Tag Archives: work

A new definition of success

Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. – Proverbs 3:3-4

Over the years, my view of what success would look like for me has changed many times. But one thing was certain, success always looked BIG. As in, change the world big!

As a young college freshman I decided to major in Communications and Journalism, ready to change the world by becoming the next Woodward or Bernstein. Then, as my spiritual journey went through a period of immense learning and growth in my early 20’s, I thought I was being called into ministry, specifically missions. I planned to change the world one village at a time.

By the time I graduated college I had met the love of my life and was engaged to be married. Ideas of going into ministry were put on hold and it seemed the responsible thing to do was get a “real job”. So using my Communications degree I got a job in a corporate marketing department…and I did well. Really well. I moved up quickly and had a taste of career success. Soon my plan was to crash through the glass ceiling; and as my husband and I started to discuss having kids, I was determined I would prove you could “have it all” (whatever “it all” means).

During those early years as a mother, I put much of my focus and measurement of success with my children. If they were successful, then that surely meant I was successful as a mother. But it didn’t take long before I learned (the hard way) just how much is out of my control. I realized it was unfair to both my children, and to me, if I measured my success as a mother and as a person based on their successes and failures.

By the time I was 30 I had a great marketing manager job with a global company. I was able to work from home partially and travel to places I had always dreamed about, like South Africa, Australia, and East Asia. I felt like I had arrived, this is what success must look like: balancing a family and a career, getting to travel the world.

But soon, I felt the pull for more. I took on a more senior role, one that had a lot more responsibility. At first it was great, but over time the stress began to wear on me. I started to wonder: “if this is what success looks like, why doesn’t it feel like everything I thought it would?” Simultaneous to this, God began working on my heart and re-igniting that call to go into ministry and I wondered what exactly He wanted from me. Had my pursuit of success been misguided? Had I been pursuing the wrong kind of success?

I finally decided that it was time to put it all in His hands. To stop trying to map out my career path or plan every step of my life’s journey. I knew that I needed to help people in some way and I wasn’t sure what that would look like, but I started trusting God to guide me in the right direction. I felt a push to write, to minister, and to educate. I began blogging, speaking and writing a book. I led my first women’s retreat, and led a Bible study with my husband. It felt right, like I was doing what I had always been meant to do,  but I didn’t feel successful. I thought, in order to be a success at any of these things I would have to turn them into a career and earn a living.

Meanwhile, I was feeling like a failure in my senior marketing job. Projects took longer than planned and technology issues presented daily problems. I began to feel like all I did was put out fires. Any feelings of success I had felt years earlier had dissipated.

Then an opportunity presented itself to take a different role with the same company, a role writing and teaching. It wasn’t exactly what I had hoped for, but I trusted God and accepted the job. Still, leaving my other job I felt like I had failed in my role. I wondered what was my legacy in that position where I had given so much for the last six years?

As I left one role where I felt a failure, and began to take on another that I wasn’t sure lined up with God’s calling for my life, I realized for the first time in my life I didn’t know what success looked like any more, or if I would ever achieve it.

Then in the final week of my marketing job I received an email from a colleague. He wrote: “One thing I’ve learnt from you is to always be courteous and polite – no matter what the production pressures are; because at the end of the day there’s a real person with feelings on the other end of the telephone.”

Reading that note, in that moment I realized I’d had it all wrong.

My idea of success was so misguided! It isn’t about how many projects were delivered on time and on budget; it isn’t about how many issues I had successfully resolved, or innovative solutions I’d created. It certainly isn’t about money or climbing a corporate ladder. And it isn’t even about ensuring I find some perfect job that lines up exactly with God’s call for me to be in ministry (because where did Jesus ever say we had to earn a living in ministry in order to successfully minister to people?).

It’s about love and faithfulness. And making sure I am totally and completely bound to these.

Proverbs3.3-4

 

How can I touch someone’s heart with a kind word, a patient response, or an understanding ear? How can God use me to improve someone else’s day by how I treat them, how I pray for them? And most importantly, how am I modeling what it means to be a follower of Jesus by how I treat others?

This is what success looks like to me now. Whatever happens in my professional or personal life, whatever path God leads me down, or however the world defines me, my definition of success will forever be measured by the number of lives I touch by simply being kind, patient, understanding, forgiving, etc.

But I did get one thing right in my younger days. Success — this kind of success — is big. Like change the world BIG.

The terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week that really wasn’t

It’s not been a pretty week. In fact it’s been a down-right hairy-warts, black teeth, and yellow eyes kind of ugly.

