Right now, success for me is very simple. How many steps can I take on my new knee before I’m ready to call it quits?
I’m told that, once this healing stage is complete, I’ll be happy, happy, happy that I did this. Right now, I’d trade in one of those happys for a completely pain-free step.
That’s my measure of success today.
Tomorrow, I may surprise myself and success will become a whole other event. Because the one thing I’ve learned is that success is a slippery slope fraught with cultural expectations, personal striving, and an ever-changing mythical landscape dotted with alternating boulders of desire and promise, of hope and despair.
Over and over again, the gold ring of success comes spinning toward us—if only our arms were a bit longer, our aim more accurate, or the damn merry-go-round would just slow down a bit!
Thousands of books, workshops, courses and entire industries have risen up to serve this master and still it remains one of our most elusive goals, like trying to hold onto sand or happiness.
For six years I ran the professional development conference for visual fine artists, the smARTist Telesummit. Once you registered for this online conference, I sent you a “Vision Questionnaire” where one of the questions I asked was, What does success mean to you?
The most popular response was money. Interestingly, no one says “money,” but gives a number: $100,000 a year, $10,000 next month, $2500 for a painting. And without exception, the artist is speaking about an amount in the future – not now.
The second most popular response was recognition.
What’s clear right out of the gate is that success is a moving target with everyone having her or his own definition. And even this changes over time and under evolving circumstances.
Sometimes that definition is deeply personal, and other times it’s egged on by cultural expectations (the success of the moment), or by peer and family pressures.
What I’m most curious about right now is, what does success mean to you today? And what do you imagine success might mean to you ten years from now?
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