Sunday, November 1, 2020

Successful persona – I have got that feeling



At the 2019 American Translators Association conference in Palm Springs, I had an illuminating conversation with a young translator. After I asked how he was doing, he said that he felt that he didn’t belong there. My response was that I had felt the same way for many years. His remark touched on an issue that is not openly discussed. Clearly, the sense of not being a real professional is a difficult matter to be shared with your peers. The difficulty in feeling successful is the lack of a universal or even accepted definition although it is possible to note some measures of aspects. Even worse, it is a chicken-egg problem since self-belief in success serves as a precondition to it.

[Income chart]

The most common measure of success is income, however that is defined. The vast majority of people wish to be financially secure. The ambiguity arises from the definition of that concept. For some, just knowing that all bills will be paid this month provides great security while others require large sums in the bank, maybe millions, to provide that same sense of security. Most people are somewhere in between and aim to have some blend of flexibility on the monthly budget as well as sufficient bank reserves. This subjectivity creates a situation where the identical income can create a feeling of great security or insecurity, depending on the person and circumstances. The scene at the end of Dumas’ the Count of Monte Cristo where Baroness Danglers and Mercedes end the books with the identical fortunes and opposite conclusions demonstrates the subjective definition of wealth. Thus, it is impossible to say how much income is required to make a person feel successful, rendering irrelevant any attempt to equate success with income.

[Blue ribbon]

Another measure of success is professional skill, including recognition by peers and  by customers. Clearly, having pride in one’s work and belief in its proficiency create confidence. Yet, despite countless efforts to quantify good work, running a business is as much an art as a science. While there may be clear benchmarks, there are countless ways to achieve those goals. Furthermore, people rarely actually see their colleagues at work to allow them to compare craftsmanship. Not only that, these few peers that observe your work often feel constrained to express their true opinion or so it seems. So, it is generally difficult to objectively determine whether our work is professional or not. At best, it is possible to state that there are many more colleagues whose products are worse than ours than those whose products are better than ours. Even customer feedback can be misleading in that not all customers are capable of accurately assessing the work nor do they report results representatively. Thus, even the sense of professionalism is ultimately subjective.

The easiest basis in searching for a basis of feeling successful is creating and appreciating vectors. The unrelenting commitment to doing the best job possible and making constant improvement, whether in terms of income or skill, often leads to a feeling of being professional. In other words, while there may be those that are better than me at this point in time due to their experience, I strive for the best and am building a better future. Thus, in these fully objective and controllable goals, I am a professional, no less than my peers that are more experienced or more skillful than me.

[Brain with muscles]

This issue is not merely philosophical but instrumental for selling a service. Most customers are insufficiently familiar with a given product or service to properly evaluate it even if they had sufficient time and energy. Even more than recommendations, customers judge us as we judge ourselves. When business people project real confidence in themselves, customers pick it up, whether the communication is oral or written. Most customers can identify bluffing, rendering it is a poor long-term strategy. Instead, all entrepreneurs must understand and properly value their skills. A justifiably confident “I can do this” is the key for project approval. So, all business people must cultivate their belief in their skills to be able to apply those skills.

This belief creates the reality. Putting politics aside, millions of American believe that Trump is a successful businessman despite the fact that he has gone bankrupt 6 times because he believes that he is successful. Granted his self-confidence is a statistical outlier, his example highlights the requirement to have faith in one’s skill regardless of the current objective circumstances. To that young translator at the conference, I would say that you are a professional in that you have studied the craft, are working and striving for greater skill by having attended that translation conference. To all entrepreneurs, I would say that the persona of success is created by accentuating your true positives first to yourselves and then to others.

* Captions are important to the sight impaired. All pictures via Pixabay.

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