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What’s Your Definition of Success?

“How many books have you sold?” I get asked this question a lot. Yeah, it’s an impertinent question, and I usually reply by saying, “I don’t know; I don’t keep count.” Which, is true, by the way. I don’t. I quit counting years ago. But the thing that gets me is that the focus seems to be on money and not the fact that I wrote a book. Maybe that’s where we are as a society? The headlines in your favorite magazines are mostly related to wealth and beauty, or the downfall of others. They’re not highlighting accomplishments or altruism. A real bummer if you ask me. (Maybe I’m reading the wrong headlines?)Everyone measures success differently. What is a triumph for some is a small step for another.

When I first wrote The Summer I Learned To Dive, I was pretty darn proud of myself. I’d done it! I’d written a book I loved and wanted the whole world to read it. I remember clicking the “publish” button on Amazon, itching for the world to read the words I’d written. Did I expect tons of sales or for it to hit the top 100 list? No. Actually, I didn’t have any expectations. I was just excited to have written a novel and then have a platform for people to read it. Truth.

My first sale was from a reader in the UK. I was pretty stoked that someone (other than my mom) had purchased my book and hopefully was going to read it. Then, more people bought it, and the reviews starting popping up. Complete strangers were buying my book! How cool is that?

“Don’t aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally.” – David Frost

I didn’t measure my success by the number of books I sold or the number of good reviews I received. To me, the real success was that I had written a book that people were reading. And, you know what made it all the sweeter? People were writing me, telling me what the book meant to them.

Writing a novel is a feat. You have to stay committed, you have to persevere despite the yearning to want to take a break, pull away and toss it all in the trash. It’s like training for a marathon. You train and train for months, putting your body through pain and misery, then on the day of the race, you trudge through, you keep running so that you can reach that finish line.

The temptation to want more, to want the book to soar the charts, get a movie made, and become a millionaire, well, it was there. Deep down. I am human, right? And, truthfully, sometimes the green monster will come out in me and I’ll watch other books climb the charts while my remain comfortable in their spots. But then the other voice, the one that seems to have some semblance of common sense, will yell at me and shout, “Are you writing from your heart, because writing is your passion, or are you seeking notoriety?”

The answer, and I’m not bs’ing you, is it’s all about the heart. My heart. I love to write. I love to immerse myself in my fictional world. I love to create characters and stories that people say they can relate to. I’ve always enjoyed helping others, and to me, writing can do that. And, if I’ve touched a few lives with my words, then I’m succeeded. I’ve reached my own success.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt

I’ve learned that comparing myself to someone else is unhealthy. First, no two people are alike. Second, I can’t be happy if I’m constantly evaluating my own self worth by other people’s merits. So, then, why is it such a hard lesson to learn? Because society has told us that success is measured by how much we have – quantity instead of quality. You hear millennials boasting that they have 1000+ friends (quantity) on Facebook, but how many of those “friends” are real, true, got your back type of friends? Maybe 1 or 2 (quality)? Truth: we’re lucky in life if we have a few true friends.

Too often I’ll talk with someone who will want to give up because they feel they aren’t successful. They feel they haven’t reached it. Whatever “it” is? To them, it means that they haven’t hit the big time. But, isn’t being able to run a mile, play the guitar, or speak another language fluently, hitting the big time? Isn’t the fact that you’ve made a footprint on this planet, that you’ve touched someone’s life in a positive way, a gift? Isn’t that success?

According to Merriam-Webster.com, the definition of success is: “the correct or desired result of an attempt.” If you’ve accomplished something in your life, whether it is that you’re a mother, or you learned to play “Chopsticks” on the piano, or maybe you ran your first 5K, the fact is you did it. You did something that no one can’t take away from you. You’ve had an experience that is yours to keep. You set a goal, followed-through, and accomplished it. That is success.