I Don’t Know What I’m Doing Either: How Do You Handle Success?

Real talk advice from entrepreneur Erin Yogasundram

by Erin Yogasundram

Hi! I’m Erin. I’m 25, and I live in Los Angeles. I started Shop Jeen, an online retailer, in my dorm room when I was 20. We bootstrapped the company to do millions in sales, and boast over 500k followers across social channels. I learned a ton from my experience, but just like you (and everyone else), I’m still trying to figure life out. But even though I don’t know everything (no one does!), I have lots of experiences to share and resources to provide—all things that I didn’t have when I started out, and all things I’m hoping will inspire you. Feel free to tweet me questions @ERINJEEN and maybe we’ll choose your question for NYLON!

It’s weird to describe myself as successful because every day is still a struggle to move forward in the direction I want to be going. I think many people who are perceived by the public as successful know what I'm talking about. This raises the question, “At what point in our careers are we successful and how is that determined?" I have trouble paying my rent some months and have had some embarrassing card-declining moments, like at the Burger King in LAX for a $9 meal or while getting a MetroCard for the train. But I still have an amazing set of accomplishments under my belt. So maybe I am successful? Or would I be truly successful when I feel as though I have accomplished my life mission, or have a certain amount of money in the bank? There is a constant internal struggle going on. 

Throughout the day, I can go through a wave of emotions, from feeling invincible to feeling worthless, back to invincible… then worthless again! We often forget to stop and smell the roses when it feels like we are drowning in bullshit. When I have a very stressful day, full of hurdles and obstacles and continuous self-doubt, I feel as though I took one step forward and 10 steps back. But there is so much beauty in taking just one step forward. I don't know if I’m successful, but I know I am onto something and have done some cool stuff. 

Many people use the public's perception of them to determine their worth. There is a lot of flexing going on all over social media timelines, radio waves, magazines, to give the illusion of success. But few people are actually discussing what really goes on behind the scenes and the actual blood, sweat, and tears that go into creating success. When hiring for Shop Jeen, I remember how amazed some new employees were at the concept of actually doing work. No, we don’t just put stickers on notebooks and play dress-up all day! Watching how misunderstood our brand was, I began to make it a point to be as open and transparent as possible about the good, the bad, and the ugly. 

I soon found that level of vulnerability was readily accepted rather than frowned upon. People could relate to the struggles and enjoyed a break from the big-dick competition everyone seems to be running on social media, showing off their money, jewelry, cars, and travels. Social media has really warped our idea of success, which has put an insane amount of pressure on us all to try and achieve unhealthy growth, for the sake of trying to keep up with the Joneses. Fuck the Joneses! Craft your own idea of what success means to you, and try to block out any outside influence. 

Even at this point in my career, I’m still trying to define my idea of success. When I was drunk one night, I got “suffering from success” tattooed on my arm in the most visible spot. The next morning I was like, “FUCK… that’s so tacky and pretentious, and who am I to say I am successful?” But when I really think about it, there’s deep meaning behind this phrase, and it is relevant to me and important to my life journey, and, you know what, I'm not embarrassed of this tattoo anymore. I am deemed successful by many (including the lovely lady who asked this question), but I have gone through periods of suffering at the hands of and for my success. Okay, so I guess I am successful. And I deserve to label myself as such. I have worked hard to achieve goals for myself and others, and I should own it. I am successful! Looking back on my life, I am proud of what I have accomplished and my journey. Though not always sparkly and glittery, everything is still beautiful, even in its darkest moments.