By Naomi Simson, an EO Sydney member and founding director of RedBalloon
What is success, and how do you measure it? Everyone has a different interpretation of what it means to be successful. To some it’s accruing fame and fortune, while others define success as achieving a state of contentment. I think success is a lot like the notion of beauty— it’s all in the eye of the beholder. When I was in my twenties, I thought success was being able to buy a pair of shoes without looking at the price tag. In my thirties, success revolved around having healthy, thriving children. Now that I’m in my forties, success to me is about making a difference in people’s lives, including my own.
They say to fully achieve success, you have to know what it means for you, and then you have to allow yourself to dream despite the fear of failing. Every day, a colleague of mine tells her children, “Do one thing today that scares you.” She does this not because she’s an irresponsible mother, but because she wants her kids to either try something, fail and realize it isn’t the end of the world, or try something, succeed and experience the feeling of pride and success in overcoming the fear. It’s a novel approach, and something I’ve begun to apply in my personal life.
“To open yourself to the unknown means cutting the ground from under your familiar actions and habits,” writes health guru Deepak Chopra. I did that recently, and it opened my eyes to a new world. I decided to finally face my fears. My first step: Scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef. I’m deathly afraid of sharks, so it was an amazing discovery for me to do something way outside of my comfort zone. By jumping in and accepting the fear of the unknown, I realized that the only thing getting in the way of my success is me! My fears, concerns and worries can try and slow me down in life and business, but if I face them—if I embrace them—I get the power back.
After my scuba-diving adventure, I was excited to keep the fear-defying action going. I decided to pursue my long-held dream of heliskiing on a New Zealand mountain. I wasn’t sure I had the guts to do it, but I did it anyway. Equipped with special wide-powder skis, the only thing that stood between me and my dream was fear … but what was I really afraid of? I know I can ski pretty well, I know that the snow would be soft and I know that if it gets too steep I could simply traverse the mountain. So where did this fear come from?
Sometimes in life we believe the weight of our fears because we don’t know any better. But when you decide to face those fears and trust yourself, they vanish. It took me several runs on the mountain to relinquish control to the elements and let my skis do what they were designed to do. I had to trust that the preparation had been done, rely on my own abilities and just left myself go. The analogy to business was not lost on me. All the preparation, planning and debate finally came down to trusting my abilities and that of those around me.
As entrepreneurs, we often let our success dictate how we want to live our lives and run our businesses, but I’ve found that it’s our fears that hold all of the power. When we start to define our fears instead of letting them define us, we gain an immense sense of control, and that can create a more exciting journey both in business and life.
Naomi Simson is the founding director of RedBalloon, an online experience retailer she founded in 2001 after leaving a serious corporate career. Fun fact: Since its founding, Redballoon.com.au has sold 1.9 million experiences and has been named a “BRW Great Place to Work” four times running.