Redefining Definitions: Making Your Own Benchmark For Success
There's no real formula (or benchmark) for success... except the one you set for yourself.
In my role as Editor in Chief of Entrepreneur Middle East, one of the things I often get asked by those who are venturing into (or have just started working in) the media industry is about what advice I could give them that would help them grow and succeed in their careers in this particular sector.
I’ll admit here that I am always conflicted about how I go about answering this question- I mean, I could make use of the almost staid (but true, regardless) response that delves into the importance of working hard, having a strong work ethic, and so on and so forth. But that answer doesn’t take into account the privileges I had in my life so far, which can range from, for instance, having supportive friends, family, and mentors who pushed me (and my dreams) ahead, to, well, the sheer luck that I had in certain situations that simply played to my advantage.
It is for this reason that I’m not entirely comfortable with the notion that there are these so-called “recipes for success” for the world of today- and yes, I do acknowledge the irony here in that I almost always ask entrepreneurs I interview for this publication to tell me their tips and tricks to triumph in the startup space. However, the way I see it is that everyone has their own versions of strategies and schemes that have helped them get ahead, and yes, there are definitely pointers and lessons one can glean from them. However, they should definitely not be seen as a cookie-cutter formula that you can just copy and paste into your own lives and careers. After all, what worked for me doesn’t necessarily have to work for you, and, perhaps more importantly, it’s important to realize that all of us going through life are actually just making it up as we go along.
You see, regardless of the amount of wins we may have under our belt, or the years of experience that we can boast of, it’s pretty safe to say that none of that can be taken as a definite confirmation of how things could go in the future- and this needs to be remembered when we’re being subjected to advice from everyone around us. I found validation for this particular paradigm from a tweet by Glitch CEO Anil Dash (@anildash was declared one of Twitter’s best accounts by Time magazine in 2013), which said: “One of the weirdest things about being a CEO is I end up seeing a lot of media and advice aimed toward entrepreneurs, or offering tips on how to succeed in business, and my overwhelming response to it all is NO ONE KNOWS ANYTHING! Honestly. Almost all the advice is overstated.”
In the same thread, Dash went on to say that all of us need to define our own notions of success, and that we should “reject any advice that's not relevant to your context, consider the source for any recommendations that you read, evaluate people's thoughts and ideas through the lens of their actual impact on the world, [and] engage with systems on your own terms.” I agree with all of these pointers, and while it has taken a good while for me to come to this kind of understanding (and truth be told, I still slip up on this more often that I care to admit), it certainly is in line with what I tell those who come to me for advice. While it’s always good to follow in the footsteps of your role models, do not limit yourself to them, or judge yourself harshly if you find yourself falling short of what they do- it’s more important that you find your own path, figure out things that work for you, and march to the beat of your own drum.
At the end of it all, you should be the one defining what success means to you- not anyone else.
Aby Sam Thomas is the Editor in Chief of Entrepreneur Middle East. In this role, Aby is responsible for leading the publication on its editorial front, while also working to build the brand and grow its presence across the MENA region through the development and execution of events and other programming, as well as through representation in conferences, media, etc.
Aby has been working in journalism since 2011, prior to which he was an analyst programmer with Accenture, where he worked with J. P. Morgan Chase's investment banking arm at offices in Mumbai, London, and New York. He holds a Master's Degree in Journalism from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York.