Success Is Not a Destination, It's a Trip
(A dinner speech to Wisconsin Women Entrepreneurs, presented
in February 1999)
I started thinking about definitions of success and its dark shadow, failure,
when I sold my business. I was at a Rotary Club luncheon, sitting next
to a sometime/client of mine, and when I told him I was selling my business
after 12 years, he asked me,
"were you successful?"
The room disappeared, heaven and earth paused in their motions, while
I swung in a great cold gray void. Was I successful? Well, was I? By what
measure? So much had happened, so many dreams left by the wayside...
and then I remembered where I was, and who I was with, and I answered,
But when I think of the 12 years I spent as an entrepreneur, I don't think
"what a success" or "what a failure". I think "what
A good trip is one that's filled with adventures, opportunities to learn,
unexpected surprises–not every moment going according to plan, not every
Very often the survivors of failed businesses express that they are grateful
for the experience, and would even go through it again. Travellers are
often the same way about trips that went off track.
What this means is that success and failure are not simply two ends of
a continuum. They are more like two strokes of a cycle, an engine driving
business all around us. Are you a success or a failure? Depends when you
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My life stories