Ask 5 trusted people the following questions: 1- What 3 things make me, me? 2- What energises me? 3- What drains me? 4- What are my superpowers? Their answers will tell you a lot about how you are perceived. Your reaction to their answers will tell you a lot about what matters to you.
Have you ever noticed how often we equate success with more? Whether that’s more products, more profits, more activities or more accomplishments, we buy into the belief that we have to do more to have more to be more. And that will sum up to success. And then along comes The Great Resignation. Where employees are signaling that the “more” that’s being offered — even more pay, more perks, and more PTO — isn’t summing up to success for them. We visited with leaders who are redefining what success means now. Their answers might surprise you.
As a part of this series I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Hannah Ray.
Hannah Ray is an ICF Business, Career + Life Coach and founder of her coaching practice, TAKE. After 10 years working as a brand consultant in advertising, she now helps small business owners, entrepreneurs and individuals explore + create their own version of success. She is based in Amsterdam, but works with clients from all over the place.
Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today?
It’s an interesting question to think of key things that have shaped us. I think most of us can think of 1 or 2 very distinctive things that have defined our path.
For me, the first one was studying Anthropology as my degree at Durham University in the UK. Anthropology’s philosophy of ‘making the strange familiar, and the familiar strange’ has really stuck with me and influenced my whole perspective on life and my approach to people. I don’t believe that you can ever really judge anyone on being right or wrong, good or bad. We of course have our own conditioning — but conditioning is exactly that; conditioning! So I have always felt like I can step back from what is expected or accepted, and consider challenging it.
The second was moving from London to Amsterdam. I love my British roots — eccentricities, buttery crumpets, pleasant, rolling hills and the very subtle yet very specific rules of social etiquette.
However, moving to the Netherlands was so liberating. The culture is very direct — you are rarely left questioning where you stand, and nobody has a problem eating the last kaastengel! I have learnt to say things as they are and express what I think or want without worrying so much about what other people might think. This has translated into how I ‘do’ my career and my work. It created a great foundation for me to accept a lot of things about myself, and make a career change from advertising to coaching.
We all have myths and misconceptions about success. What are some myths or misconceptions that you used to believe?
Where do I start?! As a woman, this question is especially interesting because a lot of us are made to feel that we must either be more assertive or less bossy (i.e. measured against normative patriarchal culture).
As a more considered personality, I was told many times in my advertising career that I should be more bold, forward and assertive. I felt I should be wearing power suits and leaning in and speaking up in meetings and catching balls first and driving processes more, if I was to be seen as effective and successful.
The truth is, I can do these things, but I am a gentler force and my previous industry wasn’t the best environment for me to thrive. And I’m ok with that (now!).
I was very influenced by the advertising industry’s ideas of what success looks like. I felt I should emulate the people at the top, my colleagues who were getting promoted, the leaders who were writing books and columns in Campaign magazine. I based my definition of success on external sources, when actually, it’s been much more motivating and satisfying to take the time to understand my own internal, personal definition of success.
How has your definition of success changed?
I used to see success as getting to the top of my industry as quickly as possible. I always had ’30 under 30’ on my mind. I thought my work wasn’t really a ‘success’ if it wasn’t featured in industry magazines or won awards. However, if you’d asked me if that is what I actually thought success was, the answer would have been no (and I didn’t achieve any of these things!).
Now, success is about understanding my own strengths, desires, and needs, and creating a set up for myself that allows me to thrive and grow. It’s a very internal, personal thing. It’s not something I can ‘complete’. Like life, it’s always evolving and I am successful if I continue adapting in a way that is true and in alignment with myself.
The pandemic, in many ways, was a time of collective self-reflection. What changes do you believe we need to make as a society to access success post pandemic?
I coach a lot of people from the entrepreneurial and creative industries, and worked in it myself, so I come from this perspective. Variety of environment, being out and about or around other people is what stimulates our creative juices because we switch between a) absorbing and b) integrating new information that helps us make new links and connections in our brains.
Although a lot of people say they found more work life balance, a lot of people felt even more pressure to be at their desks all day, always on for emails, available to take calls outside of office hours, because there was no excuse for them to be somewhere else. So there’s a group of people who have realized how bad their work life balance is. If our minds are always on one thing, there is little space to explore anything else and create anything different. I think this is one of the biggest reasons for burnout, and no-one can make good ideas or create sustainable success if they’re constantly dipping in and out of burnout.
What do you see as the unexpected positives in the pandemic? We would love to hear a few of your stories or examples.
