you are enough: learnings from my first judging assignment
Last year I had the utter pleasure of being a on the judging panel for a whole day of awards of a national magazine. What a truly lovely bunch of fellow judges I met and so many talented nominees. I made some really great connections to people I'd only really ever met online before and my eyes were opened to a whole new, incredible world of makers and creatives who blew my mind.
Having never really entered many awards myself, or been a judge before, it was a hugely insightful and inspirational experience. Sea-sickness aside (we were aboard The Yacht on the River Thames- I hadn't banked on such overwhelming waves of nausea but they were there in full force in the morning which was pretty embarrassing) it was such a wonderful day and one I'm really looking forward to being a part of again.
As I say, my own experience of entering awards has been pretty limited and I hold my hat to those brave, strong and hugely talented women we met on the day. Entering awards is a scary thing. Presenting your business to a group of ten judges is pretty intimidating to most of us and when it matters so much, emotions run high.
One of the biggest things I came away from the day with was the reminder that no one can define what success looks like other than you. You are unique. You know where you've come from, what you've achieved and what inspires you. You are incomparable.
Awards are a great way of celebrating success and of creating awareness around what you do. We recognised some truly incredible talents that day and met some thoroughly visionary and talented creatives.
And yet the very nature of an award means that there can be only one winner. And only several nominees, come to that. It doesn't mean that those who didn't win weren't deserving.
One thing I learned from being behind the scenes was that each and every judge had their own definition of success. Each one of us had different experiences, different criteria and responded in different ways. Some decisions were easy to make, others less so. My point is that there is no single definition of success. No one can define what success looks like for you, other than you.
My own experience
The one and only award I have ever entered was for Surrey Business Person of the Year, back in 2007. I was 28 and running a really successful design and print business. I was shortlisted and visited by the head judge for an interview. It all seemed to be going rather well until he asked me one question:
'What's next for your business?'
I knew the answer to that. 'I'm working on building the team and the business to a level where they can run without me so I can have another child and take six months maternity leave'.
You could feel the atmosphere change immediately. Tumbleweed began to blow. Not the right answer. I didn't get any further in the competition.
The truth is that for me, that is still one of my biggest achievements. In a time where my contemporaries were booking their c-sections for the morning so that they could be back on their emails in the afternoon, building my team and my business to a level where they could cope without me was the biggest achievement I could master for my business.
I did take the six months off when I had Jasper, and I enjoyed every moment of my maternity leave.
My books have come about because I could see a way to do something differently. I saw a gaping hole in the market for a beautiful book on branding for entrepreneurs and I knew I had the experience and vision to pull it off. Even when the industry was telling me otherwise.
Time has shown me that my instincts were right. But along the way I've had to dig deep to set my own boundaries for success. When you go against the grain, no one else is going to tell you that you got it right. It has to come from within. And sure, book sales and reviews are a very gratifying indicator. But the truth is, you have to set your own marker. You have to know, in your gut, you've done the very best job you can. And that's enough.
Comparison is the thief of joy
Social media can create cripplingly direct comparisons between supposed 'success' (read: popularity) and sometimes it feels as though gaining external validation is more important than ever. Don't get me wrong, I love awards as much as the next person, but as entrepreneurs we have to be resilient. Resilient in the knocks that come about through running a business. Resilient to the pressure of social media. And resilient enough to know that we are enough.
Only you can define what success looks like to you. Make it something that you can control. Something you can work towards. Don't pin your success on others. Check in regularly with how you're doing and refine what success looks like as you work through the year. Most importantly, recognise your achievements, learn to celebrate the small things and reward yourself for a job well done.
Each and every one of us is unique. We all bring wonderfully diverse talents to the world and that's something that cannot be compared and should be celebrated as often as possible.