What Is Success

I am asking myself this question a lot lately: what is success? I feel like I need to figure out my own definition. I’ve talked about this before, but it feels like things move so incrementally that progress is hard to feel. I want to feel the progress that I make. I want to be proud of it and celebrate. I want to identify a goal so that I know when I’m there. I’m starting to believe that maybe there is no ultimate there. Because the bar gets higher and higher the further you get. But I want to notice when it rises. I want to be able to acknowledge and celebrate each incremental movement. I want to know when I’m moving up. I want to be able to feel it.

I am doing a lot of things this upcoming year. 2020 is shaping up to be really busy and special. I know that I am doing some things that I always wanted to do. That feels like progress. There’s a lot happening. Exciting things. Things are happening that I’ve wanted. I’m so thankful for that! I want to feel the success. If I’m being honest, I think a lot of what drives me is the fear that I’m not good enough. It’s a feeling that I’m starting at a deficit and that I need to move mountains in order to be ‘enough’. But when will it be enough? When will I feel like I’ve reached a place I’m content with? How will I know when I’m there?

And what should my yardstick for success look like? Who should my idol be? Should I look at how far I’ve come? Or should I look at how far I need to go? And when will it be far enough? I hope that I’ll know when I’m there. But I know enough to know that, without a concerted effort, I’ll never feel like I’m there. I’ve seen other people before me. They’ve proven this theory to me; that no matter how far you are, there’s always something or someone above you. There is always possibility. So, how to feel content in this perpetual contest? The thing I keep coming back to is goal-making. If I make a list of concrete goals, then maybe I’ll feel a measure of contentedness as I reach them and am able to cross them off the list.

But there are some things that are hard to quantify. And there are some measures of success that you don’t even know about until you’re close to them or until you have achieved them already.

For instance: how to quantify the feeling of being ‘in demand?’ That’s a goal of mine. To be ‘in demand.’ But what does that mean? Is it a number of average retweets? A number of emails? And how to you assess the quality of the demands, themselves?

I’ve already had the experience of wanting something and working hard for it and then getting it and then feeling like ‘if they let me have this then maybe it’s not as good as I thought it was.’ That’s a trip. As if everything I come into contact with is diminished by my touch. I know that that’s something I have to work on, my feelings of low self-worth. Paradoxically, it’s that very insecurity that pushes me so hard to achieve. It feels less like a desire and more like a need. Sometimes it almost feels like gambling – the payoffs are a surge of ecstacy.

I’m always surprised by the amount of business in this line of work. I set out to be an artist and I feel I’m becoming something of a business person. I like learning. I love that, at the core of what I’m doing, there is the art. The process of making. Of collaborating. Of creating. That part is sacred to me. Every doubting thought in my mind is silenced when I start to sing.

There are so many overlapping parts to this journey. When it comes down to it, I think that the feelings of self-worth need to come from within. There will never be enough external validation to fill that void. But the feelings of success? I’m going to work on writing out my own definition of success. And I’m going to give those goal lists a try.


Listen to this playlist while you read!