Ask different questions. Perception is everything and we shift it by asking different questions. Get honest with yourself and feel into what success means to you. Whose definitions are you using and are they still align with your knowing? How does success feel to you? How does it make you feel? What does it get to look like? What matters to you about it? Why? And, what can you now do about it?
Have you ever noticed how often we equate success with more? Whether that’s more products, more profits, more activities or more accomplishments, we buy into the belief that we have to do more to have more to be more. And that will sum up to success. And then along comes The Great Resignation. Where employees are signaling that the “more” that’s being offered — even more pay, more perks, and more PTO — isn’t summing up to success for them. We visited with leaders who are redefining what success means now. Their answers might surprise you.
As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Sara Oblak Speicher.
Sara Oblak Speicher, MBA is an international elite basketball player turned master life coach, quantum strategist and mindset expert. Sara helps visionary women in leadership to redefine the possible, create flow in chaos, and bring their boldest vision to life. Slovenia-native now a New Yorker, and a survivor of postpartum depression and severe burnout that nearly killed, Sara keeps rewriting the rules of living as a mom to two daughters. www.makeyourlifeyourlegacy.com
Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today?
Thank you so much for having me, Karen! It’s always such and honor and privilege to be able to share my story and ideas that, hopefully, will help inspire and empower others.
And I love that we’re diving right into the deep end here.
So the first experience that shaped me, was being raised in a small medieval town of about 20,000 in Slovenia. Growing up in a multi-generational home, we lived a simple life and in deep connection to nature. From a very active and outdoorsy lifestyle to harvesting herbs, fruits, and other plants to use as medicine, food, treats. I was exalted in love, attention, and support, and surrounded by family and friends. Regardless, some deep generational, cultural and war trauma was certainly passed to me; there was this deep sense of awareness of a woman’s role in a family, in the society. It wasn’t until much later that I realized just how deep this complex and contradictory programing ran: that woman is powerless without a very specific asset but in the same time being too powerful, too successful can actually be quite dangerous.
The second defining moment was (reluctantly) accepting an unexpected invitation to come play NCAA D-1 basketball in New York. At the age of 20, I packed my three suitcases and boarded trans-Atlantic flight to make a new home on a Brooklyn, on a campus I had never visited before, to play for a team I had never met, and pursue studies in English which was my 4th language… and that I was barely able to speak. A complete outsider in a way, I finally felt accepted, embraced, however! And forced to spread my own wings and establish myself in a new way, my confidence and self-esteem grew to a whole new level.
We all have myths and misconceptions about success. What are some myths or misconceptions that you used to believe?
This topic is close to my heart not only due to my personal experience, but also my work with so many incredibly powerful and accomplished women. May it be women in leadership, executives, business owners, they reach out to me when oftentimes feel they are just a shell of themselves! They have created everything they thought they should in order to feel and be perceived as successful. Only to find themselves burned out, deeply disconnected, overwhelmed, uninspired, and even trapped in the cycle. Hello guilt, shame, and wondering “What is wrong with me? Am I incompetent? I know I am capable of so much more…” Time for some soul-searching, reinvention, and transformation.
Success wasn’t something I consciously thought about as an athlete, as a student. Others might have perceived me as such, but it never registered with me. Somehow, I was able to detach the two; I credited many opportunities and successes simply to being tall and smart, and that, in my mind, was just different from who I was being me as a person. It’s still hard to quite articulate this logic. It wasn’t until I opened my own business and kind of had to tally up and eloquently express all my achievements for positioning and marketing purposes, that I started to pay attention.
That’s when I realized that by the age of 30, I had more than I could ever possibly ask for! An international athletic career, MBA degree; a loving husband and our healthy little kiddos; comfortable home with a huge yard, a cat, and a dog; owning a piece of Hawaii; incredible relationship with my parents; and a thriving new business. I felt proud. Accomplished. In one particular instance, even a bit arrogant.
But that only lasted for a hot minute. Because then I started to look around, only to realize just how unremarkable it’s all been. Let me explain.
