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Success, Stories, & Self Worth

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

As part of a recent talent search, candidates were asked how they define “success”. Collectively, their answers were neither right nor wrong, but instead were relatively homogenous and somewhat predictable. However, listening to each answer was a valuable exercise, as it forced me to consider my own definition of success, and how it impacts my view of the work I do every day.

After careful consideration, I realized that I can categorize “success”, as it relates to careers, into three distinct buckets, each with a specific purpose.

External Professional Success - These are the metrics with which you are judged by others, be it an employer in an end of year performance review or by anyone else who makes value judgements regarding the quality of your work. Better stated, External Professional Success are the stories others tell about your value.

This type of success is critically important to job security. Meeting performance goals, benchmarks, or standards can be relatively easy because they are clearly defined, and one can adjust work processes to ensure success. However, success in the eyes of others may not be truly personally satisfying, which leads me to...

Internal Professional Success - These are the things that others don’t see, notice, or even care about, but produce feelings of pride and accomplishment. Maybe you learned a new skill, completed a task that wasn’t assigned to you, or simply felt better today than you were yesterday. These are the stories you tell yourself about your value.

I place an extremely high value on this type of success, as maintaining a positive internal monologue with yourself is critical in seeing your full value. But that isn’t enough, which takes me to...

Personal Success - What do you hold most dear? Your family? Your faith? Your hobbies? Whatever it is, Personal Success depends on your ability to balance the time commitment required for External and Internal Professional Success with your true values. Personal Success consists of the stories you tell yourself about the things you value most.

I believe Emerson was talking about this in the quote above. In a world constantly trying to define success for you, it is Personal Success that allows you to live peacefully at the intersection of your work life and personal life; it defines Self-Worth.

What I find most interesting about the definitions of success I’ve laid out is that they work like a ripple in a pond. Personal Success is the center, radiating out to internal professional success, and finally external professional success. If you have an impact in the center of the ripple, you can’t help but have an impact on the surrounding water, touching all parts of your life and the people around you.

How do you define "success"? I am fortunate to be in a position that allows me to serve others and help them find their definition. Please don't hesitate to call me if I can help in any way.

Michael Mueller, PGA

PGA Career Consultant

Proudly Serving the Carolinas Section


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