What’s in Your Success Suitcase?

by Alli Polin on January 6, 2015

packing list for success  in leadership and life

I want you to have exactly what you need in your success suitcase and help you toss all of that unwanted baggage that no longer fits and you no longer need. 

Today, I’m packing my bags for our annual family summer holiday and struggling to figure out how I can shove more into my minuscule suitcase. Physical baggage and life baggage; I’m guessing we both can let go of a heck of a lot more than we think at first blush.

I’m a big fan of “just in case” packing logic. Why not throw it in as long as it’s not overweight, right?  Well, for this trip we’re taking a teeny-tiny plane with major weight restrictions on our bags so my temptation to bring it all needs to take a hike.

In an attempt to stay focused, I’m drawing charts, making lists and loading it up by category in my packing cubes (they’re a life saver!). Still, always happy to find an excuse to stop packing and start writing, I began to think about how you and I can lighten our loads for the new year.  What really needs to fit in a personal success suitcase and what can stay behind?

What’s dragging you down that you keep carting around in your overweight suitcases filled with the baggage from your life and leadership?

Here’s a packing list for you success suitcase.  Bring what you need and forget the rest.



Leadership happens through relationships, change happens through relationships, life happens through relationships.  Don’t forget to always have room for your relationships and always leave some extra space for more meaningful connections in your life.

Work Ethic

Success takes hard work. Anyone who tells you that it’s easy, or wants to sell you the fast track to six figures is only out to make a sale.  If you’re willing to work hard, success is within your reach.


Play brings joy, happiness, and lightness to even our darkest thoughts. When the work becomes “too much” to handle, seek ways to bring a sense of play into the mix and watch your attitude and experience transform.


If it doesn’t light you up, why are you giving it your all?  Um, you’re probably not. Every task on your plate will not be your favorite, but if you lead with your passion, you will bring a powerful energy to all that you do.


Are you inspired by doing things that you can “do in your sleep?”  I’m not and most of my clients light up at the thought of a challenge.  Challenge brings out your determination and helps you to stretch and grow along the way. 


This is a must-pack in your success suitcase.  Hit a road block? Try creativity.  Bored to death of the same old approach? Yup, creativity. Plateau in your success? I think you know what you need and it starts with creat and ends with ivity.

Coping Strategies

You will get frustrated and fail regardless of what’s in your success suitcase that’s why you need some healthy coping strategies to avoid packing up and giving up.  Deep breathing, exercise, positive visualizations are all healthy ways to find your center and keep going.


Everything you do, success of failure (or somewhere in between) yields learning. Take it forward with you into everything you do.

Leave some additional packing space for:

Resilience, Persistence, Humility Belief, Confidence and Commitment


Command and Control

Have a vision and enroll people in it, invite them to join you and move forward with shared purpose. Drawing a narrow line and telling people how to walk it? Puh-leeze.  There’s no room for this in your success suitcase, let it go.

Blue Prints

Been there, done that so often you have a blue print?  Take the learning from the past, but leave the blue prints at home and find new paths and new possibilities instead.


Everyone gets frustrated, but boiling over into anger is simply unwanted baggage on your path to success. Anger is fire that burns and injures everyone in its path – including you.  Aren’t you glad you made room for some new coping strategies?


I’ll bottom line this: assumptions do not serve you.  Toss ‘em out and make room for fresh perspectives, new ideas and unexpected relationships.


Bad stuff does not disappear because you ignore it… in fact, it grows. Take off the blinders and put them where they belong – in the trash.


Hate is poison for the soul, heart and mind.  Hate hides the fact that we’re all human, all doing our best and making our way in the world.  Hate is stopping you from being your best self.  This is baggage that needs to go immediately.


You will only find success when you 1) Believe you deserve success 2) Believe you can achieve success 3) Believe you can create success… it’s within your reach with some hard work (and other good stuff from your packing list above)  Doubt has to go.  Now.


It’s one thing to work hard to create success and it’s another to walk around dripping with entitlement and arrogance. Unless you want to turn everyone off who crosses your path, tap into your humility.  Arrogance is fooling you into thinking your better than or more deserving that someone else.  You’re not.

Remove every last drop of:

Easy street thinking, negativity, laziness, hidden agendas, and blame

What else belongs in your success suitcase and what needs to be left behind… for good?

