I find it easy to get sucked into the idea that success is complicated. That my greatest achievements are determined by profit and loss sheets, that success is measured in numbers of clients, deals closed or projects completed.

I compare, judge and compete against other people, and against myself.

But success often doesn’t look the way I think it should, or the way “the world” tells me it should.

My daughter Carmen came home from school yesterday, chatting away about the day.  She slung her backpack onto the kitchen chair, looked up at me, smiled and said:

Momma, my locker smelled like laundry detergent today!” 

We’d washed her backpack the night before in an attempt to get the grime off.  The kind of filth that builds from endless bumps, thumps, and squishes into tight places. From long stays on dirty floors and hours spent squished between the seats on the bus.  G.R.O.S.S.

I smiled back at her and asked, “Was that a good thing?”

She said, “Yup, it’s a good thing!”

It is a good thing. Better than my sweet girl realizes.

Success smells like laundry detergent. 

A pretty backpack and the smell of laundry detergent are things she takes for granted, and I’m glad.

As she smiled and went about getting her snack, I flashed back to my junior high days. I was opening my backpack in the gym locker room, and watched a roach crawl out between the folds of my clothes.  Our apartment back then was full of them.

Embarrassed and horrified, I knocked it away as fast as I could, before the other girls saw it on my stuff.

I pretended to be shocked too when another girl saw it; I pretended not to know where it came from.  I was relieved when no one pointed at me to say, “It came from her backpack.”

I would’ve given anything for a locker that smelled like laundry detergent.

Yesterday reminded me that success is so much more than numbers on a page or dollars in an account. Yesterday, I was reminded that our greatest achievements are reflected to us by the people around us.

By our families, our co-workers, our friends.

To me, success smells like laundry detergent and looks like a happy, healthy middle school girl. 

What about you?

Join Our Mailing List

Practical and tactical communication tips delivered to your inbox every week.

You're in! Keep your eyes peeled for my next newsletter!