self-care

3 Foolproof Ways to Avoid Burnout at the End of the Year

Are you struggling with burnout as we come to the end of the year? I was, until very recently. I think it's pretty common, and probably one reason we look forward to the holidays—we can take a few days off without any guilt.

Burnout is an ugly monster. At the very least, it can slow us down and waste our time. At most, we can become unrecognizable. Tired, cranky, disinterested, shells of ourselves. I also struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder, so I know that as much as I love this time of year, it has other hazards as well.

But I've got a business to run and a job to do, and I know you can relate. I only have the "luxury" of slowing down so much before everything is completely disrupted. So, what do we do? How do we cope? Do we just run headlong into the holidays, hoping that will save us? I don't think so, since most of us arrive on January 2nd's doorstep with that feeling of "needing a vacation from our vacation." 

In my past and recent experience, I think there might be a couple of other solutions we can turn to so that burnout doesn't get the best of us.

3 Fool Proof Ways to Avoid Burnout at the End of the Year

REGULAR SELF-CARE PREVENTS BURNOUT

This solution is likely the most obvious answer to you. It's tossed around a lot, especially at the beginning and end of the year. However, in last week's post from my friend, Daron, he points out that self-care is not something to be pursued when you're at the end of your rope. It's to be practiced regularly, throughout the year, so that you don't find yourself a frazzled lump of a person in the fetal position on the floor. (<-- speaking from experience)

I'm certainly not perfect at it, but here's what it looks like for me.

  • Monthly massages. These actually started as a result of some back issues, so it's more of a therapeutic massage, but I get them regularly, even when I'm not having other problems.

  • Travel. I love travel so much. It's life-giving to me. But since I was getting my business off the ground this year, I traveled much less than usual. And boy, did I feel it! I had the opportunity to housesit right before Thanksgiving in the North Georgia mountains for a few days, and just that short time and distance away did wonders for me.

  • Retreats. My goal is to take short, quarterly retreats. For the last two years, I've taken an annual retreat in January, and will be doing so again. But this year, I decided to make them quarterly. I squeezed in two away from home this year (January and March), one in a co-working space (August), and one at home (November). All of these were extremely beneficial, and helped me refocus on work and life.

  • Friends. I have amazing friends, and I'm sure you do too. But with life and work, most of them having kids, and my tendency to be a hermit, I see them far less than I'd like. However, I notice that when I do get together with friends, my days and weeks are better. So, I try and schedule to see friends a few times per month.

  • Walks. I live near a beautiful trail, and I love to get out there and take a walk. Even though I usually listen to business podcasts while I walk, it still does my heart good to be in a natural setting.

These may, or may not, resonate with you. We're all different. They key is to find things you love, and make them a part of your regular schedule. The trick in executing them is to actually put them on your calendar. Good intentions only get you so far, but we often live according to our calendars.

I put my retreat dates on my calendar at the beginning of the year. I schedule my massages a month in advance. My travel is often planned weeks or months ahead too. So, prioritize your self-care throughout the year to avoid burnout at the end.

Accountability partner/peer group

I've had mentors for years, and value them immensely. But this year was the first time I've ever had an accountability partner. I can honestly say it was one of the best things I did for myself and my business this year.

You can do this one-on-one, or with a small group of people. It can be formal, or less so, according to your preferences. I began with a single partner, but we are actually expanding it to a small group of women next year, and are pretty excited about it. 

Depending on your role at your nonprofit or social enterprise, you may already have one or more co-workers that you can confide in, or collude with. That's important, for sure. However, just having someone to gripe and gossip with isn't enough. The accountability piece is vital. You need someone to encourage you, to push you to be better, and to be a sounding board when needed. 

This is especially important for those in leadership positions where there are likely less options for peer-to-peer relationships. So, having someone outside of the organization to be that person is crucial. 

