A couple of threads on forums and a few conversations I’ve had recently, have started me thinking about success. Or rethinking. What is it?
Shortly after we brought Dynamo home from Korea, we had a couple of experiences that helped me to define success to myself and I’ve been reminded of that in my recent ruminations. Firstly, we were accosted by a salesperson in a shopping centre trying to sell us education insurance for our baby. By putting in so much money per year, we could guarantee that he would have the money he needed to attend university.
“What if he doesn’t attend university?” I asked.
“But he’ll be able to with this scheme.”
“What if he doesn’t want to?”
“But if you have this insurance, you’ll be able to encourage him in that direction.”
I looked at my son, new to us, with no genetic road map to give us any idea of where he might be headed. “What if he isn’t university material?”
She stared at me, obviously exasperated. “You push him! It’s good to have a university education.”
“Sorry,” I said, “but I’m not going to risk him feeling a failure, just because I’ve invested money in him going to university.”
Then I left, to the sound of her telling me how sorry I’d be in eighteen years.
At around the same time, an internet adoption support group started calling for members to find the names of adoptees who had made a success of their life, so that we could use them as role models for our children. By ‘successful’ they meant those who had become top sportsmen, actors, politicians, writers, singers etc. While I could see what they were trying to do, I wrote back and questioned the idea. What about the man who tends the public gardens every day, then goes home to a happy family home in the evening? Is he not a success? Or the woman who quietly nurses the sick and spends her time off playing tennis with friends? If she is content with her life and enjoys her work, can she not be considered successful? Famous doesn’t equal success. Rich doesn’t equal success.
So where does that leave me in my quest to be a writer? I went to our local arts group the other day, to ask if a flyer about my book could be put in the next newsletter. The man in charge was very enthusiastic, wanting me to do a workshop. When I said that I really didn’t know a lot, that it was just an ebook and not that big a deal (I know, I know, that sort of talk doesn’t help me one iota, but it’s a habit I’m still to break, orally at least), he said something that made me think - “You’ve written a book. Lots of people want to do that, but not many actually do it.”
That makes me successful, doesn’t it? Thirty years ago, I wanted to be married, with children. Done. Ten years ago, I wanted to write a book. Done, three times over. When I’d finished those books, I wanted them to be read. Now one is being read and if I chose, I could get the others out there, too. Am I a failure because I’m not selling in huge numbers? No, because that’s not the goal I set myself. Little by little I can broaden my goals, but as long as they’re within reason, I will continue to be a success. I was interviewed by the local newspaper this week. That’s never happened before!
My family and friends don’t care if I sell a million copies, they don’t care if I make a million dollars. To them, it’s not going to make a difference to who I am. As long as I’m happy, the wife, mum, friend they know, all the sales in the world won’t make a difference to who I am to them. What better family and friends could one ask for? Success!