Success Isn’t just Salary and Titles

By The Portland Egotist / /

Recently, my father asked me if I had something measurable to show for the past four years of my career. Something – a number, a title, an award – to prove that I’d found success.

It was an interesting question. Success by definition is the accomplishment of an aim or purpose. Most people measure their success by their title or their salary. Granted, I don’t have a clearly defined title at Atomicdust or millions of dollars in the bank, but I have a deep understanding of my value to my team, my company, and my community.

I’ve worked hard to grow from an out-of-touch intern to one of the strongest advocates for advancing the St. Louis design community, not to mention St. Louis as a whole. While 50 Cent’s motto is “Get rich or die trying,” my motto is to get better at any cost. Here’s how I did it, and how I plan to continue doing it:

Do something that scares you.

I came into 2016 telling myself I would overcome one of my biggest fears: public speaking. I figured I could take some time, gradually build up the courage, aaaaand…nope.

My very first day back after the holidays, I received an email asking me to moderate a panel. Granted, I’ve hosted many panel discussions, but I’ve always questioned my abilities. While I wish I could say I did something to magically get over my fear, the truth is simple: I just said yes. I replied and said I would do it. That’s all it took.

Say yes when others say no.

As I learned when it came to public speaking, the past four years of my life have been greatly improved by simply saying “yes” over and over again.

Do you want to help organize our city’s Design Week? Yes.

Do you want to start a blog? Yes.

Do you want to go to Louisville to meet Stefan Sagmeister? Yes, duh.

Do you want to help coordinate the printing of shirts for our James Beard Award-winning chef’s latest restaurant? Sure, why not.

Say yes to the small things, too. You can’t limit yourself by waiting for bigger opportunities. Every opportunity, no matter the size, has the ability to teach you, shape you or challenge you.

Put in the time (and then some).

Many articles say that waking up early helps you have a productive work day. But simply waking up early isn’t enough; it’s what you do next that matters. Wake up. Plan your day. Execute your day. And do something special that will make you feel that the entire day was great.

For me, that involves waking up with plenty of time to do the morning basics, eat breakfast and get to work early. While we start at 9 a.m. every morning, getting here before the masses gives me time to get settled, check my email, look at the calendar and plan my day. The workday’s start and endtimes are expectations, not limitations. Get there early. Stay late. Do what you have to do to get the job done, and don’t be satisfied until it’s complete.

Don’t wait to get started.

For the longest time it would bother me when people would ask “What’s your title?” I don’t have one to this day, but I’m good with that. I do things to add value for those around me, whether it’s through my job or various projects. Many people think their title is the be-all and end-all of their duties, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Take initiative. Be proactive, not reactive. Don’t wait for anyone to give you permission.

So, there you have it: four ways to measure your success. The titles and salary won’t last forever. Your impact and attitude will be what people remember.


Tara Nesbitt is an enthusiastic young lady and spends her days at Atomicdust.