About a million years ago, or that’s what it seems like to me now, I was interviewing for my first management position. I prepared well, and knew I had tough competition. The interview went well, until the last question. What is your definition of success?
Well I was not prepared for this question. It was one I had never really considered before. As I took a minute to gather my thoughts, I explained that success to me was lying down on my pillow every night knowing that I did the very best I was capable of doing with each person and situation I encountered that day. I told my interviewer that if I did no harm and where-ever I could help, I did, I felt successful. After I left the interview I chastised myself about giving that answer. I convinced myself that she was probably expecting some brilliant career goal and all I rambled on about doing the right thing. After I had a chance to reflect on my answer, I realized this was truthfully what I believed, but, oh couldn’t I have said it a little less naïve.
She called me back the next day and not only offered me the job, but told me the reason I got the job was the honesty in which I answered her question about success. Go figure, I went on to have a great relationship with my boss and learned a great deal from her. Even more important, I learned that honesty is really the best policy. The most robust form of success is that achieved as an outcome of helping someone else. And maybe back then, I didn’t say it as eloquently as I might today, but it still feels like success.