The definition of success is curious to me. Is it number based, such as our financial worth, how many boards we serve on, how much product we’ve sold, or how many children we have? Perhaps, it is title based, such as president, CEO, pastor, or doctor. Or is success the achievement of a personal goal, whatever that may be?
Most of us are critical of our self-assessment of success. For example, our goal may have been to become a professional singer. If our calendar is filled with dates does that indicate that we are successful? Or must we also consider how much we are paid for these bookings and the types of gigs we work?
One truth I found while interviewing hundreds of people through the years is that if someone has achieved greatness in a particular field, they likely have little to show in other parts of their lives. We only have so many hours in a day, so many days in our life to achieve this goal. If we devote 90% to one thing, we can’t put in more than 10% anywhere else.
While attending a television award ceremony years ago, I realized that those who received honors for their tremendous levels of success in a role on or behind the scenes honestly noted that they reached that level because of someone, mostly a spouse or life partner, who carried the load at home. They were able to focus entirely on their career because someone was behind them caring for the home, children, and even their personal needs. Their partner actually was equal in accomplishing that goal for one of them.
Some note that their personal success appears to be minimal to others yet is significant to them, such as maintaining sobriety, feeling positive or grateful, or regaining strength. Personal tragedy, injury, or illness may have robbed them of mobility, hope, or motivation. Getting back on track one minute step at a time may be a tremendous achievement for these people.
Perhaps, success is attaining a full package of work/family/life balance. We are doing well at work. We care for our family whole-heartedly. And we care for our personal needs considering what it takes to maintain a healthy body, mind, and spirit. That isn’t likely to put us at the top in any one particular position. But we are invested in all parts of our lives.
Recently, I was speaking with a wise, intuitive acquaintance. I told him that I was disappointed in my book sales. Several of my titles sold well, some are even considered best sellers at my publishing house. But none were going to cover my living expenses, much less the years it took to write them.
This new friend pointed out that books are written to fulfill a need in the author. Also, many of the books I’d written were helpful, even said to be life-changing, for readers. Those books helped more than I could measure because of the ripple effect—the number of people who were helped because of how the book affected that reader who then reached out to others. According to this acquaintance, that made a book successful.
It then appears that how we measure our success is a personalized assessment meaningful to us. Only we can set our goals and strive to attain them. Only we can honestly know if we are, and have done, what we’d hoped with our lives leaving behind a legacy of which we can hold our head up high.
***Here are a few of my “best-selling” and award-winning books: The Rosary Prayer by Prayer, Grieving with Mary, St. Theodora and Her Promise to God, Young in the Spirit, Navigating Alzheimer’s, The Alzheimer’s Spouse.