved or that excited us. It was an opportunity to start again. We personally, lost all our revenue in a 2-week period, losing major accounts across North America. We started iLOLA during the pandemic. Though losing everything we had, it created an opportunity to create something new.
Just before the COVID lockdowns we visited a friend in Arizona who took us to the Frank Lloyd Wright School of architecture. I love architecture and design, however hearing a story of Frank Lloyd Wright choosing to block an amazing view of Nevada after the City placed electrical cables in front of his original view, we realized that what we experience and what we look at is important and should be appreciated. Making the most of experiences was important to us. When we created iLOLA we wanted to create luxury experience you would remember and savior wherever you went. To make loose-leaf teatime easy so you could enjoy your time with a close friend and great tea. To travel with amazing tea, whether camping, travelling, hoteling and never suffer those terrible tea moments again.
We had to face ourselves and where we are at. That is never easy. I think it is the hardest thing we have to do but if we don’t do it we are never going to succeed in life. The pandemic stopped us a society…do we like what we see in the mirror and in who we are.
We’re all looking for answers about how to be successful now. Could you please share “5 Ways To Redefine Success Now?”
- CHANGE YOUR DAY TO FIT YOUR SUCCESS.
We have 5 young kids, during the pandemic they were between the ages of 8 to 3 years old. They were very scared of the pandemic and the unknown of what that brought, and we had no answers ourselves or answers on what we were going to do in the future.
So, we changed our day. We went to bed at the kid’s bedtime and we got up at 2am. We strategized the creation of iLOLA, all that you see now and all that we want to bring in the future. Then we finished our day at 3pm. We took the kids out to ride their bikes, we played with them in the back garden, we watched movies with them, we read books together. We changed our day from 8am-6pm to 2am-3pm. We worked more hours, we were more efficient, we gave them the time they needed and gave them confidence that we were there for them, we had a plan, and everything was going to be fine.
2. THE MORBID TEST
This test is a tough one to take but will align you with what success really means to you.
Not what you think it is at this point. Find a quiet space (if possible) and close your eyes. Count to backwards from 30 and start to relax.
So, it’s your funeral, your dead, in a box or jar. That’s it. You’ve led your life and achieved everything that you can achieve. Your friends, family, colleagues have turned up to your funeral and they decided that they would each like to say something about you and all that you achieved. What is it that they say? Do they say, I remember them having a dream of selling their company and relaxing on the beach sipping pina-coladas or do they say they really changed the way that we did this or that. If you’re reading an article about success and looking at what someone else is writing, then you are already driven. You already want change from where you are at, so where is it?
3. LEAVE A LEGACY
This is a personal one as I believe that we should test our limits and challenge our mindsets. Look at Mars and think how we get there, look at the seabed and imagine a hotel in the depths of the ocean. Think of new ways of doing the same thing, just please for my sanity don’t do what someone else is doing because it looks successful.
Entrepreneurs, scientists, engineers, artists, architects, doctors, musicians, gardeners and may more professions all need people that challenge the status quo. Challenge how we think. It expands our thoughts and makes us think differently. To slap a sticker on, change the color of the t-shirt or any representation of innovation may bring short term finances, but is it really success. More importantly is it success that you would be proud of?
4. DON’T GIVE UP
I think the hardest thing I see is people that give up. Whatever you are striving towards, you will hit hard times, difficult moments, but don’t ever give up. It only leads to regret and what ifs. If everything fails and you did everything to make this happen, you can look at this journey as a period of growth and the lessons you have are invaluable. I would always prefer to walk away bankrupt and broke on my parents couch ready to start again, then walking away because things got hard.
Entrepreneurs are magpies. There is always shiny new thing that we look at going I could make something of that. Pick one thing and focus. Remove the distractions, walk away from some ventures, remove the noise and the frustrations so we can focus. We once moved out of the warehouse that we were in due to someone we were subletting to being a frustration and distraction. You have limited time to really make this a success and reach your planned path and goals. Stay focused, stay the journey, believe in you and you’ll make it.
- Know what success means to you as a person — listen to yourself.
- Know what success means to the people close to you — listen to them.
- Know what success means to your community as a whole — listen to those invested.
- Know what success means to your country –find a voice you trust.
- Know what success means to the world — invest in countries that is not yours.
Participate on every level. It’s easy to focus on the first, harder to focus on every level after but if we do not find the success of the 5th, the 1st will eventually become irrelevant. No one swims through a river or crosses an ocean with a newborn because they have options of personal success in their own environment.
