Iliyana's Blog

Reflections On My Birthday: The Three Ingredients of Success

[fa icon="calendar"] 28-Aug-2018 10:00:00 / by Sharen Murnaghan


This is a guest post by my friend and colleague Sharen Murnaghan. 

There are two times a year when we deeply reflect on things: New Year's Eve and our birthday.

Typically, we reflect on what happened during the past year; what our plans or hopes are for the next year; what we accomplished in the past year; what were our failures and what were our successes.

August 18 was my birthday and it caused me to reflect on all these things and in particular to focus on successes.  

This was driven, I suppose, because I had recently watched Richard St. John’s Ted Talk on the 8 Secrets of Success. I even sent it to the WhatsApp group I share with my kids aspiring that they will watch it too and thus make them think about how they can become successful.  (Yes, I confess to being an ambitious mum!)

The Definition of Success vs. the Idea of Success

We hear the word success multiple times over the years as children, as adults and as grown-ups.

According to Google’ dictionary the definition of success is:

  1.    the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.
  2.    the good or bad outcome of an undertaking.

Yes, whilst I do agree with Google’s definition, I also reflected on the idea of success, as opposed to the definition. This caused me to deliberate that the idea of success is a measurement of what makes us relevant in the world. However, whilst this idea of success might indeed be a  measurement of what makes us relevant in the world, is it a measurement of what makes us relevant in the world as measured by other people or as measured by ourselves?

It’s OK to Be Different

I believe that success can and does mean different things to different people. It can come in different forms that are specific to you and only you.  

Success can also mean different things to the same person at different times, depending on where you are in your life right at that moment.

Success might have been taking that first step as an infant unaided by a parents’ hand or it could mean catching that bus which was pulling away from the stop when you were 50 meters away. It could mean passing your driving test or it could mean getting your first job or asking that girl/guy out.

It's interesting how on our birthday we reflect on all the connotations of who we are now as compared to who we were 12 months ago.

What did success look like to us this time last year, is it still relevant? Yes, we are another year older but are we another year wiser, fitter, happier?

So I noodled or reflected on all these questions and what they meant to me personally. After all, my birthday is one of the few things that is individual just to me.

Essentially, it all boils down to one thing - how you personally view success and what it means to YOU.

The Three Ingredients of Success

For me, there are three key ingredients that constitute success: 

#1 Learn from your experiences

Success is not something that happens overnight. Taking that first step or running for that bus was the result of lots of practice.

This practice began years ago with first rolling, then crawling, soon graduating to cruising with the help of some furniture and then eventually being ready to place one foot in front of the other and have the confidence to take that first step. Fast forward 20+ years that first step is now enabling you to run and to catch that bus.

As Aristotle once said

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit”.

Success builds up over time. Michael Simmons explains it well, comparing becoming Successful to Compound Interest where when you invest small over long periods of time and constantly build on that you become successful. Warren Buffet, the self-made billionaire, too attributes his success to building on his investments over a long period of time, also known as the Snow Ball Effect.

When you start out it can be a lot of work and a lot of effort but as you progress, it evens out over time. As you learn from your experiences and build your skills over time you will raise your own personal bar bit by bit.

You should never stop learning and building on that learning. It’s ok to fail so long as you learn from that failure because mistakes are a normal part of progress. This attitude is what helped me to become a successful sales person in Hubspot. Here is my story.

#2 Step out of your comfort zone and put yourself out there

Whilst reflecting on my birthday, I realised that two things often hold us back from accomplishing our aim or purpose. The first one is a fear of failure and the second one is a fear of success.

Both of these are very real things and if we can overcome them then we can move on toward that path of success – unhindered and unstressed.

My birthday reflection of this relates to my 12-year old daughter. We holiday every year in the same place  a sleepy little fishing village in the South West of Ireland. As a child, when we were on holidays, my daughter was mostly dependant on us for holiday activities. However, as a pre-teen, we as parents became an “add-on”, required mainly for pocket money and lifts because outdoor holiday activities got swapped out for her bedroom plus internet connection. She would typically stay in her room in the holiday house online chatting with her friends from home or playing MineCraft.

However, one day last summer all that changed! After constant suggestions to “put herself out there” she did take that first step outside of her comfort zone. She ventured down to the pier where the local kids met up, played pool or went swimming. She met another girl around her own age who was jumping off the pier and my daughter joined in. The result of this was that we barely saw her for the rest of the summer!

This other girl looks after smaller kids as a summer job whilst the parents are at work so my daughter did this with her, she learned to cook for these kids, she learned the responsibility of minding smaller kids, she learned the value of a summer job to supplement pocket money and she learned the value of helping her new friend.

This girl introduced her to other girls who introduced her to a larger group etc. etc. 12 months later, my daughter has a robust group of friends in the place we regularly go on holidays, she has a new BFF, she has a holiday job, she has learnt value and responsibility and this week she is will be back in Kerry with her friends and is helping out at the Rose of Tralee festival with them.

Stepping out of her comfort zone has brought her success in a way she never even thought of.  

#3 Set goals and believe in yourself

For most people, the 365 days since your last birthday will usually involve change.

Change of any sort typically results in an action, a re-action or a learning.

However, for every progressive change we make there is often that little Gremlin voice in the back of our head filling us with negative thoughts on why we can’t or why we shouldn’t.

Self-doubt is the name of this Gremlin which can be the single biggest ambusher to your success.

For me, one of the key ways to overcome self-doubt is to set goals. An easy way to do this is to break it down into SMART goals: goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound for YOU.

The beauty of this is that as we are creating these goals just for ourselves, we are holding only ourselves accountable to them and thus we own our own feeling of success when we accomplish them. This is the best feeling in the world when we achieve and succeed. I recommend to bottle this feeling and remember it every and any time you hit an obstacle, a setback or an ambusher to your success.

Final Reflection on my Birthday

Your birthday is the perfect time to reflect on yourself in a deep and meaningful way about what happened in your life over the past 365 days. It's important to be positive about your reflections and to be comfortable that these reflections are personal to you and only to you, they are the enablers that help you to be the best version of yourself because that is what defines your own personal success.

So every year on your birthday, ask yourself:

  1.       What did you learn over the past year?
  2.       What did you do that took you out of your comfort zone?
  3.       What goals did you set for yourself?


And now I ask you: What do you reflect on, on your birthday?


Topics: Personal Development

Sharen Murnaghan

Written by Sharen Murnaghan

Sharen Murnaghan leads HubSpot’s Key Account Growth Programme - for top tier partners. HubSpot is an All-In-One Software platform that helps millions of organisations grow better. Sharen thrives on the work-life balance of being a successful mum to her two kids with a successful career at HubSpot.

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