See, I was raised to be humble, to never boast about my achievements. Much less to sleep on laurels. Also where I come from, money was the root of all evil… God forbid you have a lot of it. And God help you if you don’t have it… especially as a woman! It was modeled to me that women were near-worthless, trapped in a vicious cycle of abuse, martial rape, and suffering if they were unable to pay their own way out. But — for God’s sake, don’t desire having it. Don’t be greedy! Women who did pave their way out, who built success, their own wealth — I saw them scrutinized, ostracized. They were just too much.
So here I was, already carrying this deep wound and totally skewed money mindset, thrust into the society that only knows to measure success through money. Not going from 0-1,000,000 dollars in revenues in a year? Loser! Not retired your husband yet? What a failure of a “mompreneur!”. The list is long and it runs deep.
You see, in many ways, the USA tends to look down on other nations as less successful; people here bask in this glorified hyper-individualism and deeply engrained exceptionalism. Yet, they do so without even realizing just how incredibly narrow and shortsighted the US definition of success is. Not to mention, fundamentally opposed to human flourishing, as the Second Thought Channel critically describes it and how we are experiencing it.
So to measure up, I worked even harder; to achieve even more, I tried to scale though hustle. Even though I knew better. It looked easy, attainable, and amazing on paper. But I kept hitting the wall.
Not many people know this, even fewer are willing to talk about it… Success and leadership oftentimes come at the premium price of feeling exhausted, uninspired, trapped, unfulfilled, restless, and hitting the upper limits of our capacities.
Just like my clients, I experienced how this weight of the pressure, expectations, fears, doubts, overwhelm and isolation can wear you down.
The myopic thinking and tunnel vision are keeping us from following our innate knowing, calling and passion — our primal power.
Personally, I struggled with depression and was taken to the ER for severe burnout twice! Once was not enough. I felt stuck, trapped. Empty. Disconnected. At some point, so deeply that I even asked my husband for divorce. Because every time he paid the bills that I did not contribute 50% of the cash, it was like a stab in my core wound! Raised to be independent, I could not receive from him what his soul is literally designed for.
It’s taken me years of deep inner work, and I am still healing. It was in the moments of darkness that I also made a promise to always be open, real, and raw about it — because way too many (women and men alike) are suffering in silence, believing they are alone.
How has your definition of success changed?
Oh of course! I am intentionally working on refraining myself from making any generalized definitions or blanketed statements because in the end of the day, success is very subjective. And fluid, depending on where in life one is, what is their order of priorities, what is their life’s mission.
So yes, I will certainly celebrate your million-dollar year. Or month. Or whatever.
And I also want to know — are you happy? Do you feel fulfilled? Are you healthy?
Tell me about your family? Friends?
Are you able to do what excites you? Are you growing?
Also, what is your actual profit margin? Does your team feel respected, supported, appreciated? How are your customers, what is their success/satisfactory rate?
And — what is your contribution to the society? Humanity? How do you give pack and pay it forward?
What actually matters to you?
I truly do get curious about the underbelly of it because it is so easy to get sucked into this conviction of “just change the mindset!” Well, we get started by “work harder!” Then, it’s the strategies. After that, it’s the mindset. And then vibratory frequency. And back to (realigning the) strategies we are.
But the truth is, it’s much more complex than that! It’s also circumstantial. Environmental. Systemic.
Naturally, there are exceptions in every rule. It’s very dangerous what glorifying of those expectations, money as the singular means of success, and hyper-individualism has done to the collective and individual psyche, wellbeing. You cannot distill lived experience of (hitting the glass ceilings) of the vast majority into the exceptionalism of the few.
All that said, I still find myself in this stickiness occasionally, no matter how often I have redefined success.
For example, I was talking to one of my mentors, Linda Lopeke not that long ago. As always, we had a nice chat, and then she asked how I was feeling about the year that was coming to a close.
