To me this is the proverbial chicken and egg question, what comes first? What should come first? What is more important? Management gurus will tell you that success is everything and it is quantifiable in currency i.e. profit. Emotional Intelligence Coaches will tell you the exact opposite, the achievement is the true success and not the monetary value, success or failure thereafter is inconsequential because it is the emotional satisfaction and well-being that matters. For those of us on the journey who need both the success and the cash after the achievement, we are left scratching our heads while stuck in an eternal conundrum.
What now, brown cow?
What now, indeed. I have witnessed so many people achieve their lifetime goals of higher education, publication, solo performance on stage or an exhibit, acceptance to an honour society or exclusive club, become partners in the firm, and so on, but these achievements did not necessarily convert into success.
What went wrong?
Let´s take the case of the academics, for example. You slave for years over an M.A., PhD, or Post-Doctoral, but find yourself jobless, or having to settle for a position that is not exactly dignified for the qualifications you possess, but the rent has to be paid and the mountain of monthly bills as well. Then there are the artists who finally manage to their 15 minutes of fame on stage or in a gallery, but there is no audience, not enough visitors, or no sales. Then there is the group which I belong to, writers who have achieved publication of a book, but sales leave much to be desired or you have landed with the wrong agent. Either way, it gave me a lot to think about.
Of course we want both achievement and success! At least I do – and while I am at it, fame and glory would not be bad either. My life these past three years has been a huge transition and multiple achievements, yes, but success? Achievement, I have learned, can also be negative. Meaning, one can achieve monumental disasters or hollow triumphs that lead to nothing substantial. I thought I could only claim success when I saw the sales of the book, had my new citizenship in the hand, and the list goes on. Now I find myself confronted with the question: how do you measure success?
It certainly is not measured in the number of followers on social media or accolades from a monthly virtual magazine. But does success really boil down to monetary value? I refuse to believe so. Yes, it is important as a motivating factor but it is not the Alpha and Omega of your existence. In my book, the support and recognition of your peers or the experts in the field is more significant.
It is easy to be contented with the achievements and get caught up in the fury of it all, especially if the journey was a particularly turbulent one. Finding the motivation to push on in pursuit of the elusive success factor is difficult if your body, mind and soul are exhausted. Is it really necessary to do so? Won´t success just drop on your lap out of the clear blue sky once you have achieved? Sadly, no.
However, if your work is deemed worthy of being shared with the rest of the world without you having to beg or pay for it, and your identity commands respect, you have succeeded.
If your achievement is deemed a legacy and a valuable contribution to the field, you have succeeded.
If your work can save a life, touch a soul, and change a community, you have succeeded.
You might be thinking, crap, that means only doctors, scientists, and lawyers can succeed. Not so. Success in an individual experience, and your measure of success, your community, your work is not the same as your colleague, simply because the concept of “enough” is never the same.