Dear Zelda Wisdom Fear Factor bulldog humor advice therapy dog advice column

Success (3/15/06)

Dear Zelda,

This may seem like a silly question, but here it goes. How do you measure whether or not you're successful? I work for a large (very large) chain of coffee shops. I serve coffee and chat with people all day and I love it. To most people I'm probably just a server, but I love my job and have no desire to become a big wig with a large company. It's weird, but I feel successful. I have a college degree that could probably take me higher in the food chain, but I like where I'm at. Am I successful?


Dear Happy-accino,

This is a question many people ask themselves on a regular basis. Some believe that an enormous house, expensive cars, and fantastic vacations are the true components of success (actually, that doesn't sound TOO bad now that I say it). But at the end of the day, is success dependent on material gain, a stack of company credit cards, power lunches, power boats, and the endless desire for the biggest and best that money can afford?

Absolutely not!

For centuries success has been equated to power and wealth, and most of us would assume that with power and wealth, there would also be an enormous amount of happiness. How could it not be? After all, if you have everything, you're successful...right? Maybe to some, but I'm in agreement with you. To me success is all relative.  Some mornings for me getting out of bed makes my day significantly successful.  But seriously, give me a job where I can enjoy myself, where I'm good at what I do, and where I can give back by making people happy with the smallest of gestures (and a shot or two of caffeine with light foam and non-fat milk) and you can color me successful. Everyone is different, and some people find great satisfaction in making it big, but ultimately and what drives you, and what drives me, and what drives presidents of companies around the world, is all the same. We all want to be happy, and happiness is achieved on different levels, and in different forms. The lucky ones are the ones who learn early on that the most important rule to achieving true success is as simple as it is wise...

Success is whatever makes you happy!


Dear Zelda,

Your "If you want to be Top Dog you've got to get off the porch" line really got to me. I've been trying to get my business off the ground from home and I find that I spend more time on the "porch" than working on my business. I'm a small fish in a small pond around here, but I do know that I can be successful. Any tips for "getting off the porch" that could drive me toward the beginnings of success would be helpful.


Dear Porched,

First and foremost, you've got to get off that porch and you can start by getting your sweet patootie to work!  Top Dogs do not lounge on porches, nor do they spend their afternoons watching Days of Our Lives.  Now I don't know what business you're trying to launch, but the first thing I would recommend is that you do as much research as you can about the field of your business, and about your competition.  Once you know who your competition is, you need to figure out what you can do to be better and/or different.  When we entered the greeting card business, I was the first live dog with a name to have a greeting card line.  In addition, Team Zelda discovered that greeting cards generally didn't contain too much wisdom!  Hence... the company became a unique greeting card company, Zelda Wisdom. So whatever your business, make sure your idea is better and/or different than your competition's.

Once you have your unique idea, you need to write a business plan and here I'm going to suggest that you check out the books and websites devoted to this. There are many, but for starters you might try  Also financing will be part of your business plan and sometimes this can be tricky.  Zelda Wisdom was financed by sweat and credit cards, but hopefully you either already have the finances or can qualify for financing from other sources. There are some great small business loans available out there, and the interest rates sure beat credit card debt!

With the business plan and financing in place it's a good idea to test-market your idea. At Zelda Wisdom we printed a limited number of cards and posters.  Our test market was Oregon and Washington and the printer gave us 90 days before payment was due. With some good publicity in local newspapers, our cards were soon flying off the shelves and we knew we were headed for success.

One final tip to take you to the top is that passion and enthusiasm will go a long way toward making your business a success.  If you do what you love, you will love what you do and it will make the success of your company contagious.  So get off that porch and go run with the Big Dogs!!!


Dear Zelda,

My name is Bubba. I'm a big buff bulldog and I've followed your career and success. I want to know how being a "Top Dog" has changed your life. Do you get a special diet? Do you ride in limousines, have pedicures and spa treatments? Actually I'd like to be your boyfriend. Any chance?

Luva Bubba

Dear Luva Bubba,

Being a Top Dog does have its advantages, but don't let the glitz and glamour blind you. Underneath my movie star...well, 'Rubenesque' looks, sharp comedic wit, and 'leopard-loud' style lies a simple gal with simple values and simple dreams. Sure my diet consists of special bulldog food from Royal Canin (what else would a queen eat?), and I have had my share of limousine and jet rides (Oprah, Good Morning America, and Martha Stewart)...those are just part of the territory. But, at home I keep it real. Zoe, ZeeZee, and I like to ride in a safe yet practical Jeep with canine cushions, seat belts, and fully stocked untip-a-bull water bowls.

As for pedi's and spa treatments...every girl who was brought up right knows that it's a cardinal rule that you don't leave the house without perfect pedi'd paws. Spas I can do without. If I wanted to roll around in mud with cucumbers on my face and seaweed hangin’ out of spots where no one should...well, never mind.

I would have to say that my favorite thing about becoming a Top Dog, and I mean this sincerely, is the opportunity to meet and get to know all the thousands of friends who have contacted me since this all started. Any Top Dog knows that without the love and support of friends and family and enormous amounts of mutual just end up being a "dawg" on top.

Oh, and one last thing Bubba, you can be "one" of my boyfriends anytime!