Success builds on success. But to build on success you must recognize, claim, and celebrate your current success. Here’s where the breakdown appears.
Although true growth cannot be measured, I did have some pretty big measurable successes and milestones. Yet in completing my year-end reflection ritual, I noticed that I kept overlooking some of my biggest moments from the year.
It brought up something that is so common with my clients and friends.
This is the story of how I almost missed out on celebrating one of my biggest successes from 2017.
I want to share it with you so that you don’t make the same mistake.
My Big Win of 2017: I went viral
Here’s What Happened:
I spent an entire year off of Facebook, while keeping the app on my phone. On the home screen. In plain sight — not buried in a folder.
I wrote a blog post in July about what I learned from that experience.
I published the post on my blog on July 4, and syndicated it to Medium. Then I went back to decluttering my apartment. I went to serve on the crew at Tony Robbins Unleash the Power Within. I went back to life, writing and doing my deep soul work that I’ve been doing all year.
A few weeks later, I woke up to a lot of Twitter notifications. I saw that people were sharing the article. I looked at my stats on Medium and saw it had 3,000 views and about 1,500 reads. And a lot of comments.
That reader count was higher than the reader count for everything I had published online in the past decade — combined.
I’d have to go back to the first time I published an article in a nationally-circulated magazine to see those types of numbers. And that was pre-web (Soap Opera Digest, 1996, if you’re curious).
It was just getting started.
The article surged in popularity, spreading, on it’s own. Within a few weeks, it had amassed 5,000 reads.
Medium selected it as a staff favorite and asked for permission to record an audio of it. Of course, I agreed.
By the end of the year, the article had amassed over 60,000 views, over 11,500 reads, and over 600 fans.
A Highlight of My Year
It was, by far, one of the greatest highlights of my year. Of the last few years. Not just because of the numbers, but because of the responses in the comments. Because people found something in it worth sharing without my needing to ask them.
It was a highlight because I felt seen and noticed in my work. I felt connected to others.
People reached out to me to tell me how the piece impacted them. This piece has inspired people to set goals like “stop escaping.” I felt — I still feel — proud of the impact I have made with this piece.
So you might think that in reviewing my 2017, this would be right at the top of my list of big successes, the first thing I would claim:
I went viral. I made an impact.
Hahaha… not so fast.
I had written up pages of wins from the year without listing this one.
Finally I had to make a note to remind myself to add this to the list.
I know I’m not the only one who does this.
Why wasn’t I claiming this success? Keep reading.
We have trouble celebrating our successes
There are many reasons we do this, including our beliefs around the etiquette of celebrating ourselves.
I want to focus on the top four reasons that I see most often, in myself and in others. I’ll share how they are all at play here. Then I’ll share why I am claiming it.
Here’s what I know: success builds on success. We must celebrate our achievements to make them real. If you’re not claiming your wins, you can’t celebrate them. You can’t celebrate yourself. And then you can’t build on them.
Why We Struggle to Celebrate Our Success
Before I get into this, it’s important to keep in mind that I share this from a place of observation, not judgment. I believe it’s crucial to examine our inner processes, to identify where we are holding ourselves back. So this exercise is purely about identifying “what’s going on here?”
Reason 1: It Doesn’t Feel “Complete”
We often struggle to claim something as a win when we feel the project isn’t “complete” — in whatever sense we interpret “complete” for that project. I’ve spent four years doing a daily journaling exercise to recognize my smallest wins each day, specifically to focus on the small steps towards progress.
And still, there are moments, like this one, where the success feels hollow to me.
In this case, it feels incomplete because I don’t know how to replicate it. I have no idea what caused this article to spread like wildfire. OK. That’s not entirely true, I’ve pulled out some lessons from this (link to article). Since publishing this article, I have started my daily publishing experiment. And even after 70 days of publishing daily, and laying my heart bare on the page, nothing has come close.
It doesn’t feel like I can claim it as a win if I can’t replicate the success. It feels more like something that happened because of luck, not skill.
