The different shapes of success

Success comes in different shapes.

Sometimes it is up and to the right. This kind is easy to recognize. It is success that comes from accumulation. More of this, more of that. We just need to be mindful that what we are accumulating is what is best for ourselves, for our dear ones, for our group.

Sometimes it is down and to to the right. This kind is not as intuitive as the first one. It is success that comes from reduction. Less of this, less of that. What makes this particularly challenging is that cutting what is not best (for ourselves, for our dear ones, for our group) gets more difficult over a long period of time.

Sometimes it is right in the middle. Most people feel uncomfortable with this kind. It is success that comes from consistency. One of this today, one of this tomorrow, one of this the day after tomorrow. It turns out, in the long run it is still accumulation (or reduction). Just not as evident, arguably more impactful.

We need to be able to appreciate and celebrate the different shapes of success.

If we don’t, we are stuck in a narrative that is not our own.

All good

When we ask “how are you?”, let’s sit down and take in the full answer.

I am fine, I wish I had more time to dedicate to this project.

I am alright, unfortunately I was not accepted for that online programme.

I am well, thanks, there has been a bit of a misunderstanding with my colleague, but I am well nonetheless.

We often rush to labelling our exchanges as “all good”, and we fail to grasp the issues we might want to act upon. And then we are surprised when the minor crack turns out to be a foundation problem. We withdraw – they said they were fine, how could they lie to us? – and we make the whole situation irreparable.

Forget the first part of the answer, hand in there until the honest reality kicks in, and tackle that head-on.

How could you make more time for the project?

How can I support you in your learning and development?

What happened, and what can I do to facilitate a conversation between you too?

That’s the way to be taken seriously, to build a relationship, and to maintain the people around you engaged and motivated.

Craft your job

Most of us are not happy in their job. The good news is, we do not have to change job or wait for our managers to come up with a solution before we can actually find satisfaction in what we do.

We have the power to design our jobs in a way that can make us feel better.

We can take on more or less tasks, shift the boundaries of our responsibilities, focus on the tasks that better align with our strengths and values, rethink the way things are done, come up with new processes.

We can alter the relationships with those we work with – in the same department, in the same company, and also in other companies. Establish networks, help others, connect with them outside of work.

We can reframe tasks that are assigned to us in a way that makes us see a bigger picture, a wider purpose, a better future. For us, for the organisation, for the community.

Being stuck is rare, as at any given time the opportunities are many and diverse. Feeling stuck is much more common, and fortunately feelings come and go.


When you are in a leadership position, it will happen that something your team has delivered will be questioned by those you report to.

What to do?

You can side with the managers. You can side with the team. Or you can communicate both ways to find a solution that serves the greater good.

The first two options are shortcuts. They do work, yet they make victims: your team in the first case, yourself in the second. On the other end, making an effort to explain, ask, compromise is an investment of time and resources when you might have little of both. And that’s how you establish relationships that will make your organization, as a whole, stronger.

The greatest enemy

We are the greatest enemy to our own purpose, satisfaction, betterment, fullfilment.

We tell ourselves stories about the world that merely reflect what we feel and fear. Others will think I am arrogant if I do that. I am not good enough. If only I could get someone who believes in me. They don’t want me here anymore. They don’t care.

We are in charge. And we have the power to change all that. Now.

I may be able to explore my past, recalling memories of incidents where I learned to hide from my life, feeling the churn in my gut that makes (and keeps) me exactly as I am. And I may be able to explore the future person I want to be, my preferred image of myself, my intended self-concept tuned to hope and maybe distracting fantasy. But between the past and the future there’s the Now, with its stubborn realities, with its unpredictability and hidden dangers. There, in the Now, that’s where the real journey is either embraced or rejected, a point at which I must make a choice about facing what I haven’t faced all along — and stick with it.

Dan Oestreich – The mutiny against our conditioning