What is Success??

What a question?! What is success is a question I explore with so many people; mentees, peers, bosses, friends, family……everyone.

An answer I often hear in the list of things that define success is money…..being successful means having the money to do what I want and provide for my family.

Ok, sure……providing for your family is success, 100% agreed. But lots of money doesn’t dictate your level of care. It just gives you more choices; you get more choices of food, homes, cars, holidays, jewellery and transportation. That’s it. We still have the same stuff, but yours some people stuff costs more. I may have a ring from Etsy, you may have one from Cartier – we still both have a ring we love.

If you have a child you can take them to a Caribbean beach or Weymouth beach – they still went to the beach. The expense of the holiday does not dictate whether it will be more or less successful (assuming success is having fun and spending time together). The expense is irrelevant when you are building a sand castle. It’s the sand that’s amazing.

If you have a wife or husband and take them for dinner, the bill at the end does not dictate the level of success of that dinner (assuming success is having a great time together). Sure, foodies will beam over diverse flavours and clever cooking (as I do) but I can tell you some of the most successful dinner dates I’ve had were eating dirty fries and laughing my butt off with a Budweiser.

Taking care of your family and yourself; care is an action, not an amount. Reading or doing homework is the same, whether you are sat in a 3 bedroom house on a council estate or 12 bed mansion in Cheshire. (Although the latter needs a cleaner, costs a fortune to heat and light and you’ll need to sell a car for the counsel tax – none of that sounds like care though does it?!)

So, I challenge the view of having money as a success factor – it might be an aspiration and that is 100% awesome and valid for you – but is money success?! I dunno.

Let’s say you go to a bar on a Saturday, you’re chillin’ with your friends and you meet someone (unromantically) and they say they were successful……pause for a moment and think of all the questions you have for them. Mine would be something like ‘Awesome, what do you do. Tell me everything about your journey to becoming SO SMASHY’. And I would lean forward and listen excitedly…..

Now, imagine their answer was: I won the lottery.

How are you feeling about this explanation of success? They have money, right?! And awesome that they won the lottery. But would you define that as success? Would you be like ‘I met this awesome chick last night, so inspiring and successful. She won the lottery’. I know my friends would say that is awesome and then ask what she did? (So we could get her out for drinks – naturally). They would see the word successful and lottery as two separate points – wouldn’t you?

What about if the answer were my dad/partner owns a FTSE 100.

Again, how are you feeling about this explanation of success? Again, they have money, right?! And good for them on the great hand life has handed them, honestly. But, does that sit with the word successful for you?

Now imagine those answers with the addition of ‘And I set up a charity, it doesn’t turn over a lot but it really helps communities in Africa or the UKs vulnerable adults’. That feels more valid to me, but why?! Same person, with the same money.

Imagine the answers with the addition of ‘and I now invest in property and crypto. I’m fairly new at it but it’s going really well.’

Same person again, not even doing something ethically easy to say ‘aaah, that’s awesome’ to. But it feels more valid in terms of an explanation of success doesn’t it.

The thing often missed about success is it’s about your input resulting in your reaching or moving towards your aim. It’s about your effort and work getting you to where you want to be.

If we looked at success as an equation (success: input + effort = aim), we would look at our aims a little closer and align our activities (input) and trajectory defining efforts to those aims.

Of course you can go material with aims, but what costs money continues to cost money. You’ll just work to maintain stuff that matters to others (for the most part). Above the material, what do you want to be known for? What’s you aim in life, because we only have one. What do you want to experience and learn? Who would you love to help?

If we replaced typical aims with aims around how we feel, how much we know or can learn, how much good we can do in the world we would all be richer and that richness is a wealth you can’t buy a car with, but you can’t lose it either.

The richest people I know have very little, love a lot, laugh more and see and listen to as much as possible.

This post is dedicate to Amy Purcell, who travelled with next to nothing, gave everything, lived fully and was the richest person in life and in soul that I ever met. RIP Gazelle x

Are we comfortable with female success?

We are all screaming out for more women in the workplace, more women in the boardroom, for glass ceilings to be shattered and for more women to be on equal footing, at ‘the table’ with the same opportunities to succeed.

But it’s no secret that the above does not exist currently! Just visit ICAEW.com and read the depressing figures; there are only 6 female CEOs in the top 100 UK businesss. Of these 6, only 1 woman features in the 25 highest paid CEOs and collectively they only account for 4.2% of the total salaries awarded to the FTSE100 CEOs. Hello glass ceiling & gender pay gap.

You can also look up that there are 2825 billionaires in the world, and only 11.9% of those are women. Hello imbalance!

And did you know only 5% of world leaders are female?! Hello again glass ceiling!

So, what’s going wrong?

Well, I think the Independent shone a tiny light on this issue in November 2020 when they published an article talking about the fact it looks like we are still not comfortable with confident women (article). The article talked about a talented female contestant on Strictly Come Dancing that just couldn’t capture ‘the heart of the nation’. The article goes on to compare the contestant to previous contestants; the confident males go on to capture hearts, and the confident ladies….not so much.

This week I saw another microcosm of this when LinkedIn exploded over CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd becoming Billionaire number 2826 at just 31 as she took Bumble public. Whitney signed her final document with confetti in the air and holding her baby. WHAT. AN. IMAGE.

