The secret to my success.

wpid 2012 01 25 12.03.05 300x225 The secret to my success.

I may be a misfit & oddly comfortable in my own swiftly-wrinkling skin, yet even I paused before I hit PUBLISH on a post bearing today’s title.

Success is such an odd, debatable word.

One woman’s definition (money, fancy homes, nice cars, unlimited access to high quality beef jerky) may look entirely unlike another’s (lots of free time to pursue passions, enough work to pay for food & shelter, a loving partner and children).

There are, Id imagine, as many different definitions are there are people reading this post.

Additionally, if youre anything like I am, your definition is a fluid one.

My current definition of success is simple: the achievement of something planned and attempted.

The key, for me, is in the attempt.

A success which “fell in my lap” (Let’s say BRAVO TV called & asked me to star with Jackie Warner in a TV show) would be hollow because it’s the planning, working, and succeeding which makes achievement satisfying to me.

No matter what the achievement.

This weekend I received a flurry of emails from fellow bloggers who were feeling unsure of themselves.  They asked me for tips on succeeding as a full time writerblogger.

To their chagrin effusive delight I tossed the question back to them.

I asked their definition of success and to list (for me or just themselves) all the times they’ve succeeded in the past.*

I offered specific tips, but more important, in my experience, is believing you are successful and will continue to be a success.

Believe me, I’ve struggled with this.

I struggled less when life was less hectic (pre-marriage, pre-child, pre-pre-pre), but even then I wrestled with “knowing I could do it.”

My solution was the creation of a success box.

The idea started when I was dating Ren Man.  Whenever he’d compliment me (“I loved the article you wrote for Good Life Magazine!”) I’d joke I was “putting it in my pocket” and saving the words to reread later.

Then life grew a bit more hectic.  We married. We moved. I opened my training studio.

I realized it wasnt enough to pretend to hold on to compliments—I needed reminders of past successes for moments when I was feeling none too successful.

I began saving everything on my smart-phone. 

Kind words emailed from a client? Save.

Complimentary letters on a magazine article I’d written? SAVED.

Texts or voicemails from friends or family simply to tell me I ROCKED? Save Save Save.

The best predictor of future success is past success.

If I ever felt uncertain as I faced an assignment or life-challenge all I had to do to ‘predict my success’ was return to my electronically-stored items.

Then life grew more hectic. We moved again. Our two became THREE (five when you count the canines).

I realized smart-phone saving was no longer enough.

Not only could I potentially lose the information—I craved something tangible.

I longed for successes I could sit with and *touch* as I reminded myself “Ive been successful before. I know how to do this. I *can* do it again.”

I printed & printed & cut & trimmed.

I created the success box pictured at the top of this post and I visit it regularly.  Sometimes to add to its contents.  Frequently to remind myself, on those days when nothing seems to be “succeeding” (from parenting to freelancing) , I’ve succeeded before and I will again.

The best predictor of future success for me is reflecting and remembering Ive succeeded before.

How do you encourage yourself when doubt starts to creep in? Do you have a success box, journal or other “reminder” you revisit?

Do you savesavesave on the smart phone as I used to?

Are you grateful I did not, as initially planned, close todays comments and command you to git to Success Box creating PRONTO?




*to my shock & delight everyone played along with my mishegas, list-generated & I hope made Success Boxes as promised.


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  1. says

    Funny because I totally thought of emailing you this weekend asking for advice. YOU’re such an inspiration to me. :) Love this and am starting my special success box right now. Someday…….. I’ll get there. :) Sorry about your car. Glad it wasn’t raining. You have an amazing outlook on life! :)

  2. says

    Great post. And you nailed it…it’s the secret to YOUR success, not MY success or a neighbor’s. I had a similar discovery, when I identified and then met my own definition of success, I could be very happy for others meeting their own, different, definition.

    For me, success is doing all I can to be a good wife/mother, colleague, and triathlete. I feel successful because I do a pretty good job balancing the three. I’m not THE best at any single one of them but I work hard at all of them.