Must Haves for Success

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Tom Rhodes January 6, 2015 at 9:45 am

First of all have a great trip. I am working hard to take that trip for success and love your toss list. Now if I could only get those in my life that want to hold down the brakes to let the plane take off I can move forward.

I guess that’s where challenge comes in.

Thanks for all you do.



Alli Polin January 26, 2015 at 12:44 am

Can totally relate to needing the plane to take off with the right things on board!

Part of what I didn’t capture here is how important your way of being is to success. It’s so much more than simply your way of doing… and your way of being is an inspiration, Tom.

Appreciate you! Thanks for your comment!


Sampathkumar Iyengar January 6, 2015 at 10:11 am

Excellent Article. Thanks for sharing. EGO can also be Unloaded for good.


Alli Polin January 26, 2015 at 12:45 am

Many thanks to you, Sampathkumar! Ego is a tough one – it’s all about how we use it – to fuel our success or dominate over others.



John Bennett January 6, 2015 at 10:12 am

I like your two lists (and the fact that there are two lists – to be effective, you need to consider both options as you make your choices). I spent a fair amount of tie considering (http://johncbennettjr.com – remember?) assumptions included in your “toss that” list. With degrees in engineering and experience both using and facilitating engineering, a significant component of effective problem solving is the making of assumptions. Rarely do we have the luxury of not making assumptions; sometimes it’s an available time and resources issue but probably more often it’s taking the risk of entering uncharted territory where the important input is not clear.

So here’s my thinking on assumptions: I agree with you in one sense (toss out list) and at the same time suggest its addition (to the pack this list). IF assumptions were made in previous experience (and they probably were), that experience probably confirmed their validity and if so, they aren’t assumptions moving forward. But for those made in the past but really not validated, such assumptions should be tossed out as you suggest. BUT, since all situations worthy of our time and effort are going to be new territory, we will have to add assumption-generating skill to our suitcase.


Alli Polin January 26, 2015 at 12:49 am


First of all… thank you! You always bring much thoughtfulness and depth to your comments and perspectives. I agree. Assumptions are a part of what enable us to move forward swiftly and do our best to head where we most need to go. It’s when the assumptions block us, and hold us back from real opportunities and to stay stuck in fear instead that the real problems emerge. Thanks for your terrific clarification. Awareness of when our assumptions are becoming blinders can make all the difference (and is not easy)

Many thanks!


Terri Klass January 6, 2015 at 10:41 am

I love the metaphor of packing up and unloading as we each try to grow our leadership in the new year!

An additional thing I might pack is confidence based on the successes of my past year. Looking back on what we each accomplished and using that as a bouncing off point for our new goals can help keep us focused and feeling strong about ourselves.

An additional thing I might unload is busy work or work that did not provide me with energy or learning. Trying to figure that one out.

Thanks Alli for another insightful post that I will share and use!


Alli Polin January 26, 2015 at 12:51 am

Oh my gosh… yes! Unload busy work! It’s too easy to confuse busy with productive. Busy is not a badge of success but in truth holding us back from focusing on what matters most and truly brings us alive too.

You’re awesome, Terri! Thanks for adding to the “do not pack” list. 🙂


Brenda Lee January 6, 2015 at 12:12 pm

Hey Alli!

I hope you have a fabulous time!

I think there are a few things I’m packing up this year. (1) Self-Doubt; (2) Mis-Trust. I need to stop doubting myself and just go for it! That is what I’ve done with my new site, Just Like A Fine Wine. I’ve never been a very trusting person so I am working diligently at letting my guard down “some” and give people the benefit of the doubt until they prove me wrong.

2015 is going to be an exciting year! Thanks for the inspiration!



Alli Polin January 26, 2015 at 12:53 am

One thing I really appreciated was how transparent you were about the decision to shut down your old site and move to Just Like a Fine Wine. Really inspiring to see you make the leap and leave self-doubt and mis-trust behind. I’m with you!!!

Also – woo hoo to an awesome 2015!


LaRae Quy January 6, 2015 at 1:13 pm

Love the graphic, Alli! And your “packing” metaphor is so apt…it does take a lof of editing to get rid of the stuff that is loading us down. And this is the perfect time of the year to do it!

