Professional Pointers from Your Kids: Defining & Achieving Success

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Vice President of Administration and Chief People Officer, Jill Lehman, explains three ways she has learned toFall14_ProfessionalPointers_small

By: Jill Lehman

One of my early childhood mentors said to me, “Everyone defines success differently and only you know what you can accomplish.” In other words, you have to define what success means to you. And you have figure out how to make it happen.

This particular day I was a high school senior struggling with a college prep statistics course, feeling less than prepared. The class was a necessary evil since my college major would focus on business management and economics. Success meant mastering the mathematical techniques used across statistical analysis. Since I never considered myself a mathematical whiz kid, I was convinced that statistics would get the best of me. That advice from my mentor challenged me to think differently about the situation: It dawned on me that the only way I would make it through the course was to commit myself to the course of action necessary to be successful. After defining my goal, and putting in a long semester of hard work, I got an A-, graduated with honors, and headed off to college confident in the next phase of my educational journey.  To me, defining what success looked like and challenging my approach to accomplish it taught me a life lesson.

Since that day, in my daily life and throughout my career, I have reminded myself, my children, and the individuals I mentor of this simple yet powerful message.

Whether talking to your kids about their school work, extra-curricular activities, college planning, first jobs, or future career goals, take time to think about what success means and how to go about achieving it. We all have goals and dreams for ourselves and our families, but it takes more than dreaming to make success happen.

When you think about defining what success looks like and how to go about accomplishing it, one area most new graduates consider is around their career ambition. As a Human Resource professional and executive, I have experienced career success incrementally and over time. Success doesn’t always require being the best, but it does require giving your best. Success is about trusting yourself, taking chances, and believing in your abilities.  It’s also important to know there is no shortcut to success, it’s the result of planning, discipline, and courage to learn from your failures.  After all, if success were easy, everyone would achieve it!

Here are a few life lessons and advice around planning, finding the discipline, and having the courage to achieve career success.


Take some time to imagine success in your career.  You won’t achieve it if you don’t know what it means for you.  Ask yourself:

  • What does success look like for you?
  • Why is success important?
  • How will it feel to be successful?
  • What are the things you have to do to accomplish success?
  • How will you know when success is achieved?

Plan out your ideal career and dedicate a few minutes every day to imagine your success.  Cultivate a healthy motivation when imagining your success. Successful people all believe in themselves and have a strategic plan to get there.


Success is not something that happens by chance: it takes hard work and discipline to make it happen. Just like an athlete preparing for competition, you must be willing to:

  • Foster the willpower and motivation to work hard and with a purpose every day
  • Follow a plan on how to get where you desire to be
  • Have a heathy appetite for practice, training and competition
  • Invest time in preparing your mind, spirit and body
  • Think incrementally about success and how it can be achieved
  • Find ways to surround yourself and learn from successful people
  • Assess career opportunities and be prepared to make tradeoffs
  • Be a lifelong learner know matter what position you desire to achieve

Achieving success takes courage.  Peter Drucker once said, “Whenever you see a successful business or person, someone once made a courageous decision.” Do you have the courage to;

  • Push yourself out of your comfort zone to try new things that will help lead to your goals
  • Volunteer to take on special projects or stretch assignments to learn something new or build skills necessary for success
  • Stay the course when things don’t always go as planned, learn lessons and believe in yourself
  • Understand that you may need to take calculated risk to achieve success
  • Find mentors and know when to ask for help
  • Stay humble as success comes your way and demonstrate severant leadership and your core values

Success is within reach, you just have to define it, execute on it, and have the courage to make it happen. Get started today by chipping away at what’s intimidating you from achieving success. Once you define it, the statistics will show that nothing can stop you!

Jill Lehman is the Vice President Administration & Chief People Officer at Ontario Systems. She will appear in issue 15 of Forefront magazine.

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