Some of you might not know this, but my day job entails managing a large network of websites for a global IT company. This past weekend we had a major deployment to the site. I’ve been through a number of these in my career and I’m here to tell you managing online systems is not for the faint of heart. Something always goes wrong! You just pray and hope it’s not something major and it can be fixed quickly.

My team had a whole weekend of fixing and testing and sitting-on-the-edge-of-our-seats waiting. But finally, on Sunday afternoon it looked like the major issues were resolved and we wouldn’t have to roll back before New Zealand started their Monday in a few hours. My team and our IT engineers had been working nights and weekends preparing and most of them hadn’t slept at all in the last 48 hours. So it was with a huge sigh of relief that everyone was sent off to bed to rest up for the next morning.

Monday came and all felt good. The deployment was a success and I was beyond thrilled for myself and my team because we really wanted needed this one. You see, last year we had a crazy big project where we essentially re-did the entire website from the ground up (I don’t recommend this. Ever). To say it didn’t go well would be a huge understatement. We dealt with the fall-out for months afterwards and it almost sent me to the hospital. Seriously, I would feel sick every morning before I logged on to my computer, dreading what emails would come my way with complaints, rants, and new issues that cropped up over-night. I was a complete ball of stress and anxiety and it manifested into physical illness multiple times.

So when I say we needed this one to go well, let me tell you we really needed it. Monday felt good. I sent out emails proudly announcing the successful deployment. And except for a small handful of people (haters gonna hate) the response from colleagues was encouraging and positive.

Then Tuesday morning came and things were not good. The site was loading at a snail’s pace and crashing every few hours. Registration forms were not loading or they had error messages, and the dreaded emails started to roll in.

Thankfully I work with the best team in the world. Seriously. They are the smartest, hardest working, most dedicated group of people I’ve ever seen. Our engineers immediately started working with our developers to sort out the issues. Unfortunately, every time they thought they’d gotten to the bottom of it, the site would crash again.

I will skip past all of the details and reasons, as even I don’t fully understand all of the technical stuff and this isn’t a blog about website development. But let’s just say that it was Friday before the site was stabilized and that’s mostly due to temporary measures put into place. We still don’t have a solution for the root cause. And of course, I was in damage control mode as the angry emails from frustrated stakeholders flooded our in-boxes.

But.

Here’s the thing:

I did not breakdown and cry or worry myself sick, or cower under my covers and fear starting my workday. I didn’t attach myself to the laptop monitoring every email and update at all hours of the day and night or go into hiding from my family so I could focus only on work. In fact, I did the opposite. I smiled. I laughed and shook my head at some of the angry notes. I thanked our engineers for their unending dedication to resolve the issue. I slept. I sat on my porch and read a book. I watched my son perform his “bike show” he’d been rehearsing for a week in our cul de sac. I ate dinner with my kids every evening and cuddled in bed with them every night.

But most of all, I stayed close to God. I studied the word and prayed every day. And this. This is what made the difference, because I was able to maintain perspective. Instead of getting swallowed up in the worry and stress and making it all about me, I was reminded that it’s all about Him. Life is so much bigger, so much more important than some problems at work. I have little people I need to care for and nurture and love on. I have to care for and nurture myself, too. Because that ball of stress and anxiety I was last year? She was not pretty or much fun to be around. She was overwhelmed and a bit lost. And I don’t really care to meet her again.

Psalm 18: 1-2

Now, I don’t want you to get the wrong impression. I’m not saying I have this all figured out. There were still moments this week when I felt stress and worry. I got annoyed at my husband for something he did or didn’t do and let it flow into a full-blown argument. And I’m sure I yelled at my kids once or twice (sometimes I’m not sure if I’m yelling or my natural volume when speaking to my kids has just gotten that loud). But, for the most part I was able to keep things in perspective and know that it was all going to be OK.

So, as it turns out. This ugly, horrible, no good, very bad week…well it really wasn’t.

This was my prayer this week. If you want to write it down and use it next time you’re having a rough day or week, or even a rough season, please do.

Father in heaven, thank you so much for loving me and being with me this week. Lord, life is not always easy, and sometimes it’s just down-right ugly. But I take comfort in knowing that you are bigger than any of the stress, worry or ugliness that may come my way. Help me to remember this when I start to make it all about me. Remind me to give it over to you and lean on you when I need strength. You are my rock and my shield, always faithful even when I am not. Thank you, thank you. Amen.