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How Do You Know You’ve Made It? 8 Women Share A-Ha Moments

There’s more to life than chasing that next victory. Here’s how to savor your successes.

By Madeleine Kim

When was the last time you took a step back, looked at what you’d accomplished in life, and simply reveled in it? Thanks to the oft-cited hedonic treadmill—the idea that every goal reached gives way to yet another goal we feel we must achieve—many people find it difficult to enjoy their successes. But there’s more to life than chasing that next victory. Think of it this way: Working toward a goal without stopping to appreciate the moment once you reach it is like baking a cake and then throwing it away.

Our advice to you? Eat the cake (metaphorical and otherwise). Below, eight women share moments when they stopped to savor their successes—moments when they felt like they’d “made it.”

“In my early twenties, someone advised me to leave the company where I worked, because I would never be able to get the role I aspired to. Far from being disheartened, hearing this only made me more tenacious. I worked really hard, secured an opportunity at the head office, and eventually, achieved my dream role. 

The advice wasn’t great, but I don’t think there was any ill intent—they were just trying to manage my expectations, without considering my capabilities or drive. I often wonder how different my life would have been if I had heeded it.

Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. Dream stealers and naysayers are abundant when you’re scaling that ladder, but you create your own destiny. Take pleasure in proving them wrong!”

Jess Munday, Co-Founder and People and Culture Manager at Custom Neon

“The moment I felt like I ‘made it’ was fairly mundane—and actually, the mundanity was the point of it.

I’m the mother of a neurodiverse child, and when I was first introduced to the topics of autism, children’s mental health, and neurodiversity, I was fully overwhelmed. Having a reason for why my child was developing differently helped, but I realized that, on top of my already demanding workload, I had a steep learning curve to surmount. If I failed to keep up, my child’s health, wellness, and potential for leading a fulfilling life would be at stake (no pressure!).

I experienced times of intense anxiety, hoping I was doing enough. But as I became more involved in the neurodiverse community—working side by side with teachers and therapists, sharing stories and strategies with fellow parents—that anxiety began to melt.

One day, I looked up and realized I’d conquered what had once felt insurmountable: The most daunting challenge of my life now felt so normal, I could hardly imagine my life any other way.”

– Sara Alshamsi, Founder and COO of Big Heart Toys

“There have been several moments in my 25-year career when I have paused to reflect on how unexpectedly rewarding my journey has been. I’m from a small farming town in Georgia, and the first moment when I felt like I had ‘made it’ was when I received an offer to join Ford in 1997. No one in my family had ever made $48,000 in a single year. And there I was, Master’s degree in hand, about to do exactly that.

Another time I felt I had ‘made it’ was when I was promoted to Senior Manager (called LL4 within Ford) in 2013. For several years, I was the highest-ranking Black woman in Marketing. I had worked hard to get to that point, and while I knew that there were still glass ceilings to be broken, it felt amazing to be in the LL4 club.

My most recent ‘Girl, you have made it!’ moment was when I attended the 2022 Essence Black Women in Hollywood luncheon in Beverly Hills and was a presenter on stage with the Black Hollywood Elite. As I stood backstage, I looked to my left, and there was the beautiful Mimi Valdes. Then I turned to my right, and there stood Larenz Tate. I smiled as if all this was normal…but the small girl from Georgia inside me knew it was not!”

– Sondra Sutton Phung, Marketing General Manager at Ford

“In my role as a life coach, I have a flagship program called ‘Life Action Mastery,’ where I help my enrollees battle professional and personal challenges. One of my students reached out to me at the end of the program to share her experience. She had been suffering from severe alopecia and was recovering from clinical depression, which she confessed to me on the last day. She also struggled with poor self-image and self-love, evidence of which I noticed during our sessions. She said, ‘Thank you! I have found my confidence and my identity. Now, I truly love myself, even when I’m standing in front of my mirror, without my extensions. You’ve made me realize I’m more than my body.’

As a woman, I felt I had done my bit by helping another woman to break the shackles of patriarchal standards that judge her for her physical attributes, rather than a whole human being with dignified existence.” 

– Rakhi Oswal, Life Coach and Founder of Edrio

“A recent moment where I felt like I made it was when my four-old-daughter read me a book during her bedtime. Ever since we took her out of daycare due to Covid, when she was two and a half years old, I’ve felt guilty and worried that she wouldn’t develop and learn as much without being in a ‘school’ environment. She was already behind and not saying many words for her age.

My background is not in teaching or early childhood education, but I made it a personal goal to teach her how to read. I didn’t know the first thing about how to do this, so I ended up purchasing a course about how to teach kids to read. In addition to her favorite bedtime stories and the books we read throughout the day, we also rented and read 20 different children’s books from the library every week for over a year. 

It started with her reading a few words, and then sentences. One day, she said she wanted to read to me instead of the other way around. In that moment, I felt like she had finally reached a turning point.”

– Jacqueline Gilchrist, Founder of Mom Money Map

“I didn’t feel like I’d ‘made it’ when I sold my first online course, secured my first brand endorsement, or even signed the contract for my first book deal. Those accomplishments were exhilarating, because they took so much hard work and perseverance, but they all happened before I was fully committed to pursuing my life’s work. 

The moment I truly ‘made it’ as a business owner was when I told my day job that I would be dropping from full-time to part-time so I could focus on my quickly blossoming side hustle. It was the day I committed to pouring the majority of my time, energy, and focus into my passion—the work that gave my life meaning—that I finally felt like I was in full alignment with my values, unique gifts, and purpose. My business exploded immediately after I made enough space for it to grow and flourish.”

– Dr. Whitney Casares, MD, MPH, FAAP, Private Practice Pediatrician and Founder and CEO of the Modern Mamas Club

“As a minority woman working in a male-dominated tech space, I have had to endure many missed opportunities and being passed over for special projects.

The moment I felt like I truly ‘made it’ will always stand out: A male executive at the company asked me to begin a board meeting, because he believed in my solution for an issue that we were having in our labor department. Having my voice heard and being valued in a way that allowed me not just to communicate, but to contribute and take the lead on this issue, made me realize this was the only flavor of company culture I would ever accept.”

Tanya Williams, Director of Relations at Background Check Repair

“The moment I felt I ‘made it’ was when the team at Checkr and I successfully disrupted an industry (background screening) that hadn’t seen much innovation or change in years. But more importantly, we injected our mission of building a fairer future for everyone into our service. We created a product that was not only innovative and effective, but also ethical and responsible. That was a huge moment for me, because it meant that we were not only succeeding as a business, but also making a positive impact on the world.

I realized that my work was about so much more than me. It’s about the people and organizations I get to work with and support. Seeing other people ‘make it’ is what gets me up every day, eager to come to work.”

Linda Shaffer, Chief People and Operations Officer at Checkr

Written By

Madeleine Kim

Madeleine Kim is the Senior Brand Manager at M.M.LaFleur, where she started out as a stylist. She loves developing styling-focused content and creating newsletters that bring the M.M. community together.

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