Accountability partners help each other get things done. We motivate one another, and sometimes, we just listen to one another. We all have good days and bad days in lives and in business, and it's a beautiful thing to have someone to help get you through them. Sure, you also have co-workers, roommates, spouses, etc, that can do that as well, but accountability partners relate differently because they should hold a similar position or responsibilities, and have similar goals. They serve a special purpose.

Note: For you introverts out there (my people!), having an accountability partner or peer group is an excellent solution for you too. They're limited in size, so not overwhelming, and we tend to function mostly inside our heads, so we need others to gain more perspective. This solution could be huge for you, so don't skip over it!

Habits/Routines

I'll be honest, this one totally snuck up on me in the past week. I would have never guessed that habits and routines could help fight burnout. And you may be skeptical as well, but hang with me.

Though I am an INFJ (with sometimes some strong emphasis on the J), I still fight the monotony of habits and routines. There are some things I still want to be flexible. In fact, have always liked freelancing for the fact that it changes. I get bored easily, so predictability isn't always my friend.

However, for the past couple of weeks I've been prepping for January. I want to get a strong start, and that means I lay the foundation now. So, I've been participating in some online business challenges to accomplish short-term goals. 

Through the posts, videos, and webinars in these challenges, the hosts have been talking about how successful people have strong morning and nighttime routines, as well as daily habits. The importance of these things is that they will carry you through when the motivation wanes.

We all start the New Year with goals and resolutions, only to wave bye bye to them a few weeks later. And that's often because we didn't build in the habits that would get us to the finish line.

So, I've been thinking a lot about this over the past week or so. When I'm not stressed and in a time crunch, I like to start my day with the Calm meditation app, 5-Minute Journal, and maybe Blinkist. But when I am stressed or feel like I have no time, I skip all of this by waking up and reaching for my phone so that I can check my email. Sound familiar?

I was on several, big deadlines prior to Thanksgiving, and I was stressed. I started feeling burnout creeping in. Luckily, I had that little trip, and that helped, but the beginning of December has been hard again.

So this week, I decided to go back to that slower morning routine that I enjoyed, even though I didn't feel like I had the time. I wasn't waiting for January. I even added in a five-minute yoga video from YouTube. And you know what? It helped my mindset and that has trickled through my day. I also looked at my Calm app, and it showed that I'd skipped all of November. Coincidence? I think not.

These sort of habits and routines also have strong ties to self-care. However, there are many other habits and routines you could choose, such as exercise, eating healthy, taking a nap, focusing on big tasks in the morning, only having meetings after lunch, checking email only twice per day, and many other things. By making any of them a regular part of your life, you are ensuring that you keep functioning and taking care of yourself and your work when times get hard. And this, friends, keeps burnout at bay.

What do you do to combat burnout? I'd love to hear!



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Burnout is an ugly monster. At the very least, it can slow us down and waste our time. At most, we can become unrecognizable. Tired, cranky, disinterested, shells of ourselves. So, what do we do? How do we cope? Do we just run headlong into the holidays, hoping that will save us? In my past and recent experience, I think there might be a couple of other solutions we can turn to so that burnout doesn't get the best of us.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


How to Make Self-Care Regular and Intentional

Today's guest post comes from Daron Dickens, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and one of my bestest friends for the past 15+ years. He's one of the smartest people I know, and I credit Daron with helping me stay sane and mentally healthy (depending on who you ask, I guess).

While this is often "the most wonderful time of the year," it can also be extremely difficult for a number of reasons. I think it's hard for pretty much everyone to invest in self-care, but as we are people who value purpose over profit, I think it's even harder. There's more on the line, and getting in additional sales and donations during the holidays is a lot of pressure, especially when you're trying to filter those funds into a cause. I want your nonprofit or social enterprise to flourish, but not at the sake of your health.

So, I wanted Daron to share some practical tips for managing self-care. I hope you find them helpful!

