I was talking to somebody very close to me the other day, and we started to talk about her book. It is being developed as despite strong interest from agents it ultimately didn’t get taken on. I could sense her understandable frustration and I was eager to talk to her about what she defines as success for the book. So I asked her to give me a picture or image of what her future success looked like. Is it money in the bank? Amount of sales? Personal gratification? Peer approval? After a lot of chat, and a customary glass of wine.
She replied- ‘It’s seeing my book on the shelf in a store.’
So success to her is measured by the satisfaction of seeing her work published for public consumption.
But what happens if it’s not published and she doesn’t see it on the shelf? By her own thinking will she not be successful anymore?
How often in our lives are we caught up in the end goal? We chase success, but struggle to define what it means. Often I will ask clients to visualise their future, because if we don’t see it we can’t let our subconscious work towards it. But this is hard balancing act because if we place to much conscious importance on the image it can place unnecessary pressure to achieve it. Additionally it can mean we miss and ignore our own growth and development. We don’t focus on the skills we learning, or our resilience in hard times, we ignore the two jobs we may have done to support ourselves and our family. Each of these examples provides us with resources to better ourselves, but they are easily missed and crucially not built upon if we fixate on the picture in our mind.
Another glass was poured.
‘But I don’t agree that if the book isn’t published, I can still think of myself as successful’
The key to that sentence is the conscious insistence on her picture of success. It neglects her crafting of language, the emotional intelligence it requires to give characters a real voice, her resilience to not give up, the learning and development of her writing, her ability to promote herself and pitch an idea. Her increased self belief. Her ability to take her imagination and through hundreds of hours of work turn it into a tangible and highly credible piece of work. All of these skills are used to great affect in her other career. . .
But they don’t match the picture in her head so they aren’t recognised or given credence.
To want success is highly commendable. It shows motivation and drive but it mustn’t come at all costs. Nor should we lose sight of what success truly means. It’s about constant renewal and growth, it isn’t about who you know or what you can buy. It’s about what you have learnt, what you given, and what you can do next. Success (whatever the picture turns out to be) is the by product of hard work, resilience, and passion for what you love. It can come in small places, and sometimes it’s not what we thought or expected.
Maybe her picture of success will come true and the book will appear on a shelf.
Maybe it won’t.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter.
It’s about the journey she’s taken in writing it.