Success: What Is It Made Of?

successAlmost exactly a year ago, I attended a writer’s conference that was the catalyst for starting this blog and opening a Twitter account. I had already started writing my novel, tentatively titled The Way of the Sharaw. But I had no idea where to go or what to do to market the thing.

The other writers in attendance, encouraged to just start somewhere. So I did. I started last year with no social media presence. Now I have over 900 Twitter followers, and all of you supporting me (Thank you, by the way!).

It’s more, but is it enough?

Last weekend I attended that same conference again, in a different state of mind. My book is finished, I have a proposal written, and I’m starting to shop it to publishers. Despite the fact I’ve accomplished a lot in the last year, I’m a little frantic and overwhelmed. Trying to build goals and prioritize. You’ve heard it here before, but this last weekend it was solidly confirmed:

Success does not mean I do everything…

…despite the fact that I want to. I’m learning that in order to be give my best at what I’m gifted at, I have to focus. I have to be willing to trim those things which detract from where I’m headed.

But how do I figure out what to keep, and what to cut?

I’m starting with quitting a job that I took on just a few months ago. And I know I’m letting people down there. But I just can’t do it anymore. I know that there are more cuts coming. But this one hurts. And I have to keep telling myself that it will be worth it, that the next cut might not hurt so much. (Maybe I’ll get to cut vacuuming next. That would be awesome…Anyone want to volunteer?)

Success doesn’t mean I’m the best…

If my writing—this crazy thing that I’ve started—is really where I meant to be, I tell myself that I’m successful when I help just one person, or change just one life. It should be enough for me.

But I don’t always live that way. I don’t always write that way. I don’t always dream that way.We have our goals set, our excitement stoked, and we’re working hard. But what does success really look like?

I dream of best-seller lists and awards. Critical acclaim and multi-book contracts. Shiny awards and plaques to decorate my walls. I’ll even take glorious Facebook posts of beautiful children doing exactly as they’re told in a sparkling clean house (note the earlier plea for vacuuming assistance. I was serious…really.). But I know that chasing these dreams only whets an appetite that cannot be fulfilled. There is always something bigger, better, and more everything than me.

So what is success?

Is it somehow persevering—continuing on in the face of failure? Winston Churchill and many others take this tact, and there’s some truth in it (otherwise there wouldn’t be so many people saying it!). But I think we’d all agree that there’s a difference between a successful military campaign (or cleaning regime) and a successful life.

So maybe it’s loving what you do like Albert Schweitzer and others say. But if you love what you do at the cost of others, is it truly success?

Or perhaps it is a combination of “ignorance and confidence” as the legendary Mark Twain once said. While Mr. Clements is arguably one of the best American writers, I do hope my life’s work is more than the result of blind luck and a bit of panache.

To a large degree, the road to success is dependent upon how you define success. For me, I hope I can look back on my life without worry too much about how I’d do it all different. And unless you’re some form of mental case, I’m guessing you’d have to agree with what Einstein said:

“Try not to become a [person] of success, but rather try to become a [person] of value.” Tweet This

Am I valuable to the people around me? Do I live my life in a way that helps them, nurtures them? Does my writing have less to do with me and more to do with you?

I’m not sure how this rubber meets the road quite yet, but I’m curious. I’m working to put filters into place that stop me from seeking out my own vainglory (I love that old word!). I’ll let you know how it goes, and I’d love it if you did the same.

4 thoughts on “Success: What Is It Made Of?

  1. Love hearing about your process, Janyre. Here are two filters I’m trying to use (which I hear reflected in your words, too):

    1) Why am I doing this? Why am I posting or sharing my work? Why am I writing? If the arrows are all pointed at me, there’s a problem. If I’m trying to build my platform rather than serve my friends, I won’t be satisfied in anything I do.

    2) Who’s in charge of what happens next? It’s God. Every time. Every tweet. Every post. It’s in His hands, and it’s helpful to remind myself of that. 🙂

    Blessed to call you my writer-friend, and I’m so excited to see what happens next with your book!

    1. These are great filters, Shannon. I missed the end of Lynn Austin’s talk on the subject. I might have to get any notes you have.

      I’m so glad to have you in my life. You’re a great friend and filter for me. Thanks for all the times you’ve let me vent … and then reined me in 🙂

  2. I think God will honor your thoughtful filtering :). It is so hard to grasp the right balance. Defining success and being content is even harder. If I feel like I am encouraging and giving, my heart usually feels more at ease.

    1. God’s been pressing on me that my purpose, more than anything else, is to be in relationship with him. I think that so often gets lost in the doing. The POINT of doing is to find a path that leads to him. And if I’m using my gifts to help other people for the purpose of finding God, I’m good…or at least I should be. Sometimes my feelings get in the way of reality! 🙂

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