How to Make Self-Care Regular and Intentional

It Wasn't In My Plan

My sophomore year in college was the first time I experienced it. I had begun my college career two years prior with a solid plan. I took AP and college classes in high school, and because of that, I had been able to enter college as a sophomore.

I had a plan, I had a mission, and I was on target.

My schedule was perfectly designed to fit the maximum allowable number of class hours per semester in order to attack my double major. All of this while working a part-time job to put myself through school, and rock a rich social life. My schedule was delicately designed with activities back to back to back. I want to let you know—I was killing it! That’s when it happened...

Something unexpected.

What was that unexpected thing? Well, it’s actually incidental to the story. It’s not what happened, it’s the fact that it was unexpected. That’s all it took. I was kicking butt and taking names. Everything was working perfectly. It only took one unexpected thing, a bump in the road with no way to see it coming or prepare, to set the whole thing on fire. But more about the fire in a minute.

As I said, I was in my sophomore year in college and killing it when the unexpected happened. Way back, when people didn’t have their own personal computers, there was an ancient center where everyone would gather: The Computer Lab. This was a place I knew well, especially as I worked on a particular project for my Intro to Psychology class.

For this particular class our entire grade rested on one project that was due the last day of class. The assignment was to put together a book filled with our typed notes from the class, three book reviews in the field, our philosophy of a health family, and four essays from a list of topics. It was quite an undertaking, and took the whole semester to complete.

The only problem was some "Jimmy Jack" (my word for idiot) loaded a computer virus onto the computers in the lab which turned words into random symbols from the oldest document you’d opened to the newest. So most of my book was destroyed by the end of the semester before I discovered it. I had to do the whole thing over.

I was taking summer school (I told you I was killing it), upping the hours of my job for the summer, and living across the street with my roommate’s family. Now I had to fit in time to go to the computer lab to redo the massive project per my teacher’s extension.

Each day, I would go to class from 8:00 a.m. until noon, eat my lunch from 12:00 to 12:30 p.m., slave over the computer in the lab from 12:30 to 3:00 p.m., come home to change for work from 3:00 to 3:30 p.m., then go to my job from 4:00 until about 10:30 p.m. It was that schedule that finally did me in.

My Wake-Up Call

It happened when I came home to change for work after the computer lab. I “woke up” to find myself sitting on the bed with my face four inches from a blank wall—just staring at it. I looked at the clock and realized that I’d been like that for about half an hour. I was late for work. I couldn’t even remember sitting on the bed, but there I was, a walking zombie. My brain was done.

That was the first time my brain hijacked my body, but it certainly wasn’t the last time. This is the natural result of not investing in self-care. As my friend, Hal Runkel, wrote in his book, ScreamFree Parenting:

“If you do not take intentional retreats, you will take unintentional escapes.”

It’s just how your brain works. A retreat is something that you do intentionally. It’s a backing up and regrouping so that you can go and fight again another day. An escape is completely disengaging. The problem with an escape is everything that you escaped from is still waiting on you when you return. Rather than being recharged and ready to go fight again, you’re in the exact same spot that you started.

 

A Little About Retreats

Many of us, especially those who are self-employed or in cause-focused organizations, have trouble even thinking about taking a retreat, let alone identifying when they’re needed. Instead of retreating, we go on vacation, completely exhausted. If this vacation actually involved rest, we might be able to get back, but only to zero.

I’m here to help. I'll start with the most important foundational factor: how to determine you need a retreat.

It's not when you're exhausted.

It is not when you are stressed beyond the norm.

It is not even after a big project.

All of those depend on the environment and the situation you are in. To truly utilize self-care, it must not be dependent on your situation. Situations change wildly, your health should not.

It’s the major problem with finding time to care for ourselves . . . there is never time. There will always be more things to do than time to do them in. Unexpected things are not unexpected because they happen routinely.

Here's a simple framework for you to implement essential self-care so that you can take intentional retreats rather than finding yourself staring at a wall for half an hour in an unintentional escape.

