Lately, I’ve been reflecting on what it is that I want in life. Several ideas made my list: love, wisdom, knowledge, relationships and success. I would like to discuss the last idea on my list because the concept of success seems to be elusive. I have serious difficulty with it. What is success?
According to the dictionary, success can be define in the following manner: 1. the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; the accomplishment of one’s goals, 2. the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like, 3. a performance or achievement that is marked by success, as by the attainment of honors, 4. a person or thing that has had success, as measured by attainment of goals, wealth, etc… Number 3 and 4 on this list are derived from 1 and 2. Therefore, I would like to focus on the first two definitions. As I understand it, the first definition has to do with finishing specific tasks with a positive result. I believe that most people can easily relate to this idea. Getting a school diploma, winning on a sport tournament or learning a new task come to mind. These are all things that we do and get positive results when doing them. Definition 2 has more to do with social status. Some people measure success by the number of dollars they have on their bank accounts, the job titles they have on their resumes or the awards they win. They measure success by who they are in society.
Looking at this analysis, I felt that something was missing. It does not seem to capture the endurance of the feeling of success. These understandings of success capture fleeting moments of life. Let me explain it. The first definition offers moments of happiness. For example, everybody feels happy to receive a secondary school, college or university degree. It is a proud moment! However, it does not last. The same happens in the case of the second definition. It is wonderful to have a million dollar on a person’s bank account. However, the novelty wears out in a few days. In addition, the neighbour might have more and an economic downturn may wipe it out as fast as it has arrived. The moment of happiness is over very soon! So, where can one find enduring success, the kind that creates lasting happiness?
I struggled with this idea when I first reflected on it. Being a writer, my impulse was to measure success by the number of books I sell. It shows that others appreciate what I do. I am sure most authors measure success the same way. However, I could not believe that success was all about the numbers! Still, I kept going down on this path for a long time, thinking about my success. I was preoccupied with the numbers. Finally, I asked myself the reason for wanting to sell a lot of books. At the end, I figured it out. I wanted to sell a lot of books, so that I can have a good income; an income, which would allow me to stay at home and become a full time writer. This revelation made me realize that, besides being appreciated, I just really want to do what I love. Selling enough books had to do with being able to do what I love.
This was a crucial moment for me. I was able to formulate the proper definition of success. Success is being able to do what one loves doing. I believe that this is the proper definition. If I am able to keep writing my books, I feel like a million dollar, permanently, regardless of how many copies I sell. I feel the most alive when I am in the process of writing. It makes me exhilarated and ecstatic! I feel happy! That is the permanent feeling of happiness that can be equated with success.
For now, I can say that I am partly successful. I am successful in a sense that I find the time to write. Unfortunately, I still have to go to work. On the other hand, I have the answer now. I know that I am working toward a permanent success. I am making my way toward it.
What is your definition of success?
M. J. Mandoki