How I Made It

3 things you're getting wrong about success, according to a millennial CEO: It’s not just about ‘money, control and power’

Photo courtesy of Alexandra Fine

Alexandra Fine is the CEO of a multimillion-dollar business — but most mornings, she doesn't feel successful.

Fine launched Dame, a sexual wellness brand, in 2014, when she was 26 years old. She and her co-founder Janet Lieberman, an MIT-trained mechanical engineer, wanted to design vibrators that could help bridge the "pleasure gap."

While Fine never dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur, she did know that she wanted to spend her career talking about sex. She got her master's degree in clinical psychology from Columbia University in 2011, and aspired to become a sex therapist. 

But after volunteering with Planned Parenthood and the Red Cross, Fine realized that she didn't want to just listen to the problems people had with their sex lives — she also wanted to give them tools that could help them be happier in the bedroom.

Fast forward 10 years and Dame has raised over $15 million in funding and sold over 1.6 million products, according to data from Pitchbook and Dame. Earlier this year, Dame debuted its chic vibrators at Target. 

And yet, Fine, now 35, says she isn't satisfied with her achievements. "I really don't feel successful," she says. "I always think I could be doing more, or do certain things better.'

Success is a concept that's often misunderstood, Fine adds, with many people assuming it's just about "money, control and power." 

In her decade-long career as an entrepreneur and now CEO, Fine has discovered that certain beliefs about success are not only false, but can also damage your career and self-esteem.

Here are three of the biggest myths about success that Fine says you should ignore:

Successful people work long hours 

"Executive coaches and millionaires are always talking about how the one thing we can all control is how much time we put into our work: If you put in twice the time, you're more likely to be successful, because you've worked twice as many hours as your competition. I think that is such bulls---. Logically, there's some sense to that argument, but that has never been my experience. 

How successful a week at Dame is for me is never correlated to how many hours of work I put in, but rather the intention and energy to which I bring to those hours. Your intentions, focus and attitude will always have a bigger impact on your success than your timesheet."

Successful people wake up before 6 a.m. 

"Whoever came up with the phrase, 'the early bird gets the worm,' was just dead wrong, in my opinion. 

I love reading about the habits of successful people, and the one thing that always amazes me is the diversity in their responses. The dominant picture of success is of the tech CEO who wakes up before 6 a.m. to meditate and run a mile. But if you read about the routines of other accomplished professionals, like artists, musicians and other creatives, many of them say they sleep in! 

Or, they do their best work outside of the traditional 9-to-5 schedule, and will wake up later as a result. Sometimes, success means not doing a single thing until 1 p.m., if that's when your brain is most alert." 

Successful people only need one breakthrough

"Most people think that being an entrepreneur is about having one big idea. To start something new, you need to have a good idea, but what's far more important is how scalable that idea is, how you market it, and what your backup plan is in case things don't work out.

You'll make more money if you think beyond having just one great idea. I won't sugarcoat it, being an entrepreneur can be really gritty, and really intense. There are high highs and low lows. 

But I think everybody should try being an entrepreneur at least once in their careers because you learn so much — and even if you realize it's not for you, it can still be a beautiful, rewarding experience figuring out what you don't want from your career."

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Bringing in $1.3 million a year as a dog grooming artist
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