Success is an inside job

I returned to the room and stood by the door, surveying my surroundings. I was so engrossed in the moment and the excitement that I had no idea where I left my brand-new sparkly handbag.

The mix of music and chatter from guests, still seated at tables dotted around the room, was captivating. Adrenalin was rushing through my veins, and my heart had created a new rhythm.

What happened next was unexpected, and I had no idea it would turn into a defining moment. I will be forever grateful that the official photographer captured it, so it is more than just a memory.

Although I was aware of what was happening, I was oblivious to the people moving around me. Imagine my surprise when I looked up and saw a woman walking purposefully in my direction, beaming from ear to ear. The smile was so warm that I expected the person behind me to rush to greet her.

It was only when she put her arms around me and brought me in for the warmest embrace I have ever had, from a complete stranger, that the penny dropped, but I still didn’t know who she was.

It turns out the affectionate stranger was a British actress and screenwriter Dame Emma Thompson. She is regarded as one of the finest actresses of her generation, but I don’t remember ever seeing any of her films. The only connection I had with Emma was in that moment, and she didn’t seem to want to let go

Now as I look at the picture of that powerful embrace, I also remember the words that accompanied it. Emma said: “You are so inspirational; it is great to see real people win awards”.

We were at the Inspiration Awards 2023 at the Landmark Hotel, and earlier that evening, I had won the award for Most Inspirational Woman. I have won awards before, but this seemed extra special.

I had a second stroke in 2019 and have been living with retrograde amnesia (93% of my memories have been erased) ever since. Add facial blindness and cognitive impairment to the mix, and simply getting to the end of every day is an achievement.

I have heard ‘Inspirational’ used before. In fact, it is the most used adjective to describe me, but it was this moment that forced me to really look at myself and see what seemed so obvious to the outside world.

My success is not the award or those affirming words from a stranger. It is a fact that since the stroke, I have risen to any challenge thrown my way with boldness, courage and resilience, armed with only a smile and the determination to support and encourage others.

Fuelled by Faith, I believe that if we are breathing, everything is still possible, and I am walking my talk despite the impairment strokes have left in their wake.

Success is personal, and we need to define it for ourselves. It is so much more than money or the opinion of others. I believe that success must be reached internally before it can ever be experienced externally.

Your success is a story, your story lives well on the inside. Tell it well on the outside, and people will pull up a chair to listen.

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