To my utter surprise she was attacked in a big way; comments included we were celebrating mediocracy, we should all look into her background, she didn’t deserve it, she already had money, holding her baby was not something to celebrate……on and on it went.

We just saw Tom Blomfield, the CEO of Monzo step down as he doesn’t get a thrill out of the ‘next phase’ of going from big to massive, nor the part where he has to take the business public. He also shared that COVID crashed his mental health and he needed to recover. We celebrated his openness and vulnerability. Would we have felt the same if he were female? I don’t think so, but I digress.

The new Monzo CEO WILL inevitably take the business public and the employees and others will clap, no?

Will we say ‘but he didn’t do the big part’, ‘but he didn’t start it’, ‘what was his role’, ‘he didn’t do that alone’..no, we won’t. We won’t question if he deserves it (whatever ‘it’ is; the money, the likes, the success, the recognition etc). We’ll just scroll past it with total ambivalence because we are used to seeing men succeed.

But Whitney?! She got ‘Who helped her’, ‘what did she do’, ‘research her’, ‘why is she holding her child’, ‘she doesn’t deserve it’ (whatever ‘it’ is).

The difference in our responses is unconscious (or sometimes conscious) gender bias. And to tackle this we need to celebrate and normalise the acts and the images of women succeeding, smashing their goals, getting that job, being the first to do something and paving the way for others.

So, the image of Whitney I celebrate! Go Whitney, rocking your goals and that jacket!!

And to aid this journey further we also need to ask ourselves and our leaders and CEOs; what are we doing to truly tackle gender pay gap? how are we making room for women? how are we addressing discrimination of any type in the workplace? how are you showcasing female success? what have you changed about your language, adverts and recruitment processes to remove unconscious bias? have you stopped asking women (or anyone) what they currently earn when you recruit them? how are you inspiring the next generation of women?

Because without these questions, and the subsequent actions, there is no progression.

LGBT+ History Month

I am a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community, I am a female leader and I have worked in male dominated industries for nearly 20 years. My feeling towards these facts on a day to day basis, total and utter ambivalence. I’m a person, not a label. I am just Crystal.

But, I know my ability to feel this way is a) a privilege fought for by many for many years, and b) the result of a progression in tolerance (based on my experience), particularly over the last 10yrs. A huge key to b) is more and more people are talking about and normalising difference and members of diversity groups are coaching, standing up and being role models for those that don’t yet have a voice.

I recently used a wine analogy when coaching someone, it made them cringe and laugh so much that they said I had to share it. So, here I am. But before I start, I want to say I truly believe real life lessons can be learnt over laughs; it doesn’t have to be oppressive or heavy, it just has to be real.

My analogy

We are all like bottles of wine, take the labels off and what do you have? JUST WINE!

The analogy is in the context of diversity, particularly sexuality and race. It’s fairly simple and innocuous, right?! We are all just people when we drop the label game.

But I took this further; I genuinely believe, in the context of equality and diversity, we treat wine with more dignity and respect than people. If that sounds crazy then strap in my friend!

The Conversation

Do we all like different wine?

Yes, of course. It would be really strange to all like the same wine, duh!

Does anyone care that we all like different wine?


If your friend came to dinner with you and your partner, and they drank a different wine to you, how much thought would you give to it?


Would you ask why they like that wine?


Would you ask if they’d ever tried your wine, or (worse), say the only reason they like that wine is because you haven’t had a good wine of your variety?

Absolutely not!

Would you ask if they think they’ll ever drink another type of wine again?

No, because that would be weird!

If your friend turned up for a coffee and told you they went to a party and they came came across this incredible wine, it was not a wine they had ever considered or tried but they just clicked and the pairing was incredible. Would you assume or ask if they thought it was a phase? Or ask about the characteristics of the wine?

No, why would anyone care? They like a wine, so what!

If you held a dinner party and your friend turned up with red wine, would you spend all evening telling your friend all about who you knew that also drank red? Or tell them that you once tried a red wine at university but it wasn’t for you, but that loads of your friends and your uncle Jeff drank red wine?

Er, of course no. That literally sounds insane. (as a reader I really hope you are laughing about now, because we were)

If you went into a shop to buy the wine, would you shout at the other bottles because they are not ones that you like?

No way. That would be utterly insane! (more laughter at the vision of a person shouting at supermarket shelves ‘I don’t like Rioja’)

But how can you not care?? Some wines are different colours, shades and depths…all with their own tones and characteristics! And they come from different countries and are all created in different environments, using different methods and all have different histories and backgrounds. THE HORROR!

No one cares about that stuff, you just pick the wine you love and go homeThere’s a wine for everyone, everyone has different taste, that’s just normal.

What if I told you I’ve personally had all of those, and they are the ‘less heavy’ ones you get used to. This is the norm for many people of in the LGBTQ+ and other diversity groups?

Really?!……incredulous silence


We Give More Room To Wine Than Humans

So you see, we give more respect and make more room in the world for inanimate bottles of wine, that don’t have hearts, than we do humans. How crazy is that?!

So, next time someone tells you they have different taste to you, give it the same respect and consideration as wine. And if you have a question, hopefully it’s nothing to do with the label!

Because after all, we are all like bottles of wine, remove the labels and what do you have – JUST PEOPLE.