What does it mean when we say someone is successful? Most often, when we hear this word we think on a global scale. We think of the richest people in the world at large. The likes of Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Jay-Z, you name it- all come to mind. Or all the millionaires we can think of in our local communities. But does someone’s net worth be the prism by which we measure success? Or how much money do they have in the bank? I asked my husband how he’d define a successful person and he said; someone who was excelling in their chosen field and was consequently generating income from the said field. Again, money was the overall indicator that success had been attained. In the eyes of many, material wealth and success are not mutually exclusive.
The story of a trailblazer with little financial success
A few years ago, I worked for an international non-profit organization as their administrative assistant. Funny job title since I didn’t do a lot of administrative tasks. I thought of myself more as a communications officer. I was in charge of, amongst other things, updating the organization’s websites with relevant content as the need arose. On one occasion they decided to profile successful Cameroonians abroad. Trailblazers and pacesetters putting Cameroon on the map.
I thought this was a brilliant idea and I was in ecstasy to meet the candidates and write their stories. We picked out a few household names and got to work. I had to contact these individuals so we could share their journey to success on the website. I knew one of these trailblazers personally. While they were making an impact and inspiring young talent in a field that hitherto, many had only ventured into timidly, they were nowhere near material riches. If anything, rumour had it they were swimming in debt and unpaid bills. But here I was, sharing their success story. At that time, I didn’t think too much about it. If an international organization could single out this person to profile, surely that person was doing something right. I did my job and updated the website.
Years later, I look at how far the said industry has come because a certain individual chose to dare. I’m amazed to see the number of young acts inspired by this individual and started living out their own dreams because she showed them it was possible. She showed youths that they did not need to depend on the government or any multinational company for a job. It was possible to be your own boss. It was possible to be an entrepreneur and run businesses that our parents before us didn’t remotely think could be a source of income in our economy.
Your impact on your community is your success story
When I look back, it doesn’t matter to me how much this individual has in the bank. She is a success to me for two reasons. Firstly, she positively impacted her community as a pacesetter. And secondly, she immensely changed the trajectory of the lives of many fashion designers. Most importantly, she reintroduced a new wave of fashion. She gave life to cultural heritage which mostly the older generation celebrated in yesteryears. If the “Togho” is celebrated the way it is today, by the younger generation who parade in it with pride, embracing their ethnicity and their roots, by showcasing this traditional regale with a modern twist to it- it is in part thanks to this trailblazer. While she may or may not have amassed material wealth, she most definitely is a success.
One dictionary defines success as: “the favourable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavours; the accomplishment of one’s goals” I am leaning more towards the definition by Raj Sisodia, professor at Babson College which states: “I define success as living my true purpose and having a positive impact on the lives of people by uplifting them and inspiring them to think and act in ways that they may not have considered before.” This takes out the money factor which is the standard by which a lot of us measure success. This is an encouragement to everyone. Let your success in whatever it is you are doing, be evaluated by the impact you are creating. Even if it’s just one life you touch, you never know how many other lives that one life will touch. Keep pushing.