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November 25 marked five months at my job. It’s a weird feeling; it’s two months longer than any of my previous summer jobs and it’s still strange knowing that I won’t be going back to school anytime soon. That being said, I have learned a lot in these five months.

First, I have learned to be patient. At a big financial institution like mine, we don’t always move the quickest (the common joke around the office is we are like the government). It can take a while to get things done, get the proper approval, or gain access to a much needed system. At first this really frustrated me because I wanted to just GO! Pretty quickly, I realized that I could either continue to get annoyed with the system (which would accomplish nothing) or control what I could on my end and learn patience. I chose the second, and this has made work a lot less frustrating.

I have also learned to be patient with the responsibilities and work given to me. I am the youngest in the office, just out of college, and like I stated above, I want to GO! I want to take on as much as I can, move at 100 mph, and solve the financial crisis (ok, so that might be a bit much). You get my point though- I am eager to do a lot. Well, like my first point, it takes a while to really get going. For example, it’s hard to do work when you don’t have access to the systems needed to do the actual work. As a result, I have embraced patience and knowing that my time will come, just maybe not as fast as I thought.

Second, I have learned that if you want to be successful financially, you really need to own a business. Through analyzing different companies and meeting with business owners, I have found out that is definitely where the money is at. Little companies that you usually wouldn’t think twice about often make millions of dollars a year for their owners. Yes, it is certainly riskier to go out on your own, but the rewards are also significantly higher.

Third, and this is a bit obvious, but my financial knowledge has increased significantly. Through 6 weeks of orientation and training in New York City, time spent analyzing different companies, my day to day observations, learning what banks look for in companies, and finally through speaking with successful businesses, I have learned a lot about accounting, how to run a business, management tips and techniques, and banking in general. I know this will serve me well down the road, no matter where life takes me.

Fourth, and most importantly, I have and still am learning to define and redefine what it means to me to be successful. This is something I have been thinking about lately. Now that I am working full time, I actually have some money for the first time in my life. I am constantly surrounded by “successful” in the traditional, financial/material sense of the word. However, I have realized that this will not bring you happiness by any means. Sure, money is nice and can make life easier, but it will never replace things like good friends and family. So from that standpoint, I’m really understanding that the successful life the media constantly portrays is a bit of a sham; yes, money and things would be great to have, but if that’s all I have, then it’s a pretty empty life.

The hard part is to really live this and believe this. We are bombarded by these media messages about what’s “important” in life countless times per day, 365 days a year. It is difficult to push back against the machine of money and materialism and seek what’s truly important.

Yesterday, I read a good article  about how an independent filmmaker named Kerrin Sheldon defines his own success. He defines his success as three things: doing something that he loves, having a support system that encourages him to continue to follow his passions, and the ability to have the freedom to pursue what he loves. First off, I think this is a pretty good definition of success. For Kerrin, success isn’t all the money in the world, but the opportunity to do what he loves with the people he loves. Second, and I think this is the bigger point, Kerrin has in fact created his own definition of success. He has realized what is important in life for him, and he is pursuing it wholeheartedly. He doesn’t let outside influences and others tell him what he should be doing or decide what’s important. He controls his thoughts and successes, and this has made Kerrin a happy person. He writes that “with the support of my family and friends, I know success will come because, for me, it’s already here.”

I am still figuring out what my own version of success is. I know it’s going to be a journey and won’t happen overnight, but I know that I will define it myself and not let others or the media decide it for me.

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