Saturday, November 14, 2009

Pondering Success

Current Reading: Now and Forever, by Ray Bradbury

Inspirational Quote: "Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions." -- the Dalai Lama

I received word this week that I have been picked up by the company that is purchasing my employer. This is good news, because it means nothing has changed. This is also bad news because it means nothing has changed. The known paths are the safe paths, but you never discover anything new if you only ever tread familiar ground. (Hey... that's good. I should write that down).

To quote Forrest Gump: "...and that's all I have to say about that."

I've been thinking about success, about my own, about others and about the success of those closest to me. Kristine Kathryn Rusch (spelled right this time) finished that part of her Freelancer's Survival Guide that dealt with success and, inspired by her words, writer Brad R. Torgersen decided to commit his definition of success to pixels.

What resulted was a list of achievements which certainly looks to me like a ladder to some considerable success and I wish him very well. However, after discussing things with Penelope at some length, I found myself having a couple of reactions.

First - I'm not one man. I'm eight, I think, and I'm sure there's more. I'm a writer, yes. But I'm also a husband, a father, a member of my community, an employee, a blogger, a friend... My measure of success for each of those people is different. I'd like to see the Magnus Somnium in print very much, but I couldn't count it a success if it cost me my marriage. So when I think about success and the milestones thereof, I'd better be thinking about priorities, about what's important. "What if a man gaineth the whole of Art, but loseth his soul?" (That's from Educating Rita, paraphrasing the bible).

Second - Milestones are measures of achievement: I've done this. I can't quite put all the words around it yet because I'm still thinking, and possibly because I'm just not wise enough, but it seems to me that a list of achievements somehow sells a life short. It's nice to be able to point to something and say, "I did that," but I think it would be better to point to myself and say, "I am this." I tell my sons that I am proud of them (and I am) not because of what they've done, but because of what they are.

Like I said, I'm still thinking this one through, and I think I'm treading ground that would be better served by Lao Tzu, Plato, or the Dalai Lama.

Third - Once I've defined success, I have to be prepared to accept failure. Do I need to separate myself from both those things? In the same way I refuse to call myself a failure because I have failed, should I also refuse to call myself a success because I succeeded?

I think a whole book could be written about success (and I know many have) without adequately addressing those questions. I also suspect entire lives have been spent without adequately addressing those questions.

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