A Letter to My “Pre-Me” About Success

By: Pat Nathan, Founder of Dress for Success Triangle and former Fortune 100 executive I was asked, by Paula Brown Stafford and Lisa T. Grimes, to reflect on what I would have told the “Younger Me” about success, had there been such an opportunity. I decided to use the term “pre-me” instead of “younger me” – this probably relates to a recent birthday and recognizes how much we evolve as we live life fully. Well – here goes! Dear Pre-Me, The most important thing I can tell you about success is that YOU need to be the one who defines what success for you looks like. Many women, and you are one of them, all too often look to see what others around them define as success and strive for that. Pre-me, you are going to find that even though you achieve their definition of success, you will not feel successful. So, think carefully about what you really want to achieve, then head straight for it; your perseverance will see you through. I would also tell you that success comes in many sizes and that what may look like very small successes to you along the way, are going to have some incredible, collective impact. One day you are going to stop a moment, look back, and be amazed at how all those little successes have added up into a movement of sorts. Success comes in all sizes – and all are valuable. Now that reminds me to tell you to avoid comparing your successes to those reported by others. Again, as women, we seem to spend a lot of time comparing ourselves to other women as well as male colleagues. Don’t judge your insides – by their outsides. Keep your own counsel and account for your success alone. There is an adage that “success breeds success.” Pre-me, I will tell you that by sharing your successes with others, your knowledge, experience and your financial capital, you will influence others to achieve success for themselves, which in turn will amplify your own well-being. This is the definition of “success breeds success” that I want you to remember. And while you are sharing, remember to share your failures too; a failure is a success turned inside out. Pre-me, you will make mistakes, wander from your true north occasionally and be dealt some tough hands by life, as most people are. But by being genuine, persevering and sharing with others, you are very likely to judge yourself a success, on your terms, when it is all said and done.

Pat Nathan, Founder of Dress for Success Triangle and former Fortune 100 executive