There have been many moments in the last year that I haven’t exactly felt like a success. It’s hard for me to do any sort of self-examination lately and think “Yeah, this is going great and I’m at the top of my game.” That’s not to say that I’m not generally positive about how things are working out – I still haven’t found a full-time position but am getting more and more interesting freelance projects – but when I think about the word “success” it doesn’t feel applicable in the moment.
That’s largely because if you’re using the yardstick for that term that was in place when I was being raised, I’m nowhere near the top. When I was a kid people like my parents, grandparents and most of the adults I knew worked for the same company for 30+ years, the husbands/fathers provided most if not all of the income and supported their families in a comfortable lifestyle. Work meant a job meant you were a success, even if you weren’t a high-powered executive.
I thought, in my previous job, that I was somewhat successful. The programs I was running went well and I had a seat at most of the tables I was interested in within the company. Mainly my success was measured by the clients I was handling. I never wanted, in the moment, to take credit for what I was doing. If the programs I managed were successful and going well, I considered that successful. Losing a client or, ultimately, being let go from the company felt like the opposite of success.
Recently I was looking at the social media accounts for a client I haven’t worked with in almost a year and a half. The company had decided to search for a new agency partner and evaluate options, not because of problems with my or the team’s work but just because they wanted to get some new perspectives and see what’s out there. That hit me hard and served up a sizable blow to my ego, despite the decision to part ways being mostly mutual. I worried that it was a referendum on my work, that the paths I had helped lead them down over four-plus years were being questioned and that they regretted working with me in the first place. Yes, this was taking it a bit over-the-top, but that’s how my brain works.
When I was taking a look at those accounts I saw some things that were obviously being done differently than what I and my team had been executing. I saw tactics I did and didn’t like and could divine a shift in priorities and direction. Some made sense, some didn’t, but I’m not privy to the current mindset and strategy and so will assume what they’re doing now makes sense at this moment.
There were other tactics and ideas, though, that were still in place from my tenure. Those obviously still worked and were resonating with the audience. And I realized that a little bit of me, a small part of my thinking, is still in there. I made an impact. Those were good ideas that have stood the test of time and survived changes in strategy and prioritization. Not everything I’d done or proposed had been tossed aside. I’d done something that lasted. It was doubly satisfying because at least one of those tactics still in use was something I’d just kind of started doing, without lots of strategic meetings and Powerpoint presentations. I’d just done something I thought was fun and unique and there it is, five years after I first did it and a year-and-a-half since I last managed the program.
That’s counting as a win today. It may be as small as a hashtag or the way certain types of posts have consistent, evergreen slots in an editorial calendar, but it is, in some manner, my legacy. When I look at that and other efforts I can find some solace in the persistence of those executions and, even if no one else cares, point to it as a success.