My definition of “success” has changed a lot in the past 20 years. In 2001 I became Assistant to the the Executive Board of an American turnaround-CEO. I led important projects and worked closely with McKinsey consultants. I travelled around the world with the executive board and divisional directors. I was close to the power. I earned a good salary. A promising corporate career lay ahead of me.
From the outside, it appeared as though I’d realised my dream of success. The problem was: I was becoming more and more unhappy. In the end, I became very sick. There was no solidarity or togetherness. The open and subtle power struggles, political games, conceit, distrust and fixation toward bonuses confused me. They didn’t correspond with my values.
In spite of this, I continued playing their game. I was driven by immense willpower, perseverance and a desire for recognition. After 1.5 years, I had to admit to myself: the price that I had paid for this vision of success was too high. I suffered from terrible back pain; I had literally bent over backwards for my career. I had lost connection to myself, my potential and my inner power. Yet I met other’s expectations and ideas of success and performed highly.
To top it off: I was usually the only woman amongst powerful men. I didn’t really know the rules of their playing field. One of the divisional directors, who later became my mentor, said “I have no idea how you endured that – it was absolutely crazy!”