Recipe for Success: How to Overcome Failure & Make Your Dreams Come True, Greek Style

Posted June 19, 2013 by Kristen Zavo in On the Ladder

Last weekend I attended the first ever S.H.E. Summit in NYC, a 2-day women’s leadership and lifestyle event presented by Claudia Chan, featuring speakers on a variety of topics including work issues, finances and wellness.  Agapi Stassinopoulos, author of Unbinding the Heart – A Dose of Greek Wisdom, Generosity, And Unconditional Love, was one of my favorite speakers, and just the antidote for anyone experiencing a challenging time at work or in their personal lives.

Agapi is a force to be reckoned with, a fireball of positive energy – I am so glad that I got to see her in person, hear her story and be inspired by her words.  While I’m not sure if Agapi’s S.H.E. Summit speech will be posted, I found a similar talk of hers here if you would like to listen to it in its entirety.

What really spoke to me was Agapi’s belief that certain characteristics and actions were required for success. Since she is a proud Greek that will go on about her love of her culture, her family and of course the food, I’m going to call it her recipe – her recipe for success, for overcoming failure and making your dreams come true. It’s one part confidence, one part trust and a whole lotta generosity. Let me explain.


Agapi loves to start off her talks with the “Just The Way You Are” song by Bruno Mars.  In today’s society, it is easy to get caught up in measuring our value by what we accomplish each day, and our successes in comparison to others. But according to Agapi, what makes us “amazing” is not what we do – but who we are.

Success means something different to everyone, because we are all different people with different talents, dreams and ambitions, and that’s okay! Learning to be happy with yourself and confident in your abilities – and then encouraging the same in your family and friends – is the first step to happiness and success.

Trust  (& Banishing Self-Doubt)

Agapi told us about her dream to be an actress, and how for years she went to auditions, only to be turned down. Her mother would always tell her not to worry, because it meant something better was to come. And in retrospect, Agapi can see that each “failed” audition was actually leading her closer to her true calling. She can see now that you have to trust. Agapi tells people to:

Trust that you are exactly where you need to be in your journey.

Trust and doubt go hand in hand because with trust, there is no doubt. Easier said than done, right? We all have self-doubt at one time or another. According to Agapi, doubt is the #1 killer of the human spirit. She tells us to banish it, shake it off (literally jump up and down and shake your body!), and when that doesn’t work, call someone in your support group (best friend, mom?) and tell them how you are feeling…and then it is their job to remind you why you are doing this and how great you are.


After another failed audition, this time where she was told she was too good for the part and would outshine everyone else, Agapi was understandably distraught. But instead of doing what many of us might have done – closed ourselves off both literally and figuratively – she started talking with a woman on the bus and shared her story.

Turned out, the woman was a big fan of theatre, and specifically of the play Agapi had auditioned for. Before she knew it, Agapi was performing a solo act for her new friend on the bus. One thing led to another and she realized that she could make her acting dreams come true. Agapi was so good that people were happy to come see her do a one-woman show. Agapi’s willingness to be open, authentic and generous with her gifts led to her dream of acting finally coming true.

Generosity comes in many forms, not just the tangible. Being generous with your love, time, advice, support… It is Agapi’s belief that all these things come back to you tenfold in the long run.

Make It Your Own

As is the case with cooking or baking, after learning the basic recipe, it is normal to add ingredients and tweak it to your own individual taste. Now that you’ve got the basics, I’d love to hear, what would you add to this recipe to make it your own?


About the Author

Kristen Zavo

Kristen Zavo is a strategy and marketing professional, with a special interest in the retail industry. Having always been interested in the people side of business, Kristen loves to explore, reflect on, and share stories about the challenges and adventures of being a businesswoman. No topic is off limits - whether it's how to handle being the only woman in the boardroom, or figuring out how to to pack all the "essentials" for a 2-week business trip in just a carry-on! Outside of work, she loves exploring new places, spending time at the beach and meeting friends to workout (spin or yoga, anyone?!).