Success Is Like Light
Success is both an outcome and a process
Posted Feb 01, 2016
Readers, I had an epiphany. I'll get to that. I also had a break. A break as in a piece of good luck, not a psychotic break. I know you were thinking either one was possible. Put away your schadenfreude, people. I’m still sane.
First the break. To say it was luck is misleading. It wasn’t luck at all, actually. It was the result of an effort I made. I took a risk. It would be irresponsible to suggest otherwise. Key to success in reaching a goal is setting smaller goals along the way and proactively pursuing them. That involves putting yourself out there, a.k.a., risking rejection.
So, I approached a person who is well-known, and I asked if I could interview her for my blog. And she said yes. Now, I’m not going to say who it is. This in part stems from superstition. I don’t want to jinx anything. Until it happens, I’m not going to really believe it happened. This is also in part my attempt to get you all curious and to keep you coming back to my blog to find out more. I'm not a natural self-promoter, but I know this is something self-promoters do. So I’m just going to say for now that this meeting will happen in the next month, in person, and I am thrilled.
“What are you going to ask?” the husband said. That part is easy. I can ask many questions about success. But his question got me thinking - imagining - picturing how the conversation would go. This person is a direct person. This person is a talkative person. This person - I pictured this person asking me, “Hope, how do YOU define success?”
Here’s where the epiphany comes in. Because when I imagined answering this question, I pictured myself all too realistically; that is, I pictured myself hemming and hawing and tongue-tied and stumbling over how to reduce this topic, which I have complexified (see last week’s post for the etymology of this word. I am so James Joycean) beyond comprehension, to a few, clear sentences. Readers, I knew I would look like a total idiot if I didn’t have a blurbable definition.
Then it came to me. In my mind, I was sitting at a little table with my interviewee who was also now my interviewer. There was a brick wall as a backdrop. I had my iPhone mic on to record this interlude. What is success? It’s not so complicated to sum up after all. Ready?
Success is like light. It has more than one form, depending on the situation. Success is an outcome and it is also a process.
To me, this sums it up. My struggle has always been to find a definition of success that allows me to feel successful even when there is nothing tangible to point to as an obvious achievement. So much of life is working towards a goal; but only feeling successful at that goal’s achievement is awfully harsh. Often, especially in writing, the achievement is out of the writer's control. Furthermore, we all know that the good feeling of accomplishment at a job well-done is lovely - but fleeting. So my definition recognizes the achievement of an overarching goal, as well as a way of life that makes you feel successful. In this process, success is the byproduct: meaningful work, autonomy, mastery, purpose, mindfulness, connection. If you’ve got the process going, at any point you could take a snapshot and look at yourself and feel successful, even without obvious achievement to point to, because you are engaged in this process.