    My definition of success has nothing to do with material things. It’s about living within my means, and taking pride in things like my 12-year-old minivan!

    Success is tied closely to identity. I know who I am and what my values are and aren’t. I’m free to be happy for someone making a lot more money than me or taking extravagant trips. What I define as success for me personally can’t be bought or even really measured by another, it is achieved through effort and discipline.

    My reminders are my blog, a box of letters etc, and my happy children!

  3. Nat says

    I have really enjoyed your posts recently because sometimes I feel like I am alone in my journey.
    Knowing even YOU can struggle has helped.

  4. Stacia says

    Interesting concept, Miz.
    I tend to externally credit my success which I think contributes to my always feeling insecure.

    I need to focus internally.

  5. Polly says

    I like that you can review these privately, too.
    When I see bloggers write about successes on their blogs it annoys me.

    It is all boastful.

  6. Jen says

    Very timely for me as I hae watched your FitFluential tweets and was going to email you!
    I want tips on working wth brands but might need to grow my confidence first.

    And find a box LOL

  7. says

    Interesting. I save work emails when clients thank me or praise my work. I wish I had saved every last sweet note my daughter wrote when she was younger, saved them in a box, and read them when she went through her terrible teen years. That’s my advice to moms with younger kids!

  8. says

    Wow, you are such an inspiration!! Seriously, the success box is such a good idea! I honestly think that might be something that I want to try. I think it’d be cool to do a “love” box too- where you save/write down all of the loving things that people have said to you. Sometimes it’s so important to remember that other people love you!

  9. says

    Fabulous idea! Not that I save specific kudos, but I kind of think of my blog as my life box. I like that I can see the successes (and sometimes failures too) from the last four years on there

  10. Healthy Mama says

    I save everything on my iphone.

    Maybe it would be more powerful if I printed?
    I’ve struggled recently with fear and feeling as if everyone else is moving forward and I’m stagnating.

    Of course I had not thought about emailing you…

  11. says

    Great, Great, Great! Love it! At Weight Watchers, they talk about this idea exactly. How to draw on your past experiences and success.

    I love your idea of a “Success Box”!

  12. little miss muffet says

    Success came for me is when I no longer had to hear confirmation from others.

    And the fact that I have told myself there is no room for failure in this short period of time that we are here.

    It also cam fast and furious when I had to pull myself up from my bootstraps and realize that one does and cannot rely on others to fill in missing pieces on ones’ life. You have to do that for yourself. Or not.

    • Healthy Mama says

      I’m curious Miz if this is how you feel and if your box is findig from within or external since the kudos are from others!

    • MizFit says

      and as much as I love my success box I 100% agree with you miss muffet.
      “You have to fill in your own missing peoples” is so well phrased too.

      • little miss muffett says

        I didn’t say “peoples”, I said “pieces”- thankfully no “peoples” are missing in my life.

  13. says

    =) I have a box where I keep mementos. I guess that would be considered my success box. I visit it often, but must admit I never thought about it in that way. I guess I need to remind myself that not only are they mementos, but successes too! Happy Monday Miz!!

  14. PlaneJane says

    Success (whatever that is) comes internally-
    Self-affirmation means you don’t need it from others.

    Success is also measured (for me) on not relying financially on anyone else.

    • Miz says

      I AGREE. And have many thought to add but am this morning defining success as getting the child to the bus on time :-) more after…

  15. Yoga Lover says

    I wonder if trying this would work for me.

    I’ve enjoyed great success, but grow paralyzed with each new endeavor or attempt.

    I view my successes as luck and failures as me (do I sound craycray??).

  16. says

    Not even going to read the other comment as I want to think about this myself.. and it is fluid and it has changed over time & I know it will again. As you know Carla, I have gotten way too many NO’s & they test my ability to go on & keep trying & keep attempting & be positive. I do keep trying & I am not sure why… the no’s really get me down after all these years of them but I guess I feel the hope that yes will come… if I don’t try, I will never know.. but staying positive at times is hard… I think your idea is great!