I dreaded that question. What was I going to say? That I failed to meet my financial goals? Not just that — I flopped completely! I was thinking about shutting down my business — the one thing I knew in my bones that was destined to succeed and that I have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in. 2020 was a breeze for me, so I had massive goals for 2021. So when none of them materialized, it was rough.
In response, she offered that I simply ask different questions. Not in ignorance, but to tap into expansiveness and limitlessness of possibilities. Shifting this focus enable me to remember all the things that I did accomplish — launching a new business partnership. Launching a podcast. Becoming a dual citizen. Writing a book. Reclaiming my health. Having the time for introspection, contemplations, and inspiration. Above all, seeing places I have never been to before, and spending creating memorable experiences with my family in a very joyful way.
Isn’t that success?
Couldn’t it be success to simply manage to get out of the bed, brush your teeth, and hug your kids?
It was a simple reminder of just how distracted we get by trying to live up to other people’s expectations and standards and definitions…
May I ask you — if you took another look at your life, from a different angle and elevated perspective, how much of it is exactly what you’ve been asking for and waiting on? Any chance you’re already living in it, perhaps it just doesn’t look in the way you had imagined?
See, even though this is exactly what I do for a living (I’ve personally put in years and thousands of hours in mindset and subconscious reprogramming and energy recalibration), I was stuck in myopic vision that prevented me from even noticing any of it. Which just goes to show that this work never ends, and that we all need support, people who see us, who hear us, who hold us. Who challenge us — and who are not afraid to tell us the truth.
The pandemic, in many ways, was a time of collective self-reflection. What changes do you believe we need to make as a society to access success post pandemic?
Ok, you might want to grab a cup of tea or coffee and snuggle up for this one…
I would love to believe that we have become more aware of our persona, human, needs and desires. Little less afraid to sit still for a moment, perhaps even get bored a little. And just be with our thoughts.
A few days ago, I spoke with a client who shared just how tired she was. “I have all the things, doing all the right things, but I am just so tired. Like, deeply tired. Just can’t seem to get ahead, not even catch a break!”
She certainly isn’t alone! And those of us who feel that way, we are not delusional. Nothing is wrong with us. We are not broken. We are fatigued from all the isolation, separation, uncertainty, fear, loss, grief.
I would love to believe that even the most introverted amongst us have realized that we are social beings after all. That texting and zoom meetings just cannot replace experiencing one’s sound current, sharing of the energy, and the magic of co-creation that only happens when we are face-to-face with someone.
That power of a human touch. Now, that does not warrant forcing people back to the pre-pandemic mandatory office settings — hopefully it allows us to re-imagine the possible and be more flexible.
We are also fatigued from keeping up the appearances — from vain metrics, to wearing busyness as a badge of honor, and perceiving stress as a status symbol.
We are fatigued from ongoing fighting for causes like social justice, racial equality, women’s rights that still are not bringing about the desired outcomes.
I would love to believe that people also began to realize just how unfair, unsustainable, and fragile the current political and economic structure is. And how the system of Capitalism and our consumer-centeredness is about to implode on itself.
So the list of improvements is a long one, some are quire radical for the US standards, and might not be what many are willing to hear…
Now, I am not an economist, or anthropologist, much less a politician. What I share bases on lived experiences, observations, and being a student of history. And as someone who’s been gifted with this innate understanding of complexities and an ability to simplify them. Therefore, I do believe that fixing the following main issue will take care of everything else! Capitalism that’s outgrown itself.
But let’s get Esoteric for a moment and take a 30,000 foot view…
We are in a dawn of a new, Aquarian era. The 2000-year Piceasn age that was ruled by order and hierarchy, is ending and with it, we are naturally experiencing a lot of shifts.
As much as the pandemic is about the science and medicine, it’s also about a deeper shift that’s been a long time in the making. And as painful, tragic, and infuriating as it’s been to be losing nearly 800,000 lives (in the USA alone is), people being stuck with their abusers, people losing jobs, homes, it is also the beginning of something new. I wonder how different the picture would be if every single decision wasn’t made based on a financial bottom line?