Most of us do not have unlimited resources, whether that is time, energy, or other resources like money. So, it’s important to think in terms of a realistic lifestyle. You don’t have to think about a three-month unpaid sabbatical or that perfect vacation on the beach. Everything you do for self-care doesn’t have to be the same. Obviously, different activities provide different amounts of rest and recuperation. The only practical way to work in your normal schedule is by spreading out elements of self-care strategically. We call this “Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly.”


WEEKLY

This is something that you do each week that is low-key and low maintenance, but life-giving. It’s not limited to only once a week, but it needs to happen at least once a week. This can be as simple as working out, getting a massage, or just lounging on the couch watching football or your favorite HGTV show. This is the time you’re going to give yourself permission to rest and to renew on a small scale each week. Whatever that looks like to you.

 

MONTHLY

This is something that might be a little more involved. This might be something that you would need to hire a babysitter for if you have kids or schedule further in advance. It’s something that might take a whole day or many hours. This might be the date night with your spouse. This might be going to an event that brings life to you like a concert or a movie opening or a church event. This is more high-maintenance than weekly, but not a break-the-bank kind of activity. This is something that you could do very easily within your budget but only in a monthly timeframe.

 

QUARTLY

This is where you’re going to go all out. This doesn’t have to be extravagant or expensive, but it is going to be a lot more involved than something you can do on a weekly basis. This might be a retreat, conference, a staycation where you go somewhere void of electronics, or just simply a weekend without the kids where you give yourself permission to completely veg out the whole weekend.

 

Final Self-Care Tips

There is one pothole here that you want to avoid. The name of the game on your quarterly event is to RENEW. Often people use this time to do something exciting or fun that they have always wanted to do. This is how we often do a vacation. If you're anything like me, I often need a vacation to recoup from the vacation! So, be careful that your objective is relaxation and recuperation. That is the win.

This is something that you’re probably going to have to plan well in advance and, like I said, you’re only able to do once-in-a-while. Most likely you won’t do the same thing each quarter. The different quarters just give you four, different types of things that you can do once a year. This will give you plenty of time to plan and to budget both your time and money.

Now the hard part: actually planning things out. I find that many people think this is a great idea, but they spend all of their time thinking about what they want to do quarterly. My advice is to get out your calendar and reserve the time for these breaks right now. It will force you to plan things out rather than keep waiting until the time magically appears, or you think of the perfect activity.

The time will not magically appear. This is something that you have to value just as much as your work, your family, or your personal health. If you do, self-care can be the thing that is not an ER to your crisis, but the apple a day that will keep the doctor away in the first place.

PS: If you haven't read them yet, Daron also recommends Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung and Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. I totally second both of these!


Daron Dickens, Marriage and Family Therapist

Daron Dickens is a Marriage and Family Therapist who has practiced for 18 years. He also previously served as a pastor for 20 years. He lives in Clarksville, Tennessee, with his wife, Margaret, and his sons, Truman and Carter. He loves pie, reading, coffee, and everything baseball.

You can find him on:



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How to determine you need a retreat: It's not when you're exhausted. It is not when you are stressed beyond the norm. It is not even after a big project.

Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


3 Tips for Finding a Personal Mentor

Ever wish you could borrow from someone's experience? 

Would you like to bounce ideas off of someone with greater expertise?

Do you need feedback from a professional in your field?

Could you use some encouragement and support from someone who's "been there?"

3 Tips for Finding a Personal Mentor

These are the kind of perks you get by having a mentor. (Plus, so much more!)

It really doesn't matter what kind of role you fill at your organization. Anyone from the founder to the part-time assistant can benefit from a mentor, because if you care about what you do (and I know you do!), you want to do it better.

I've had the benefit of having four official mentors during my life. The first two were spiritual mentors. The third is still currently my all-around mentor. And the fourth is new. She serves as a business mentor since launching Signify was a completely new endeavor with a lot of unique, and exciting, challenges.