    What else helps me, age.. as I see loved ones die or get sick, it just shows me how fragile life is, how short it can be & that we don’t have forever – we just have NOW!

  17. Nettie says

    The overall trappings of success may differ yet I think we all would agree it is an feeling of self-worth.

  18. says

    I love the idea of a success box. Somewhere along my journey I read ( or was told) to think about the other areas of my life in which I’ve been successful to remind myself that yes, I can accomplish my weight loss goals. Isn’t it funny we have a hard time remembering achievement is possible just because this journey may be harder than other areas in our lives?

    I also like the “love” box idea…reminds me of how I save cards from our family members…something with their handwriting on it, because you never know when they won’t be around anymore.

    Have a great week, Miz!

  19. Ava says

    This isn’t something I’d do (too touchy feely), but I like the idea of making time to think and remember.

  20. says

    I love this one…..thanks for sharing it. My favorite definition of success has always been this one by Bob Dylan. I’m not even a big fan of his, but I am a huge fan of his quote:

    “A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.”

    - Bob Dylan

  21. says

    As you are aware, I have an in-house photographer who traveled with me to my races – I printed out a few pictures from each race and have them displayed on a bulletin board in my office. The first time my kids came home from college and saw it, they got on my, mostly in a teasing way, about my “big head” with all the shots of me. I told them HELL YES, I’m proud of those pictures and what I’ve done…because really, if I’m not, then what was the point?

  22. Annie says

    I almost emailed you this weekend, too.
    You seem to have it all on the ball, Mizzy.
    Thank you for this.
    I’ll give it a try.

  23. says

    I have a Me file I use for reminding myself of my successes, or simply times when I *felt* successful or really, really good about myself. I don’t “need” it often, but it’s wonderful to have when I do.

  24. says

    There were many things I tried, yet failed, to accomplish when I was younger (in my 20′s and early 30′s). I was forcing it and lacked skill/talent/experience/etc to seriously accomplish. It was only when I started to accept who I was and became happy AND forgiving with myself that my real passions came to the surface through self discovery. And now very, very excited about the path to success that I’m on.

    And I’ve been thinking about you lots and lots and lots. I suppose many others have beat me to the emails to see how your are doing. We’ll catch up. xo

  25. says

    Great post! You are such an inspiration! For me, I need to stop looking at others to ‘determine my worth’. I need to slow down and reflect upon the blessings and successes I already have in life. :)

  26. says

    Wow, such a great and inspiring post! Its important to keep our past successes in mind in order to give us motivation. I love your idea of a success box, I will have to try that! I aways make an inspiration/goal board each year to remind me of what I working towards, and on the board I have a section of past accomplishments to remind myself that I have been successful in the past and that with hard work I can continue to make accomplishments. Thanks for the wise words and keep up the hard work!

  27. says

    This is so wonderful. :) And it’s a reminder to me to renew what I have really done in the past – to keep an account, a record, of the ways God has provided. All growing up, we would get checks in the mail for our exact rent amount, come home to groceries on the table when we needed them and couldn’t afford them, and even into my university I would receive anonymous envelopes of cash for books I couldn’t afford after not telling anyone! My mom had a box she kept encouraging cards in that morphed into writing down on scrap pieces of paper the ways God provided for us and the date, and we would look back, see his provision, and be encouraged in hard times.

    This is so similar, even when viewed as past successes! It’s so important to remember and so easy to forget. All throughout the Old Testament (different faiths aside, you will get this one!), ;) God tells us to REMEMBER. Remember his work, his hand of deliverance, how good life has been, especially when life is hard.

    THANK YOU for this reminder to me today Carla. :D You are a true inspiration to me and your words, presence, and authenticity speak volumes.

  28. says

    Love this…

    I don’t have a success box, but I do have a very fluid & flexible definition of “success.” Most people wouldn’t see me as “successful” and this used to take up way too much of my own mental space and make me feel self-conscious for pursuing such weird-ass goals and dreams.