So this is our opportunity to reset, recalibrate, and re-imagine the possible. To redefine success. Especially in the US. The question is — are we smart enough to recognize that? Daring enough to implement it? As a matter of fact, some of those have been advocated and fought for for decades if not centuries already…
We also need to understand the complexity and entanglement of the two sides we so love to keep separate: individualism and collectivism.
As much as the hustle, personal responsibility, pulling yourself up by the bootstraps, shifting the mindset and being a maverick is vowed into the fabric of this nation, let’s not forget the other side of the coin.
The side that is still very much prevalent today.
Exploitation. Discrimination. Oppression. So sophisticated and systemic it’s near impossible to recognize in some cases. But, when your safety and rights are threatened (and life taken) because of how you look, talk, pray, love, and live, mindset and spiritual practice alone won’t help.
If working harder truly was the recipe for success and riches, it would be single moms working 3 jobs who would be flying to the space on their own private rockets, just for fun… But it’s not (no matter what the self-help and spiritual gurus are telling you. Be mindful of all their bypassing and toxic positivity. I should know, I’ve been in this industry for over a decade.)
Imagine instead what the society would look and feel like if we not only sung praises to our essential workers, teachers, healthcare workers — but actually paid them livable wages worthy of their contributions? How much more they would be able to then put back into the economy by having the resources to buy their home, eat at local establishments, travel?
Imagine not having three numbers dictate where you can or cannot live, what home you can buy and what car you can drive? Credit core system as it is, perpetuates the American version of the caste system and glorifies debt accumulation.
Speaking of debt…Imagine how life-changing and uplifting — for generations to come — would an access to affordable and quality education be? And consequently to the careers that reflect one’s gifts, curiosity and talents without restrictive student loans… How much better they would be at their jobs and fulfilled in their lives if they had the opportunity to grow, to explore, to innovate and create because they could afford to?
Imagine how much healthier and productive people would be if we guaranteed paid parental and sick leave? So that members of our society can fully focus on their recovery, so that they can bond with their children…children who will grow up to continue to contribute to the society? In fact, Marshal Plan For Moms states that it’s the community who already are struggling the most that are the furthest away from actually receiving these benefits; the poor, minimum-wage and hourly, seasonal workers, part-time employees, and women of color.
Imagine having affordable quality healthcare that anyone who needs access to could do it without the fear of going bankrupt? Or having to rely of fundraisers?
Imagine having time, energy, and resources for our families. Friends. Hobbies. Traveling. Experiences that fuel our curiosity, quench our thirst for learning, and nourish our soul? These are not some “high-maintenance” requirements but basic human needs! Human rights — remember the right to pursue happiness?
Imagine all that we could then do, collectively and with individual efforts and resources, for our environment?
I know this sounds like a bunch of political speak. And I’ve been called all sorts of names for expressing these convictions. Primarily by those who could neither define Socialism nor recognize how many of its systems have already been a part of the US infrastructure!
Indeed, not everything can be distilled into a bumper-sticker or sound byte. And these are some of very complex things. Yet attainable — It’s just the matter of reimagining the possibilities, reprioritizing, reallocation of resources, and willingness to see and play the long game.
And yes, these are indeed quite radical ideas for the US standards where tradition is preferred (a whole conversation for another time). But we cannot afford not to make some radical changes — changes forward.
The bottom line is this: when you have healthier and happier society that feels safer, supported, respected, and with means and motivation to participate in the economy (and not just barely scraping by), everyone wins! A simple stroll around the world and through the history would show that.
So maybe, just maybe staying home in closed quarters with people whom we got so used to saying “I love you” in the passing while staring at our phones, was a gift of time we will never get back? A window into an alternative way of living, working, leading that is attainable the moment we choose to step out of the matrix, and dare to make a sharp left turn?
What do you see as the unexpected positives in the pandemic? We would love to hear a few of your stories or examples.