Interesting response from John Bennett about “assumptions.” I do agree that all assumptions need to be tested regularly. So often the assumptions we make are based on “old information” and need to be re-evaluated. On the other hand, assumptions can also be working rules of thumb that actually help us move forward by editing much of the information that comes our way. “Fast thinking” is making good use of assumptions…but test them on a regular basis!

Great article and full of inspiration for the new year, Alli!


Alli Polin January 26, 2015 at 12:56 am

Assumptions are working rules of thumb – YES! Not all bad unless our assumptions are based more on doubt and fear than fact. Packing lists for success do have room for assumptions when they help us move forward with confidence, competence and creativity. Most of all, when assumptions are proven faulty, learning and applying that new knowledge to future decisions will take us even farther.

Appreciate your insights, LaRae!


Ingrid January 6, 2015 at 7:06 pm

Great article… good, practical advice. One of the best pieces of advice I was given in business was “Never assume anything.” When it comes to building relationships, that rings true for me. Have a great trip!


Alli Polin January 26, 2015 at 12:58 am

Thanks, Ingrid! So interesting that assumptions have come up so much on the comments for this post. Differentiating when assumptions serve us and when they don’t is clearly a challenge. Like you, I was given similar advice as I grew up within my organization. Reframing and rethinking now.

Appreciate your comment! Trip was great!


karin hurt January 6, 2015 at 9:09 pm

Beautiful! It’s so funny, as I was reading through all this I was thinking …. yes, yes, and resilience. And then found that came in your “additional packing space.”


Alli Polin January 26, 2015 at 12:58 am

I tried to cram the additional packing items into the graphic but no way was that going to work. What it showed me was every time I thought that the list was final and the bags were packed, there was more…

Thanks, Karin!


John Thurlbeck January 7, 2015 at 4:32 am

Excellent post Alli … and I loved the infographic! I thought Terri made a great point too about building on the confidence that successes in the previous year brought and I was delighted to see you. I also agreed with the commentary on assumptions, which do need testing from time to time, although, like LaRae, I know they are very useful for helping us to cut through the clutter and take decisive action – quickly.

My one addition to your packing list would be courage. I think we all need some courage to assess any given situation, feel the fear and still take the risk. Great leaders, in my direct experience, have never been safe and conservative types.

That aside, I wish you a fabulous, well-deserved summer holiday and look forward to picking up our actions for EYL later this month!

Kind regards



Alli Polin January 26, 2015 at 1:26 am

Courage! Yes! A few seconds of courage can exponentially accelerate success. Like you wrote, it doesn’t make the fear go away, it just puts us in control of our destiny through action and not at the mercy of our imagination.

It was a fantastic break and the feeling is definitely lingering 🙂

Thanks, John!


Chery Gegelman January 7, 2015 at 6:43 am

Have a wonderful adventure and safe travels Alli!

I love your suitcase analogy, and like John, I especially like the infographic!


Alli Polin January 26, 2015 at 1:27 am

Thanks, Chery! It was absolutely wonderful!


Samantha Hall January 7, 2015 at 1:40 pm

LOVE the visual Alli! (Is there software for that or a ‘pictograph’ website that you did that?) DM if you want to keep it on the down low! (grins)

Great post. Great points. Nutshell? It’s ALL about relationships. And the connection built between people. The extra baggage (and we all have some) clogs the arteries of our connections. As we ‘pack for success’ and make room to toss out the unnecessary baggage, we metaphorically unclog the arteries in our ability to connect and relate in healthier ways.

And naturally, it doesn’t happen over night. All part of the journey.

Thanks for sharing another great post my friend! Love you! xo

Enjoy your trip!


Alli Polin January 26, 2015 at 1:31 am

I absolutely love how you put it! …. and yes, I’m with you 100%. Leadership, change, you name it… it never happens in a vacuum. It’s all about relationships.

I used easel.ly to create the graphic and it was a great way to get really concise and have fun while I was doing it.



Scott Mabry January 9, 2015 at 7:53 am

Great visual Alli and perfect for new year reflection. They you for this encouraging message on what to pack and toss. My favorite toss?

guilt and shame


Alli Polin January 26, 2015 at 1:32 am

Oh my gosh. Two things on the must toss list and to immediately move to the curb.

Thanks a ton for the addition, Scott!


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