Defining Success: Liz Wilkes
Liz Wilkes is obsessed with helping companies and their people thrive. After struggling (and mostly failing) for years to maintain her own wellbeing while working demanding jobs, Liz discovered meditation and yoga as tools for helping achieve balance. She noticed that traditional corporate wellness programs were singularly focused on physical health and did not address employee wellbeing holistically. Interested in offering a more comprehensive solution, she founded Exubrancy in 2013. Exubrancy brings group fitness classes, meditation sessions, and massage therapy to hundreds of offices across the country.
An accomplished entrepreneur, Liz co-founded her first company, The Holiday Lighting Pros of Seattle, when she was 23. Liz holds a bachelors degree from Amherst College and an MBA from Columbia Business School. She resides on the Upper West Side of NYC. In her spare time Liz can be found at comedy shows, running in Central Park, and trying to learn to play the ukulele.
How do you define success?
For me success isn’t tied to specific outcomes – it’s a state of mind, a state of energized and joyful engagement. I find the more present I am with my team, the more engaged I am with my work, the more successful I feel. The more present I am with my partner, my family and my friends, the more engaged I am with their worlds, the more successful I feel.
How do you measure your own success?
When I was in high school I scooped ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s and had a B&J’s “If it’s not fun why do it?” bumper sticker on my car. In my early career I remember thinking back on that bumper sticker and feeling kind of ashamed. What a careless motto. What an unrealistic way to go through life. Life is hard. In recent years I’ve completely evolved past that way of thinking. My high school self had it right. Yes life is hard but there’s infinite joy and fun to be had, especially if you lean into challenges and try to reframe uncomfortable situations as opportunities to grow. If I ever doubt my own success, I check in with myself. Am I having fun? Ok. Proceed.
How does success feel?
As long as I know that I’m striving to evolve, giving as much love as I can to the people around me, and focusing on staying present in the moment, I always feel at least somewhat successful. But I’m very rarely aware of experiencing success in a given moment. I do have moments where I’m like wow I’m in a flow state. I’m in the zone. And that’s electrifying.
When was the last time you felt successful? What happened?
One of those “flowing” moments was this past week. I’d come from a particularly energizing meeting and was waiting for the subway. One of those subway drummers was drumming and I was looking around at all my fellow New Yorkers waiting for the train and just felt so connected and so lucky to be doing what I do in such an amazing city.
How do you celebrate your success?
I don’t see personal success as having an endpoint or even milestones, really, so I don’t exactly celebrate my own success. I do, however, reward myself in small ways. I try to be really kind to myself and attuned to what I need at various points to sustain exuberance and wellbeing. So if need to disconnect from work and reconnect with a friend, or get a massage, or skip an event that I think might be more draining than energizing, I can always justify it.
As I grow Exubrancy’s team I’m realizing how important celebrating team success is for building a great company culture. So I’m working on being more milestone-oriented, and celebrating accordingly.
What advice would you offer to someone who wants to be successful?
Do something you care deeply about, which may mean making a change ASAP.
Be kind, express gratitude and thanks often, and worry more about how much you’re giving than how much you’re getting.
Also, re-reading my responses, I’m realizing that one thing that I don’t really touch on is working hard. Work really, really hard. ☺