How Would You Define Success - Or: The Ribbon Index

During my job interviews, I also got the question of how I would define success. In the job world, one would may answer climbing the career ladder, eventually ending up as CEO or similar. Is success earning more money than others, having so many people working for you, having to work 18 hours a day, not having to work at all any more? Selling your app for millions to Facebook, finding a cure for a deadly disease? What is it, human, what?

To be honest, I do not know. When I got asked this question, I could only answer the following: when looking at the ribbons earned in 2013 and 2014 compared to the ones in 2015, yes, then 2013 was successful, 2014 even more and 2015, well, not. Let us imagine a ribbon index being the number of ribbons earned per year.

2013, we had 21 something:

2014, we had 22 something (the blankets! the money!):

For 2015, I do not even have a picture. It was five. Not five something or approximately five. Five. F I V E. Five. What?! Really?!

According to the ribbon index, 2015 was even less successful than our first season I guess. The one where we had more results under 60% than above. Would you, from this indicator only, guess that 2015 was for me the most successful show season so far? I bet not.

Sure, we did not make too many ribbons (may I repeat, five) but we made a huge transformation, a huge development - personally. We moved to our trainer's barn, completely changed our training approach, refined movements where we were pretty good at already, worked on the ones we could not do at all. We literally changed and improved everything - feed, hooves, saddle, teeth. Our mindset. My mindset. Changing from "OMG I NEED THAT RIBBON" to "Ok, no ribbon, but what can we take away from the test anyway?" is something that I would have never expected from myself. And still, that was a necessary step. Necessary to ask questions differently, find new solutions, work more sustainable. Going for ribbons was good to go in first and second level and often times, he was not correctly over the back, his canter quality was not to mention, my seat had too many weaknesses. I could have gone on like that and stayed in first and second level. I would have succeeded. I would have had more ribbons, more blankets, more money.

But I decided to go down a different path. To leave comfort zone to develop - at the cost of ribbons. Ribbons I would have been sure of in first and second level. Getting out of your comfort zone takes a lot of courage. It sets you up for failure, it lets you learn, find new approaches, grow.

I told that story during the interview. Saying that defined by ribbons, 2015 sucked. Defined by how much I developed personally, it was a huge success. I told the interviewer that success might not be obvious like a satin ribbon earned for a good test, it might be something more hidden. Maybe success is a measure of how much you developed - and so I would also define success in the job world. Does it help to earn millions and still thinking that there has not been any progress? I guess only at first sight. And if you look closer, you will find a justification for you feeling like you are succeeded. No ribbons in 2015? That is ok, just look at this KPI, the ranking of all Dressage riders in Austria.

In January 2015, we were ranked 600th in LM level (FEI Pony Level). Today, we are ranked 48th - out of 874 riders listed in this level. How bad could your show season have been when working from place 600 to 48 in a few months?!

Success is not always obvious and for sure, it is not only defined by money, job title, ribbons.

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