Oh, the first thing that came to mind were all those videos of wild animals returning to places they were pushed out of. Greenery thriving where smog and traffic jams used to be? That view of the Mont Everest that appeared for the first time in decades. Remember? Maybe, just maybe, we became more conscious of the consequences our choices, behaviors, and attitudes have on the environment?
Or communities coming together to stand up for equality and equity? To call for systemic change of the status quo.
Or the gift of the 18 months we got to spend with our loved ones? Without the typical day-to-day hustle and bustle, we got to be more present. “I was an empty-nester and I gotta say, it was nice to have my 20-something kids back together for a while! A time we would otherwise never get!” said a friend to me.
And this extra time on our hands and lack of distractions, offered much-needed capacity for introspection, for reflections. That’s where some profound realizations occurred:
What if, despite all your ambitions, goals, success, achievements, and accomplishments, you discovered that somehow, you are still hiding beneath a self-imposed glass ceiling? In exchange for the promise of security, safety, and comfort, sense of belonging, or even the access to some arbitrary power and influence?
Epiphany like this could possibly be the most profound experience millions of individuals have had during the pandemic. And many of them have sprung into action. We’re seeing people leave toxic relationships. Dissatisfying jobs. Moving to new places, exploring new spaces.
Sadly not all of these changes came on the heels of some epiphany; by no means do I mean to romanticize the experience. It was not easy by any stretch of imagination. Sleeping, working, eating, living, and homeschooling in the same space is not for the faint of heart. Not for those of us homebodies who designed this lifestyle for ourselves. Much less if you’re thrown into it literally overnight.
In fact, too many are still stuck in abusive homes. In dangerous and underpaid jobs. In rental contrast they can no longer afford but also cannot afford to move. Millions are homeless.
What is positive in that?
And the whole ordeal was — still is — traumatic for many! Isolation. Abandonment. Loss. Grief. Like most, I haven’t seen my own family and friends in Slovenia in 3 years now. Have lost several people to whom I wasn’t able to say goodbye and have yet to have some sort of a closure. I get it.
What is positive in that?
Perhaps it’s what opened our eyes and hearts to finally started to talk about mental health, grief, trauma? New resources became available that were before out of reach. Giving us the ability to say, “No, I am not OK. I need help!” without being scrutinized.
I would also love to believe that our heightened awareness, sympathy and compassion are the drivers of social, economic, and political movements that will require new standards to be set…
We’re all looking for answers about how to be successful now. Could you please share “5 Ways To Redefine Success Now?”
- Ask different questions.
Perception is everything and we shift it by asking different questions. Get honest with yourself and feel into what success means to you. Whose definitions are you using and are they still align with your knowing? How does success feel to you? How does it make you feel? What does it get to look like? What matters to you about it? Why? And, what can you now do about it?
2. Use different measuring methods.
Zeros on a bank account. Numbers on a scoreboard. Numbers on a stopwatch. Numbers on a scale. Size of our portfolio. Number of likes, views, shares. So many rules we live by in the society dictate success only as something that can be measured. And with it, our worth(iness). Just like with the first step of asking a different question, it’s also imperative we use a different measure. And at that — what if instead of measuring ourselves up against others, we measure ourselves against who we were yesterday in relations to who is that we will become tomorrow?
3. Unshackle yourself from the chains of cultural, generational programming.
Our past, our lineage and epigenetics, and our experience influence us but don’t have to define us. It’s powerful and liberating to know that we can reprogramming our subconscious, and therefore change our life. Did you know that by doing this deep work you can quite literally rewrite our past and change trajectory of our future simply?
4. Break the old rules to grow your wings.
It’s tempting to squeeze ourselves into boxes of other people’s expectations. Toxic relationships. And systems. In fact, we’ve been indoctrinated into believing it’s the only way — and history surely serves plenty of evidence. What if this gets to be just one of the rules you get to break? That instead of fitting in, you give yourself permission to grow and spread your wings and find places where you belong?
