I caught this thought train last night and hopped off before writing it down. It has to do with the visible trappings of success. First the obvious bits.
True success isn't something that someone gives you. It's not something that you get. It's not a thing. It's a feeling. I am currently riding the wave of it for maybe the first time ever. I am doing my best work. This post, written over a decade ago - I'm finally there. It may not last, and I'm ok with that. I'm grateful for it now.
Thing is, for a long time up to sometime in the last handful of months I thought about the visible trappings of success - title, how many people report to me - they took up mental space. I think because I've always kind of had self-confidence issues and those things function as kind of a buoy or channel marker for me to know that yes, in fact, I'm headed in the right direction according to societal norms. They boosted my confidence in a fleeting but still meaningful way, because eventually the flywheel is spinning on its own and I realize I'm not thinking about any of that shit anymore. I mean, I need more reports because I need more brains and hands to execute on the job now, and not because I care how many reports I have.
This is one of those thoughts that's buried under a lot of muck and I don't really understand it much more clearly than I've attempted to lay out here. It's sort of like when a coworker recently asked me "did I just make a mistake by turning down the unexpected opportunity to have more folks reporting to me?" and my first reaction was something like "don't optimize the wrong metric" but that's a bit overly simplistic.
Whatever you need to help you feel successful is helpful to get you to the place of being successful, as long as you don't confuse it with success itself. It's like career therapy for middle aged white guys.