How we define success is totally different per person. We all have our personal standards and that’s great, but it can also screw things up. If you can only define success as Lady Gaga-esque fame and a billion-dollar endeavor, you’re setting yourself up for failure with a ridiculously high bar. Plus, I really don’t think we need more Lady Gagas; the one we already have confuses me enough as it is.
If you do something that you are good at (and continuously get better at), something that gives you fulfillment and that you continue to love no matter what, you are already successful in my book. You may not be famous, but some people will be helped by the good job you’re doing. You may not be a millionaire, but you can sustain your livelihood or receive a cute perk here and there. That should count as success! Appreciate!
To me personally, success is progress. As long as you can keep moving forward with something, you’re succesful. Be it in your career, your health and weight, your fitness goals, your writing, whatever. If you can continue to get better at something (and/or suffer through the plateaus you will undoubtedly hit), you’re succeeding. Good for you.
But since I’m a big fan of long-windedness, here’s my further take on success and getting there.
1. Know your motives.
I have nothing against ambition, I applaud and love it. I think it’s ridiculous that people have to downplay it for others because it’s frowned upon to be driven. Sweeties, if you want to work hard and get paid the big bucks: By all means go for it. I salute you.
But ambition should never be blind or empty. You should have a good reason for wanting to succeed, and the best reason is loving the absolute fuck out of what you’re doing.
I can bet you right now that if you want to succeed at something that is actually a hobby, passion or interest of yours, it will be easier. You will do a better job. It will also be more natural, more sincere and more fun for you (and everyone else) along the way. Because you would be doing it probably for fun anyway too! Would you do what you are doing too, without the added desire for a certain level of success? Then you’re onto something.
Why do you want to succeed? Is it because you love the craft or is it because you love the idea of it? Is it because you are unhappy? Are you looking for an escape out of your current life? What’s going on there? Someone I met recently made the remark that a lot of people are convinced that success will make them feel complete and loved (pro tip: it doesn’t). Get to the core of your ambition. Find what it’s about. It pays to know these things about yourself.
2. Stick to it.
For six years, I blogged for about fiftysomething readers. On a good day. I don’t make myself any illusions in terms of world-fame or whatever, but in that aspect my blog is doing a lot better now. I have more readers — HI! I love you!
If I had given up, I would have been missing out on a lot of practice (skills can only get better if you work at them) and theselfhelphipster.com would probably have never come to life, combining my two drugs of choice: writing and self help, making me a happier writer than I have ever been.
If you are going to give up every time the world doesn’t explode in applause over your accomplishments, nothing is ever going to happen. Now might also be a good time to mention the world doesn’t exist to validate you. That job is entirely up to yourself and maybe some loved ones who want to be supportive.
You need to keep at it. To get better, to train yourself, to actually become good at something, and very important: to teach yourself discipline, and to keep going despite external circumstances. Nobody ever got anywhere by quitting.
3. Appreciate every facet.
So, Jimmy Kimmel hasn’t invited you to his talkshow (yet). But how cool you got interviewed by a local journalist or student the other day! So, you haven’t sold a million copies of your first EP. But how about the people who did buy it and enjoy listening to it, right? So, you don’t have your own jewelry line up there with Swarovski yet? But you do have some regular customers and that’s more than most can say!
I count the little successes. How much positive feedback I received on Girl Meets Yoga, my first little e-book. How I could help the girls who enrolled in self help summer/september school. That I got fucking featured on Miss Lipgloss, thank you very much. The questions and compliments I get from readers. It’s stuff that makes me go “cool, I’m going in the right direction.”
Don’t discount the little successes just because the big breakthrough hasn’t happened yet. And usually, the big breakthrough is the result of a billion little successes added up. That’s what it takes and that’s what makes you good enough to succeed.
4. Don’t become a dick.
Anyone who makes a big show out of how big of a deal they are comes off as a little douchey. Trust me, because I accidentally did it myself (with my 600 followers, lolz) and if I have been rolling my eyes at myself ever since. I see it as a good reminder to stay humble, though. I’m not a big deal. I’m a little deal. Maybe.
Be humble and grateful. Appreciate the readers, listeners, fans and customers. Even if it’s only a handful. Be thankful for where you have gotten. Even if it’s only a few steps further than where you used to be. If you can use your power (always for good, not for evil), absolutely go for it. I think it’s no more than fair to always be a class act about it.
It’s great to expect success, miracles, wonders and fortune. I encourage you to do so. But I also want you to give it time, sweat, maybe even a few tears if necessary and a big chunk of patience and reality. Combine all that, and you have got yourself the true blend of success.