Reason 2: I have a belief that it’s not my win to claim
Another reason we struggle to celebrate our successes is that we often have a story about how something isn’t our win to claim. I’ve noticed that women, especially, carry these beliefs. If we collaborate on a project, we hesitate to claim the outcomes as our wins.
When we speak about results we helped clients achieve, we tend to limit ourselves to the direct results, rather than all the results that became possible because of our work.
I am guilty of this in a big way here.
I didn’t promote the article. I didn’t even add one of those paragraphs at the end to ask readers for hearts (now claps), or to ask them to comment or share it. I simply published it and went back to my life. I think I had it auto-post on Facebook and LinkedIn from my blog, but I don’t really remember.
When I first noticed the article gain traction, I shared the news with a friend and I heard myself say something along the lines of:
Can you believe it? I did nothing to cause this to happen. It just happened on its own.
The moment I heard the words come out of my mouth, I heard the story there:
I did nothing to deserve this.
It’s hard to celebrate a success if you are not willing to claim it as your success.
Reason 3: We get caught in comparison
Perhaps nothing dampens success like the comparison trap.
Having my article read by 11,500 people is a lot for me. Even 3,000 reads was a lot. But 11,500 readers is probably just a normal day for someone like Gary Vaynerchuck. Many people can get that many eyeballs on their articles just by sending them to their lists. Or because they write for a publication.
But the moment I start comparing, I shut down my success.
It’s hard to claim a win relative to someone else’s standards.
Reason 4: We wrap our successes in disappointments and failures
One thing we often do when reflecting on our successes is that we add a “but” after the win. It sounds like this:
I did this great thing, but I didn’t …. or
I did this thing, but I could have ….
We often tend to wrap our successes in disappointments, failures, people who let us down along the way, or ways in which we let ourselves down.
Every time I lead my year-end ritual, I caution participants about this, and every time, at least someone in the room falls into the trap.
We can’t help ourselves. There’s always another piece that we wanted and didn’t get. We always see the more that we could have done.
In this case, I wrapped this moment in so much disappointment that it took me a while before I could unpack it all.
The first time I saw that the article started to go viral, my very first thought was
Why are they reading it on Medium, where I can’t capture their email address to add to my list?
I had a fear around missing the opportunity to “convert” these readers into subscribers. Eventually I learned about Upscribe, and added an opt-in box to the bottom of the article. By that time it had already been read by over 5,000 people.
I was wrapped up in self-judgment and self-blame and shame around not having those pieces in place sooner. On top of that, I felt resentment toward people who had offered to help with those pieces and didn’t live up to their offers. And then I felt shame about feeling the resentment, and I criticized myself for not just doing the work myself.
I know that this is common. It is perhaps the biggest obstacle between us and our ability to claim our wins.
It’s so hard to see success when it’s wrapped up in layers of disappointment, guilt, shame, blame, and resentment. When we are looking at all the ways something could have been better, we can’t even see the win, let alone claim it. And if we cannot claim it, we cannot celebrate it.
How to Claim Your Wins
So how do you move past these obstacles to claim your wins?
The answer is actually quite simple: you own your piece.
Here is what I did do:
- I lived the experience of being off of Facebook for a year without deleting the app.
- I chose to write about that experience and share what I learned.
- I shared from my heart, and I spoke my truth.
- I chose to publish it to my blog.
- I also chose to syndicate it to Medium, to allow it to be seen by a wider audience.
- It was the first time I spent any amount of time thinking about the headline. And I do believe that the headline helped it gain traction.
Without that, there is no article to share. There are no comments. There are no readers. I made a choice to put myself out there. I didn’t have to ask readers to share it or comment or give it hearts or claps. They felt moved to do so on their own.
I didn’t need to worry about the opt-in box. It turns out that Medium readers are a savvy and sophisticated group. Those who wanted to hear more from me found their way to my blog or to my messy landing page for The Ritual Revolution, and opted in to hear more from me.
I did my part. And that was enough.
And that’s the win.
I claim it. I own it. I celebrate it.