For a long time, I had a pretty narrow view of what success was. Back then, success was getting an excellence in an exam, or making the national rep team, or getting a leading role in the school production. I could pretty much fit what I considered success to be in a small, neat, tidy box.

And this included what it meant to be successful after high school.

I followed in the footsteps of many, many confused eighteen-year-olds before me and went to university to study something I wasn’t that passionate about. Why? Well, because that’s what I thought successful people did – went to university.

Fast forward a few years and I had finished uni and still had no idea what I really wanted to do with my life. That’s a pretty scary thing, especially when others around you are settling into careers they’re passionate about. This lead me to picking something that I thought could pass as successful, and my first job as an accountant.

It didn’t take long for this to unravel. I was miserable at work. I quit my shiny new job within six months and felt like I was back to square one. But something really good came out of this. I finally had the time I needed to consider what I should have considered during high school… what did I really want to do with my life?

And probably most crucially, along with this, I started to extend my definition of success.

For me, success was now centred strongly on happiness and impact. How could I be happy making a difference in the world? Before long I landed on tech; I’d always loved computers and the idea of crafting something to life through code. Using my new lens of success, I didn’t go back to university to learn software engineering; instead I look a 12- week course at Enspiral Dev Academy in Wellington.

And suddenly, for what felt like the first time, life was falling into place. It was smooth, it was enjoyable, it was almost… easy.

I landed my dream job as a web developer and started tinkering with an idea on the side. That idea, Banqer, has since become my full-time job as an international company that has grown to serve hundreds of thousands of kids and teachers who use our software. It’s seen me be named Young Māori Business Leader in 2018 and Young New Zealander of the Year this year.

And this all happened because I didn’t follow someone else’s definition of success but shaped my own.

What I’ve come to realise is that success isn’t the destination; it’s not something you can strive for. Success is a by-product of other things, so now instead I focus on those other things. I focus on being happy and making a difference in the world.

The best part of it is that everyone can be successful, because success is yours to define.



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