My guess is that one of these might be of interest to you as well. I know many of us are in Facebook Groups, signed up for online courses, and attend networking groups because we want to learn from successful people. And whether you want to entirely emulate them or just pick up a few pointers in a specific area, mentors are one of the best ways to make this happen. And guess what—the rules are up to the two of you!

I wanted to share this guest post with you because I've been deeply appreciative of having caring mentors over the years, and I've also been asked about how I found my mentors. I'd love for you to have the same opportunity, whether it comes along naturally, or you give it a little nudge.

Read My 3 Tips for Finding a Personal Mentor.

I also talk extensively about mentors here:

The Key to Your Success May Be Staring You In The Face—Literally (blog post)

How to Find a Mentor When You’re a Freelancer or Entrepreneur (interview by The Penny Hoarder)

Let me know how it goes!

PS: I use the term "personal" mentor just to define a one-on-one relationship, not the type of mentoring. It's up to you to decide!



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It really doesn't matter what kind of role you fill at your organization. Anyone from the founder to the part-time assistant can benefit from a mentor, because if you care about what you do (and I know you do!), you want to do it better.

Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


The Impact of Planning a Personal Retreat

Continuing along last week's self-care theme of work/life balance being a myth, I wanted to point you to a guest post I wrote recently for the Yellow Conference on "The Impact of Planning a Personal Retreat." Now that we're entering the second quarter of 2017, I know I find myself needing to reevaluate my goals for the year, as well as the work I've done so far.

I thought, a retreat wasn’t something "regular" people didbut there I found myself.

Depending on the seasons in which your organization operates, you may even already be approaching burnout. Don't let it happen! Please take an opportunity to get away and reflect on the first quarter's progress, your role, and your plans for the next eight months.

Retreats differ from vacations because they have a purpose other than "relaxing." When I plan a retreat, I usually have a couple of large goals in mind that need to be accomplished outside of my normal environment.

And retreats, whether taken by yourself or as a team, can be invaluable for gaining clarity and perspective. 

I believe those who lead cause-focused organizations can easily reach burnout or become bogged down by the mission because of the nature of the work. True, this can happen to anyone, anywhere, but when your nonprofit or business exists to solve a social problem, the work feels more urgent. And often, you know the faces of those in need. Therefore, it's difficult to take a step back, no matter how necessary it may seem.

However, it's often when you bravely set aside the time for yourself, you can actually recharge and come back to the immediate pressures more equipped and able to tackle the tasks at hand. That is something you won't regret.

Learn more about my experience with a personal retreat, as well as a few tips for planning your own:

THE IMPACT OF PLANNING A PERSONAL RETREAT.

And, funny enough, I wrote along the same theme for a different color. Here are some more tips on how to make retreats a priority as well as how to actually fit them into your schedule in this guest post for Orange Leaders.

PLANNING A PERSONAL RETREAT

Or, if you prefer to watch a video with tips and advice, check out this Facebook Live from me:

IT’S TIME TO CONSIDER A BUSINESS OR PERSONAL RETREAT



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I thought, a retreat wasn’t something "regular" people did—but there I found myself.

Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


Work/Life Balance is a Myth

Let me say it again: Work/Life balance is a myth.

Can I get an amen?

Whether you're a solopreneur, a small business owner or employee, a full-time volunteer, or the head of a multi-national corporation, you've been in search of this "white whale" for too long. And, friends, I'm here to tell you that it doesn't exist.

Work/life balance is a myth. However, work/life rhythm is guaranteed.

You've known this truth in your heart, but for so long, you dreamed of finding it—maybe at the end of the rainbow. It's kept you awake at night. You could even swear that you once met someone who said their cousin found it for a short-time, but then lost it. You've listened to podcasts, read books, joined groups, and prayed really hard, but that elusive work/life balance has continued to evade you.

