We all know that success can be defined in many different ways, and that there are various methods in measuring this elusive quality. It can be realized in many forms: a student earning an ‘A’ on a test, a businesswoman achieving a comfortable salary, a father whose child is confident around other children, or by a simple nod of approval from a mentor. The perception of success is in the “eye of the beholder,” and this fact becomes self-evident as life progresses.
Within the past year, I have become aware of two other key indicators of values or characteristics that make a person successful. These “lessons” have come from observing Kim Le, the CEO of A2Q2, operating within her business framework. How reassuring and confidence boosting it is to work within a setting where your leader epitomizes exceptional qualities that can be admired and personally embraced.
I came from an educational background that taught individuals to “play it safe” in order to achieve success. Follow the rules, set goals, align with like-minded individuals, achieve your objectives, and don’t “rock the boat.” This method can surely lead to a successful, although limited, experience. What I have since learned from Kim has shaken me to my core because she has shown me that there is another way, a “going beyond” way. In reading and hearing about her life, I learned something that touched me deeply; I learned that taking risks is a good thing.
As a result of Arthur Andersen shutting down in 2002, Kim’s promising career within the firm was cut short. She could easily have continued her professional trajectory within a similar firm, but by that time, Kim had learned that there is no such thing as a truly safe or secure position. She boldly started her own company, risking the “known” for the “unknown” in order to realize her vision. Witnessing A2Q2 twelve years later, we can see that, indeed, taking risks is a commendable and worthy endeavor leading to great personal and business-related rewards.
Observing Kim and having been given the opportunity to witness her life a bit more closely, I can note another characteristic of success that surprises me. Yes, she is quite proficient in business; she is passionate about her clients, she seeks excellence in her choice of managers and employees, and she is focused on her goals. But the lesson that is profoundly felt by all who are connected to her is the degree in which she also seeks excellence in her personal life.
Not only is Kim becoming more skilled as an archer, striving for greater accuracy and proficiency, but she also challenges herself by conquering difficult obstacle courses such as the “Tough Mudder.” She practices yoga at 5:00 a.m. every morning, seeking an inner balance to give her a personal foundation for the fast-paced movement throughout her challenging days. Kim, on top of all else, has been a motorcycle enthusiast for most of her adult life. Success does not begin and end within an individual’s professional life, but can be observed in all areas of endeavors, so evident in Kim’s life. She constantly expands her personal world, pushing edges and exemplifying this philosophy.
In addition to taking professional risks and seeking out personal challenges to maximize success in one’s life, I think there is another evident factor which becomes increasingly clear. Success is ongoing; it is a journey to be taken, not a destination. Maybe praise from your boss feels good, but perhaps, upon closer inspection, there is a message, a nudge, to continue on without limits, to push forward and to seek out success on multiple fronts. In this manner, not only will you be internally motivated, but you will also inspire others to reach the highest levels of their own potential.