The other day, my friend Maddie and I began a philosophical discussion about what constitutes being successful in life. We realised that, growing up, we’d been seriously misinformed about what being successful actually entails. As kids, we grew up learning about the first man on the moon and the fastest man in the world, but we never heard about the man who designed Neil Armstrong’s helmet so his head wouldn’t explode, or the man who first encouraged Usain Bolt to run. And so our perceptions of what constitutes ‘success’ slowly became interchangeable with what constitutes ‘fame’.
It thus became very important to me that I redefine success; I needed to turn ‘success’ into something that was not synonymous with exceptionalism or celebritism. Because at the end of the day, success shouldn’t be something that can be measured by the amount of money you earn or the number of people who buy your work. Success is a feeling. And it’s a feeling I intend to become familiar with.
Today, I decided to actively redefine success in three very important ways. And it was GREAT! And EMPOWERING! And I hope it may help you too.
DEFINITION 1: SUCCESS IS NOT FAME!
You know what I think is incredibly unfair? No one ever calls a doctor “unsuccessful” if she is a modest GP who works at a small clinic in Ballarat. So why should I be made to feel like I have “failed” as a writer or journalist or filmmaker if I don’t become a household name?
This is precisely the reason people think creative careers are a “gamble”; the only way to succeed in the creative industry is supposedly to achieve fame. The way I see it, if you have always dreamed of being an actor, and then ended up acting in local theatres and in small films and created a life for yourself and had a nice, stable family, you have succeeded. Creative pursuits should be treated in the same fashion as commercial pursuits. You succeed if it brings you happiness, case closed.
DEFINITION 2: SUCCESS IS NOT MEASURABLE!!
Success cannot be measured by the numbers in your bank account, or the numbers on your follower count, or the numbers on your sales chart. Why? Because despite what any dictionary will have you believe, success is a feeling. You don’t succeed unless you feel successful. That’s the crux of it. They say Michael Jackson didn’t feel like he was good enough, even after Thriller broke all the records in the world. That idea has always made me so incredibly sad. On paper, Michael Jackson was the most successful artist in the world. But all those statistics and numbers didn’t matter, because a feeling cannot be measured.
The day I decided to do things in the pursuit of ‘success’ the feeling rather than ‘success’ the noun, I became a better person. This starts from little things like blogging, to big things like deciding what I wanted to do with my life. As long as I am continually feeling a sense of accomplishment, I think I’m succeeding.
DEFINITION 3: SUCCESS IS NOT A DESTINATION!!!
You cannot arrive at success. Success is a road, and the whole point is to make sure you are continually making choices and decisions to stay on it.
Figuring this out was perhaps one of the greatest challenges for me. I always thought to myself, if I were to become a published writer, I’d be successful. But when I had my first piece published a couple of months ago, I realised that my pursuit of success didn’t end there. I felt successful, but it was a feeling that would expire if I did not continue finding opportunities to write and learn and grow. The only way to fall off Success Road, it turns out, is to stop moving altogether.