    When I finally really “got it” that all that matters is how close I am to living the life I dream about, and the heck with what anyone else feels, the more I’ve gotten to enjoy both the journey and the odd little destinations I arrive at. Love my life, so to me, I’m a success! Just wish I’d figured that out about 20 years ago.

  29. says

    amen amen! i was just talking to my husband about you and your “success” last night. I think you nailed it.
    The best predictor of future success is past success.
    Yes, we remember where we started and pocket the little compliments to push forward with confidence. But ultimately, your success comes from being Carla, a mom, a wife, a woman with a passion!

  30. says

    I love this idea! I forget all the time that I have been successful at things in my life – or I turn them into “I used to be good at…” and brush them off as though they are no part of the failure that I am now. I need a tangible reminder that all of the times I have been awesome are actually a part of who I am now, too.

  31. says

    I had a file back in the dark ages when I used to work. A former boss taught me this trick. It not only was good for me and my own self-esteem, but also great for resume time:) In life now, I don’t really ever think to do this. Hmmm.

  32. says

    My definition of “success”?

    ? ?[suhk-ses]
    the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors.

    the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like.

    a successful performance or achievement

    a person or thing that is successful

    Well, technically, that’s’s definition, but I agree with it 100%!

  33. says

    I’m big on the self-doubt, so tangible ‘evidence’ of having done something well would be quite useful I suspect!

    PS. On the definition of success ‘to me’… way harder!


  34. says

    What is wrong with me? I never consider asking others for their help, guidance, or imput. I just go forward trying to reinvent the wheel, get frustrated, and quit.

    Must learn to ask.

  35. says

    I always say “the hardest part of exercise is putting on your shoes.” Just making an attempt is often half the battle! Just do it! Walk for 4 minutes. Run for 1 minute. Once you start, it’s hard to stop. :)

  36. Dynamics says

    I print out emails from some of my old and ongoing accounts for the purpose of using them when job hunting. But I find I get more from them when I stumble across them. Such a great idea to have a box. On days when things are not going so good I would know right where to go to get a pick me up. Once again, your advise it tremendously helpful.

  37. says

    Are you sure you aren’t a therapist? Because damn, girl. I have no tangible to speak of, nor do I really reflect on past or current successes. I think I look to the future more when I need a pick me up. I can always do something in the future, regardless of what’s happened in the past. Whoa. That sounds all optimistic of me.

    I just have to tell you that I love that you call your husband Ren Man. I don’t even know what it means (I like to think it’s short for Renaissance man) but I just LOVE that you don’t call him “the hubs”. That word is nails on a chalkboard to me.

  38. joy says

    I am so hard on myself that this box might be a good idea for me. I totally forget my successes. Thanks for the great idea!!

    Keep Focused!

  39. says

    This is great, I agree with you that success cannot be measure by what you have in your hand right now, but rather how you work through things and accomplish a task on your own terms. I measure success and happiness much in the same way that you do – its not a state, but rather a state of being. We set goals for ourselves, and work hard to achieve them. Although we may not always reach the top of the mountain in the time frame we had in mind, the climb is more important and more rewarding than standing at the summit. I love that you keep tangible evidence of your past successes, and think you must feel very accomplished when looking through that box. I don’t have a collection of hard copied material to look on, but I do let my memories of past successes serve as motivation to keep trying in every aspect of life!

  40. says

    Isn’t it funny how our ideas of success change with our age. I am 71 and write a blog for retirees and boomers. In our world growing older successfully mean being very sharp mentally!

    I think the idea of keeping compliments and placing them in a location where we can see them is one of those actions we can take to make things happen for ourselves. You are right on the money.

    Thank you.

  41. says

    I love this, and i do it to some extent by displaying my running medals. But sometimes I question whether I’m reaching back, reflecting too much on past accomplishments rather than on the present?? But you’re right: something that breeds confidence is never a bad thing.