Recently in a class I was asked what success means to me. Everyone else scribbled down their thoughts while I sat there dumbfounded. I couldn’t figure out at what point I would consider myself “successful.”
Earlier that day, I was speaking to a friend about how it’s unnerving to set goals that depend so much on factors beyond our control. Anyone in the publishing industry knows that luck and timing account for more than a fair amount. Book covers, marketing, release dates, trade reviews, advances, invitations to conferences, etc. I realized as I sat with the question “What does success mean to me?” that success is ever-moving. It is a dangling carrot that motivates us to work harder and persist, no matter where we are on our personal journey. Fame. Fortune. Rubbing elbows with important people. Notoriety. Independence, creative or financial. One person’s perspective on what success looks like will change to the next, and our interpretation will change as we taste nibbles of it.
In essence, success is something we chase, not something we achieve.
The intent of our heart, the reason we’re sacrificing and toiling for that carrot, and our motive for consecrating our time and talents, must bring us personal joy or contentment. Otherwise the success we experience will feel like just another step on a lofty ladder to a higher rung of achievement. We must be driven by the carrot hanging out of our reach, ambitious enough to strive for it, and satisfied by what will feel like minor advances. Or at some point, we will stop fighting for our dreams.
So for me, success is finding a way to be grateful and happy with where I am today, while always keeping one eye firmly on that carrot.