Success Measurements and Age

I’ve been thinking about age quite a bit recently. Maybe because I found my first gray hair a few weeks back, or perhaps it’s because I attended my first meeting where there was a younger person in the room. Regardless, age has been a constant measuring stick throughout my career.

When I became a manager at 24, I was proud that not only was I moving up the ladder, but I was the youngest manager the company had ever had. That was a major point of contention when telling my friends about it; my friends who were the same age as I was in “lower” titled jobs (ugh, how snobby does that sound now?). My measuring stick remained – through every career change, promotion, and company.

Was I keeping up with (who are we kidding – in front of), my peer group?

I was in constant compare and conquer mode. It didn’t stop at work. I used to look at my age-group “peers” who were famous – singers, actors, and so on. They seemed so much more successful than me – I’d often think, “I can’t believe how much they’ve accomplished by (enter age). Why can’t I do that?”

I became ruthless in my career – even more so than before. I was at work to work hard and move up the ladder, make more money, get more recognition, and climb baby. Not that that’s always a bad thing, my motives were rooted in being better than someone else. Not necessarily because I wanted it.

This comparison bug is impacting your career’s success and your business. It may be not be as overt for you as it was for (ok, it still is for me in certain aspects of my life), but if you’ve ever looked at someone else’s career and thought that they were more successful or achieved more, then you’re heading towards the comparison zone.

Age does not determine success. Success doesn’t have the same definition for everyone.

What someone else is able to accomplish by 25 isn’t comparable to what you are able to accomplish by the same point in time. I thought by leaving the corporate world, that I would stop looking to others as a gauge of my own success.

I still do get a twinge of wonder when I hear about a friend getting promoted, especially when it’s a title that surpasses the ones I’ve had. When I hear about someone building a wildly successful business or blog in a short amount of time, I get frustrated with myself and start looking for things that I’m doing wrong.

My guess is that this comparison bug is something within me (you too?) that doesn’t go away, not really. But instead, we need to look at the complete picture of our lives. I may have had a big title and made a lot of money at a young age, but I missed out on a lot too – I didn’t have a lot of friends at the time, I didn’t have a particularly awesome social life, and I wasn’t close to my family.

Achievement is driven from something. Perhaps this is a reminder that we have the power to choose what drives us all – particularly when it comes to your career.