How would our lives improve if we changed our definition of success?
I once read an article that when Shaquille O’Neal changed his investments into ventures that he was interested in, excited about or companies he liked that he saw a dramatic increase in the return on his investments. If you are happy, enjoy your investment and what you are doing, whether it is the project, an investment then you will really see success. The return may be instant or over a longer period, but it will be a legacy that you are happy with.
When we started iLOLA we were proud of what we had made. We liked what we made, not just Tea but a totally new concept of enjoying loose leaf tea, we literally simplified loose leaf tea. We created a new concept of how you enjoy tea and the next phases of our product release we hope will completely redefine the enjoyment of tea. We love the project, we love what we’re doing, but our success is also in raising our kids as the next generation of legacy leaders. So, we bring them on business meetings, we talk to them about the difficult things we go through, we show them the peace we have in all of this and explain the importance that they have on the future. We view success not as immediate but generational.
I live by the Event + Response = Outcome equation. The only thing we have control over is our response. We cannot control most of the events in our lives. However, if we don’t know what outcome we want we will not be able to have a focused response. If you have a desired outcome or success you want to achieve and you respond or work to achieve it the success is yours. Owning both our success and mistakes are crucial for growth.
What’s the biggest obstacle that stands in the way of our redefined success? And what advice would you offer about overcoming those obstacles?
I was recently introduced to someone in Canada that shared with me the ‘Walls’ that we go through that block our success. After meeting him we realized we had been in a wall in a previous business venture for several years. Identifying the blockers and being able to plan around this was key to us and to our staff.
Within your journey of success, you will go through several stages. 1. The Start, 2. Growth, 3. Advance and repeat stages 2 and 3, or you move to stages 4. Plateau and eventually 5. Decline.
There are 2 major walls that you will go through, initially. The first will define if you go anywhere on this journey. If you get through that wall quickly then you will see growth and return on the hard work. The next wall is a lot bigger, and this wall can take 3–7 years for you to get through. You need to plan for this wall ahead of time and decide how you will Smash through it and advance. If you don’t you will plateau or decline and never reach the heights that you truly can. For everyone this wall is different, it could be competition that you need to outthink, it could be that you are creating a new segment and need competition, it could be your life is comfortable at this point. Just know that you reach this wall first and then your staff reach it afterwards. You may hang out there, but they will not, so if you don’t fix it, you will eventually reach stages 4 and 5. OR, just smash through the wall. Plan on growth and advancement with new routines, new products, new goals, new strategies.
I believe the only obstacle is that we do not take ownership of our response to every situation. It is human nature to feel that success is due to external factors beyond your control. It is not, you have more control than you can possibly image, but you must understand that you must wake up daily knowing what you need to overcome to achieve success today. Trying to achieve success this year or next month is a lovely notion and we work towards it, but the reality is that you have today. And it is ok to fail today. Tomorrow, you get to do it again. Don’t blame yourself for yesterday, dust yourself on and move on. It’s a new day and you can align your day towards your goals, but you must own the steps.
Where do you go to look for inspiration and information about how to redefine success?
I read or I listen to a lot of books. I read a lot of magazines articles, news articles, articles of interest, and podcasts. I read books recommended by people that I look up to. I view every moment as an opportunity to grow myself, my family, or our lives.
I listen to total strangers just in case they know something more than me or look at something in a completely different way. I love living or hanging out in artistic communities as they attract different ways of thinking. You don’t have to accept them all, but some of the craziest ideas I have heard have had some merit to them.
I think if we look at external influences to define our personal success, we lose sight of the goal…understanding what success looks like for you as an individual. The only information required it to truly know who you are. Don’t compare your success to anyone else. Maybe your success today is getting out of bed. It is not any less of a success than a million-dollar contract. It is a goal that you achieved. At iLOLA we do one thing…celebrate every moment that we can because that is the only moment you are certain of.
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.
Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Warren Buffet, Barack Obama, Shaquille O’Neal or David Beckham.
EM & RB — To discuss innovating and changing the world as we see it.
WB & BA — To discuss juggling a successful family and changing the world.
SO — From smashing the net to Smashing business decisions.
DB — From one Essex boy to another. From soccer to success.
Honestly, right now it must be Oprah for me. I grew up at the end of apartheid in South-Africa and when I entered high school it ended. Soon after I saw an episode of Oprah. I knew that there was a world out there that looked very different to the one I grew up in. And I could not wait to experience it. She embodies the very essence of knowing who you are, outlining what you want and owning your path to success.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.