I started my coaching business, TAKE, at the start of the pandemic. I had handed my notice in at an advertising job 2 weeks before the news of lockdown hit. Yes — great timing! I had a lot of time on my hands to have a long hard look in the mirror. I wasn’t alone though. As people started to work from home, have freelance work dry up, or get made redundant, I noticed how many people were also forced to think about other ideas they’d had but never had time to focus on, or consider what they ACTUALLY wanted to do. I noticed that, where people had gained time to think and process, there were so many new and exciting ideas and journeys starting around me.
I realized that my skill set would be very strong in service of these people, so enrolled on a Postgraduate Certification in Business + Life Coaching, got qualified by the International Coaching Federation, and started my coaching and consulting practice to hold space for people to explore and create their own version of success.
I saw someone go freelance so they could make more time for their dream of being an athlete take off.
I saw a couple get inventive and resourceful with how they could start putting the path together for their dream of opening a yoga bakery together (they found a yoga studio with a baking oven that they could use, then rented a scooter and delivered the bread around the city to their yoga students whilst the studios were closed).
I saw someone turn their side hustle in to a thriving vintage clothing business, whilst also taking a plunge in to a new stage of their career.
I saw a couple move back to Greece with their kids to create their own boutique hotel and a more supported upbringing for their family.
I saw numerous people make a career changes that gave them more work life balance and time to enjoy other hobbies and relationships in their life.
Coaching through the pandemic has really opened my eyes to how creative and resourceful people are — especially when given time to think and when they feel they have a safe space to express and explore their thoughts and ideas.
We’re all looking for answers about how to be successful now. Could you please share “5 Ways To Redefine Success Now?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Identify your external vs internal drivers: what other people think, or what we think they expect of us, can often overshadow our own motivations and ideas of success. Ask yourself what you think you should be doing? Write it all down. All of those shoulds likely come from external sources. Now ask yourself, if you knew nobody would judge you — only be delighted for you — what would you want for yourself?
- Do an Ikigai: An ikigai is a Japanese concept that means ‘your reason for being’. You write down: what you love doing, what you can be paid for, what you’re good at, and what the world needs. You find the cross overs and patterns and start to discover what kind of success you can create for yourself. Just search on Google to find a guide.
- Make a timeline of the things you are proudest of in your life so far: When we stop and reflect on where we have been, what has made us feel proud or happy, it can be very revealing. We realise that we’ve really downplayed some things, or not appreciated how much some things did for us. Once we see this, it can start to shift how we approach what success looks like for us next.
- Ask 5 trusted people the following questions: 1- What 3 things make me, me? 2- What energises me? 3- What drains me? 4- What are my superpowers? Their answers will tell you a lot about how you are perceived. Your reaction to their answers will tell you a lot about what matters to you.
- Ask your younger and older self what they think: This can shed light on whether our ideas of success are trying to respond to something that we needed as a child, or something we are scared of not happening before we die. Both of these things are very valid drivers of why success matters to us and what it means. If you can unlock these things, it can either diffuse behaviours that are not helping you, or strengthen your motivation to start doing things you’ve been struggling to do.
How would our lives improve if we changed our definition of success?
I think we would feel more at peace, more satisfied, motivated on a deeper level, and most excitingly, have higher quality connection with ourselves and the people in our lives.
What’s the biggest obstacle that stands in the way of our redefined success? And what advice would you offer about overcoming those obstacles?
At the end of the day, our society is about money. Most people need to make money to live and have security, and society is not structured to allow people equal opportunities to make money. If you can save up, or afford to take an immediate risk in changing careers or the way you do your career, that’s lucky. If you can’t, then my advice would be to ask yourself what the first step you can make towards change is? If you knew you would always be ok, what would your first move be? How would someone you admire think about or look at it? Every change is a series of many small steps and each step we make is an opportunity to take learnings and open our perspective — even if it feels tiny. Keep exploring and keep adapting.
Where do you go to look for inspiration and information about how to redefine success?
Honestly, and mostly: writing in and looking back through my journal, my own coaching sessions with my coach, and listening and learning from my coaches and their different journeys and perspectives.
I also go on ‘creative dates’ with myself and friends — anything that might open my mind, work through something or help me see things differently. I’ve done things like a violin concert, a paper collage workshop in a park, and a day out where you pick a train platform, get on the next train, and get off whenever you feel it to see where you end up. I also want to try a writing workshop and an Irish river dancing class!
As soon as you realize that there are so many different ways of thinking about success, the more the opportunity opens for you to re-explore what it means to you.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He, she or they might just see this if we tag them.
I’d love to speak with any.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can check out my website where you can book a free taster session with me and read my blog https://www.takecoachingamsterdam.nl
Or follow me on Linkedin www.linkedin.com/in/hannahtheplanner
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.