Is there no hope?

Fear not. There is another . . .

 

Introducing: RHYTHM

I was introduced to this concept several years ago at a conference. I wish I could remember who taught it, because he/she has improved my life immensely with this idea, but sadly, I do not know who to credit.

The crux of the matter is that we can never achieve work/life balance. One will always be in conflict with the other. Despite our best efforts, it's a constant see-saw effect, and many of us tend to dip to the work side, even with our intense desire for the opposite. 

Then comes along the notion of rhythm. According to our friends at Merriam-Webster, rhythm is "movement, fluctuation, or variation marked by the regular recurrence or natural flow of related elements." 

I love the mental images this definition projects. I picture ocean waves. I find it relaxing, and that in itself is enough to make me chase this notion.

Think about it. When you consider the idea of "work/life rhythm," you are allowing for what is actually possible. And this means there is hope! 

The most basic approach is one you're probably already familiar with, and that is thinking about life in the form of seasons. By reframing your time this way, you intuitively understand that there is a beginning and end to the periods of stress and madness.

Rhythm in Work

These are the seasons we're probably more familiar with. And I'm in one of those right now. I've been up late most nights and on the weekends trying to catch up on client and personal work because I was down with the flu for a couple of weeks. So, I've been working my tail off to keep my head above water, and feel like I'm back up to speed on what I need to be doing. It's an effort to become more proactive than reactive. I'm not finished with this season yet, but I think I will be soon.

Obviously, some of these seasons last longer than others. Maybe you're in event planning mode. Maybe you have a launch right around the corner. Maybe you just had a staffer leave. Or maybe it's just one of the crazy times of year for your business. Inevitably, it happens.

The point is to hunker down, work hard, and make the best of it. No, it probably won't be fun. But it also won't last forever. The wave is crashing on the shore all around you right now, but there will come a time when it rolls back off the sand. You can do this!

 

Rhythm in Life

These are the seasons when we have more time for friends and family. We take vacations. We leave the office a little early. We go to the movies. We're having a lot more fun. And honestly, these are the times we wish could last a lot longer than they do.

But, alas, it's only a season. Before we know it, our calendars and To Do lists will be full, and our attention will be pulled in a million directions. The tide turns once again. I'm not trying to be a downer, but I am offering some perspective.

The point of this season is to, first and foremost, appreciate it! Whatever you do to show thankfulness, now's the time! Be grateful, and enjoy every minute of it. Next, consider what things you can do during this period of time to get ahead. Put systems in place, work ahead, sharpen your skills, develop your team, etc. There are numerous ways to utilize this time so that the hard seasons are a little bit easier. Use the margin in your schedule to your advantage. 

 

Applications

You may be wondering what this post is doing on a blog about marketing and communications for cause-focused organizations. Fair question. 

I think this post points to self-care, which I think is essential for everyone, but especially those who lead in, and serve at, nonprofits and purpose-drive for-profits. When we are led by a strong, social mission, it's easy to drive ourselves into the ground. After all, the work is never done. The champion of a cause can always do more. But the champion is also of little use to the cause if he/she is suffering from burnout.

I'm here to help you look and sound better to those who support, purchase from, or donate to your organization. I want you to get noticed and grow. And to do that, you need to make whatever season you're in right now work for you, not against you.

Work/life balance is a myth. However, work/life rhythm is guaranteed. 

If you redefine this concept in your mind, you'll be more equipped for your current season, better prepared for the next, and happier overall. 

Stop chasing the white whale, and instead, find your rhythm.

If you're reading this post, it likely means you're at a point where you're feeling overwhelmed. If so, I have more good news! I've outlined five things you can stop doing today to jumpstart your organization's marketing and communications. That's right—five things you can cut out this week to free up your time, energy and focus. What are you waiting for?



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Work/Life balance is a myth. Work/Life rhythm is a guarantee.

Kristi Porter, founder of www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.