How I Defined Success On My Own Terms

Have you considered what it means to define success on your own terms? These success tips will help you go out into the world and make your own...

Photo: Ashley Small, founder of Medley, Inc.; Credit: Debbie Porter

At one point during my career, my definition of success was, well… pretty superficial.

It could have been a result of the people in my life at the time, the reality of working in PR (you know, the public perception part), or it could have been that very stubborn will of mine that caused me to have tunnel vision. I was 
misdirected and unmovable.

It took several changes within my staff, a personal pivot and enrolling in the Goldman Sachs 10k Small Businesses program for me to make a change (shout-out to Cohort 17).

My hope is that we will all take a moment to reflect on how to define success on our own terms, especially during this season of resolving to improve.

So I present to you, my top 5 tips for defining your own success:


1. Play to your strengths

In the 10K Small Businesses program, we had the opportunity to participate in several personality and self-assessment exercises. I always end up in the section labeled a driver, self-starter or independent worker. This doesn’t come as a major shocker to me, I am an entrepreneur, right?

Well, not necessarily. 

There are many entrepreneurs who prefer group projects and team building exercises. I don’t think one approach is superior to the other, but I do believe in the idea that you must act on useful information once it becomes available to you. 

So I did.

I took a hard look at myself and realized that if I’m naturally a “driver,” then I ought to spend more time paving the way for others.


2. Take advice, selectively

No expert, no matter how experienced, has the answers for how your path to success will play out. 

At Medley, we advocate for mentorship, and we even have our own mentoring program, so I’m sharing this with respect to both mentors and mentees.

What I learned from our program is that it will always be important to seek out advice and learn from the experiences of others. However, it’s equally as important to devote time to envision how their advice could play out in your life, prior to acting on it.

A trusted mentor or advisor could very well be projecting their personal definition of success onto you, instead of what is directly applicable to your individual circumstances and desires.


3. Consider what brings you joy and fulfillment

I’ll be brief here. Let’s stop glamorizing this notion of “work hard, no sleep.” Sleep will only help us perform better. An enhanced quality of life will do the same. Defining success should also involve defining personal joy (shout-out the #YearofJoy, by the way).


4. Stop being so hard on yourself

We are all working very hard to reach our final destination … a workplace utopia, so to speak. However, along the way we’re being way too hard on ourselves.

The more I networked and got to know other entrepreneurs, the clearer it became that we all have moments of doubt, we all question our decisions and we’re all working extremely hard to improve our skillset. 

Everyone’s doing it. No one’s willing to talk about it. Let’s change that.


5. Stick to your core values

Our company is committed to having candid conversations about diversity and inclusion. We will always advocate for and do our best to accommodate working mothers and women.

While some may passively acknowledge our stance on fairness and equality, I can honestly say that we’ve reached a point where the clients we work with share our values.

We are deeply invested in each campaign because we know that both our non-profit and for-profit clients have committed to making the world a better place.

This fact alone is the ultimate definition of success for me.

So go out into the world and make your own rules!


This article has been edited.

Ashley Small founded Medley, Inc. in 2009 to marry traditional PR strategies with the latest technology. Ashley was named a “Face of Houston” by Fast Company Magazine for her entrepreneurial spirit, and in 2015, she was identified as one of Houston Business Journal’s 40 Bizwomen Mentors. She serves with several nonprofit organizations including Girls Inc., Women Empowering Nations, Lemonade Day Houston and the I’m Me Foundation. Connect with @AshleyRSmall on Twitter.


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