How far would you go for success

Written by Lana Weal on the 16th of November, 2018

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This is a guest post from Danielle Owen Whitford, founder and CEO of Pioneera – an AI platform that uses language and behaviour to predict and prevent workplace stress.

A former high-flying corporate executive with academic qualifications in communications and psychology, Danielle took the leap into startups with a view to changing her life and the lives of others.


I think the pressure we put on ourselves is much stronger than the pressure others put on us.

And it’s ultimately our responsibility to manage ourselves and how we behave.

We’re always learning

I’ve been pretty open about some of my lessons and challenges about burning out and the pressure to succeed.

And yet the more I write or talk about this, the less it seems clear to me.

Any number of commentators and experts will wax lyrical about balance, purpose, wellness and indeed I do the same on many occasions. But sometimes it’s not enough.

When push comes to shove, what do we choose and how far would we go?

“One of those busy weeks”

I ponder this as I sit on my lounge at 9.30pm writing this blog. This is the third night this week I’ve worked when I promised myself I wouldn’t do it. Of course, I justify that’s its a point in time and “I’m having one of those weeks”.

I find myself frequently “having those weeks” lately. Am I on the downhill slide again? Would I be willing to do that to succeed? Must I do that to succeed?

What am I willing to do to succeed?

Someone asked me today how much runway I had in the business before I had to pack it up and move on. And it’s a confronting question because we never want to think about walking away. It’s a great question, so we can plan for the future, but it also raises anxiety, doubt, impostor syndrome and I instantly felt the adrenaline flood my body.

Immediately my default position became work harder – NOW! I raced through my next meeting, raced back to my office with every intent to plough through things like a demon. However, as it happens, life intervened and I had two sick kids that needed me, so no ploughing was done.

My kids gave me the space to calm down and focus.

I felt the adrenaline leave my body as I prepared lunch and passed out panadol and water and focused on something other than myself and my potential failure.

The calm turned to clarity and I focused on the 3 things I needed to do today.

It was a fabulous example of when I needed to pull back because my mind had raced ahead with all the what ifs and none of the outcomes were good.

In the heat of the moment, it’s hard to stop yourself and take a breath.

So that is exactly why I started Pioneera – so the moment you need someone to say, “Hey, you OK? We’re there to help you”. That is what happened to me today in the most unexpected way. Nobody told me to work non-stop or to start to worry – I did it to myself.

The self-imposed pressure to keep going

I think the pressure we put on ourselves is much stronger than the pressure others put on us.

And it’s ultimately our responsibility to manage ourselves and how we behave.

I like to think I’m a work in progress. As I get close to closing my laptop, earlier than last night, I think that’s a win!!

So if you’re questioning how far you would and should go and you just don’t know which way to turn, I ask myself the same question I ask my kids when things are going south – is anybody bleeding?

And if the answer is no, then I can do it tomorrow.


Watch Episode 7 of the SheStarts documentary to see how far our startups take us: