The Naked Truth Between You And Achievement

I was asked to submit a bio last week for an upcoming speaking engagement — it had to be 30 words or less.

That’s not a lot of words.

You know the deal with bios — you want to include your greatest accomplishments and make yourself look like Wonder Woman as much as possible. Should I mention my long corporate career? Should it count that I’m a mother of two teenagers? What about the gold medal I won in the 50-meter backstroke when I was in sixth grade . . . okay, not that. In any case, I had very limited space for this particular bio; I had to be sure to hit my achievement highlights, tightly written and in short order.

Here’s what I came up with:

Nancy Sherr is the Founder & CEO of The Sherr Collective LLC, a full service
career consultancy and the creator of Ambition360, an all-inclusive
job hunt mastery program teaching ambitious people how to
Get Known and Get Hired in Jobs they LOVE.

Okay, fine. But beyond thinking about what to include, I couldn’t help but ponder the idea of achievement as more than a listing of accomplishments to include in a bio — how about thinking of achievement in the context of a feeling?

What is your relationship with achievement?

And on the flip side, how might you tangle with the notion of failure as related to those goals? Once you examine the dynamics of both and what they really mean to you — might you realize the achievement you’re chasing in hot pursuit, isn’t what you really want based on your true unique desires. And further, you’re not all that prepared to sacrifice what you’ll need to in order to get there. It’s one thorny issue.

Too often we hold our own achievements to other people’s standards. We compare our salaries to those of others without taking into account what our actual wants are, or whether we’ll feel too conflicted when that pursuit compromises other parts of our lives.

Sure, it’s great that you made six-figures, but you missed your daughter’s piano recital to help get you there. And when was the last time you stood courtside at your son’s basketball game? We may strive to achieve certain things because we think we’re supposed to — we keep up with the Joneses but not only can we not stand the Joneses — we have nothing in common with the Joneses. Can someone please pass the elixir? Immediately.

Does mothering become thwarted because there’s an internal conflict to execute a big career? The real question becomes: what defines big to you? And what’s enough? It’s more than arranging priorities. It’s about examining and understanding your pursuit of the Be, Do, Create, Experience, and Have.

Just like corporations have a Board of Directors, human beings each have their own internal Board of Critics. Our true desires are twisted in a juggernaut with our ever-chattering Board of Critics who issue directives we feel conflicted to follow. The conundrum: we acknowledge that our financial requirements can be adjusted based on a lifestyle choice while in the same breath we struggle to admit that we cannot have it all — when in fact, we’re not all that clear on what our all actually is. In reality, many of us avoid that conversation all together. We ignore our tiny voice screaming inside. How’s that working for you?

The equation of high achievement = high quality of life is not all that accurate. It’s highly individualized.

Immersed in a competitive corporate culture for more than two decades, I marveled at the virtues of great leaders and what drives them to succeed and conversely, studied why so many fail. It’s a complex topic and a fascinating study. What I will say, is a person in a leadership capacity that is not entirely aligned with their corporate commitment to achieve, along with the willingness to engage in the sacrifices required — particularly in today’s environment — will ultimately implode in flashing neon. It’s just not something you can fake for too long, and it has little to do with competence. It seeps through and begins to infect productivity, team spirit and engagement — and with rare exception. Not to mention what’s often far more debilitating on the personal end: the distressing effects on the human condition within which it lives.

Now, unshackled from the boardrooms of cubicle nation (no secret to where I stand on this issue), I work with people globally, blending their personal wants in a thoughtful and true fashion, and support them to put their unique desires in play. Many find it’s not as daunting as they originally suspected. It’s actually a huge relief. Their personal inner reorg results in overwhelming thanksgiving.

So, yes — your relationship to achievement is a personally defined desire. The pursuit of success, accomplishments, winning, and mastery — goals that you pursue because they are worthy of your stretch — is the underlying goal.

To not attain should not be viewed as failure. Thomas Edison tried 1,000 times to invent the light bulb — I’m sure I can speak for us all in deep gratitude for his perseverance. As he said: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  The outcome of his pursuit mattered outrageously to him, he literally never gave up. That was his truth.

My questions for you today are:

  • What goals are you setting that lead to achievements that are true to you?
  • Why precisely are your pursuing what you are?
  • What kind of time and energy are you are you prepared to invest to attain them?


Goal setting is vital to success. It’s well-crafted as long as how you think and feel about them invigorates and restores you, and does not diminish and deplete your mental, emotional, and physical reserves.

The key is: knowing, managing and leading your pursuits to result in creating a life well-lived.

So, what are you doing to uncover your relationship with achievement?

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03/05/2013 08:11 am ET | Updated March, 23, 2016

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