Success By Any Other Name…?

This summer will have been four years that I’ve been working for myself. Just in this past week, I secured coverage for my clients in NPR’s Weekend Edition, Eater, Food & Wine, Baltimore Magazine, etc. I’ve pitched marketing directors at Fortune 500 companies, and planned a 12 city tour. Some might say that I’ve made it— but others (including a particularly nagging part of my brain) would say that I haven’t.

Some might say that I’ve made it— but others (including a particularly nagging part of my brain) would say that I haven’t.

It’s tough to be your own boss in a world filled with “You have the same amount of hours in the day as Beyoncé” mugs (link: https://www.thecut.com/2014/11/powerful-people-think-they-control-time.html). A world with seemingly innumerable arbitrary designations like 30 under 30 (if this bugs you, learn to thrive in the gray zone with Kim: https://medium.com/athena-talks/how-i-thrived-in-the-gray-zone-three-ways-to-win-in-the-new-age-of-work-f3c91a0bdbda). A world with a casual disregard for anyone who hasn’t followed the stereotypical path of success.

When I left my job in publishing in New York, I knew I was turning away and rejecting a well-worn (if not entirely lucrative! ha) career. What I didn’t know was that I was entering a space where I had to define my own version of success. You see, for me, success is not a crazy million dollar round of seed funding. I have exactly zero desire to set up shop outside of my home office, to pay rent and have a commute on top of it. And while I do need outside help now & then depending on my workload, I would be happy if I never had to manage a team of people.

What I didn’t know was that I was entering a space where I had to define my own version of success.

I hesitate even as I write those words. Will others think I’m less professional, or less worthy of their trust because I’m not motivated by those external indicators? Can you (will they) understand that what I truly value is making a difference?

I get all my motivation (and probably a little too much joy) out of that uptick in reservations, the clip that echoes my pitch, the increase in web sales. I hold tight to my prerogative to work with clients based on shared values (rather than the amount of money they can pay me), and relish working with up-and-comers and neglected narratives. Success is when these kinds of clients come to me, by referral. They respect my work, and they respect my definition of success.

And some days, I’m OK with that. Better than OK, in fact.

Marisa Dobson is the founder & principal of Scintillate, a pr/marketing consulting agency that specializes in food & lifestyle clients. For over ten years, she’s worked with professional creatives to turn their passions into passion projects. Learn more at http://www.marisadobson.com.

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