5. You are not meant to go at it alone.
One of my friends used to say, “There wouldn’t be 7 billion people on this planet if we were meant to do it all on our own.” Support system comes in countless shapes and forms. Indeed, something even in most painful ways. But it all gets so much easier, we can literally collapse timelines and skip unnecessary in-between steps with the help of the right mentors, coaches, guides, therapists, and friends who see us, hold us, and challenge us not by telling us only what we want to hear, but what we need to.
How would our lives improve if we changed our definition of success?
Countless of studies talk about success, its definitions, and its impact. I can’t tell you anything new that hasn’t been expressed yet. What I hope to accomplish, is that it just might land differently, even of with just one person.
Can you take a moment and just get still? Silent? Quiet down the thoughts that are running through your mind. Ask your worries to take a seat.
And focus on the answers you came up with in the previous exercise of redefining success.
Now ask yourself “How could my life improve if I changed my definition of success?”
What is coming through? What do you see? How do you feel?
I ask this last part because your truth always feels light. And what you will tap into in this exercise will most likely be diametrically opposed from what you have been told and taught you should want and strive for. Don’t let that scare you! Can you embrace it? Can you give yourself permission to tap into your innate vision? To listen to your heat’s whisperers?
I believe if we all gave ourself this grace and opportunity, our lives would be much more balances, fulfilling, and our contributions to the society much more profound.
And remember, none of this is possible and accessible when we are stressed, elbows-deep in putting out fires of our day-to-day commitments… We could argue that it’s so by design… But you and I are rule breakers anyway. So just remember who you are, why you’re here, and then dare to step out, up, and onto the path of your higher calling.
Yes, it will upset people. Chances are, you will even lose some. But you will gain much more. Namely — health, happiness, fulfilment, fun. What’s that worth to you? What’s the trajectory you have just put your own life and the lives of your kids on by simply declaring and owning your power?
What’s the biggest obstacle that stands in the way of our redefined success? And what advice would you offer about overcoming those obstacles?
Ego. And love.
Imagine, how were we taught to perceive, give and receive love? Conditionally. So, it’s been my experience that many of us who have felt the need to go out there, to do our own things, choose not to. Instead, we chose to dim our own light, suppress our own needs because we don’t want to hurt those who love us. Because if we’re too much, too happy, to expressive, too successful… well, they won’t accept and love us anymore.
Likewise, those who say they love and support us oftentimes don’t really want us to go out there, grow, learn, and evolve. We know what with that journey also comes pain, fear, disappointments,… So they want to keep us safe. Also, we just might leave them behind, right? That’s conditional love. That’s holding us back.
One of my mentors once told me “Unconditional love does not mean self-sacrifice.”
So like I have mentioned earlier — what holds us back is an exchange for the promise of security, safety, and comfort. A sense of belonging. Or even the access to some arbitrary power and influence.
Where do you go to look for inspiration and information about how to redefine success?
A lot of it comes from my kids. They still possess this playfulness, levity, and excitement. They believe in magic and so they make magic happen. Watching them celebrate even the slightest wins is truly inspiring. And a great reminder to follow their suit — just because we’re adults doesn’t mean we need to stop enjoying ourselves, only focusing on the big stuff, and take it all too seriously, right?
And then from the history as much as current events. Inspiration is all around, when you open your eyes, your minds, and your heart.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He, she or they might just see this if we tag them.
Ariana Huffington. I remember sitting in the audience when she gave a speech, about 7-or so years ago. She talked about the importance of sleep. I don’t think many of us got it that day. Not fully! So I would love to have a lunch with her, there would be so much to discuss and brainstorm and create to help keep making the deep shifts.
And, Simone Biles. By choosing to sit out arguably the most important competition of her career so that she could focus on her mental wellbeing, gave the permission to say “no” to millions of people from around the world. “You don’t owe anything to anyone. Your #1 job is your wellbeing because without that, nothing else matters.” I would love to have lunch with her just to say THANK YOU in person! And I am sure we’d have so much more to talk about!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
They can find me on LinkedIn and Facebook, or visit my website www.makeyourlifeyourlegacy.com
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.