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Home  > Article

Are You Truly Successful?

By Simma Lieberman

How do you know when you have achieved success? The answers depend on who you ask.

In order to be successful, you have to know what it means to you and not judge yourself by other people's standards.

Julia Stewart, president of Applebee's Restaurants and the first woman president of a publicly owned restaurant corporation, said that for her, professionally, it means ensuring the success of her organization. "It's important that I develop other people and enrich their lives to help them achieve their goals. Personally, success means working hard at my marriage, and enjoying my two children, Alec and Aubrey, I had my children after I turned 40 and I love being a parent.

Another measure of success for me is that I have built and maintained friendships with five women who I have known for many years. We have been able to be supportive of one another despite all of our schedules and geographic differences."

Stewart said that her definition of success and greatly changed in the last 10 years.

"I didn't have kids. I was more driven by my career and outside activities, especially my involvement as a founder of the Women's Foodservice Forum and other community organizations."

She successfully manages to balance her time at work and with her family and friends by taking advantage of extra moments. "I consider myself successful when I take the time to go to Barnes and Noble and read to my son, Alec, and be 100 percent present, and then be able to make a multimillion dollar decision for my organization on the same day. One of my old mentors told me a long time ago that life is about grabbing special moments and I try to live my life that way on a daily basis."

Alice Elliot is the president of the Elliot Group, a nationwide executive search firm and Consulting organization for the Hospitality and Foodservice industry.

When asked for her definition of success, she replied, "For myself it is a feeling of having made a contribution, not only in my own community but in a global way. It's important to me that I touch other people's lives and share my success with them. That is why I am socially and committed to organizations like Meals on Wheels and the Briarcliff Educational Association that provides children with tools and resources for learning."

Elliott said, "Being married for 18 years and raising two children who are 8 and 11 is success in my personal life. On the professional side, I have two associates at the Elliot group who have worked with me for over 13 years and the organization is like another family to me. I love what I do, but at the same time my work does not control me."

I asked her what else she would like to be doing now that she has achieved so much. "I would take more time for myself and get to know more people that I like."

Bill Allen is the co-founder, partner, and CEO of Fleming's Prime Steak House and Wine Bar, with several locations across the country. He told me that success is not just about achievement by him alone.

"It has to be inclusive of other people, that they are the beneficiaries and sharing in the experience of success. I like being part of something that has grown and believe strongly in giving recognition to others. To be able to create wealth for people who work with me like the people who run our restaurants and the chefs is what I consider success. I am part of a restaurant concept that allows for that inclusion and would not want to work any other way." 

When asked what else he would like to do now that he is achieving his goals, he emphatically stated, "I would not change anything. I really enjoy my personal life, I have great relationships with my friends, family and the people I work with. I have a good life and can continue helping other people."

In order to be successful, you have to know what it means to you and not judge yourself by other people's standards. For some people, it may mean having strong relationships with friends, spouses, and family. For others it might mean being involved in a financially secure business, and for others it is a combination of both. Being comfortable financially can mean different things depending on how you like to live.

When you do achieve your goals, it is important to give yourself credit and take time to appreciate your accomplishments before you move on to the next thing. Accept that your definition of success may change. Allow yourself to be happy with what you've done and that will help you continue to keep growing, achieving what you want and feeling good on all levels.

About the Author: Simma Lieberman helps organizations create environments where people can do their best work and be successful. She specializes in Diversity and Inclusion, Diversity Dialogues, and Eliminating Fear and Self-doubt. Simma is the co-author with Kate Berardo and George Simons of the book "Putting Diversity to Work." She can be reached at

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