Scary, I know, especially in a culture where we often equate fame, with success. So shouldn’t I be aiming for success? Yes, child, you absolutely should, but not in the way you think.
After thinking about how to write this article, and the success/fame conundrum for the past 15 days as well as reading plenty of self-help books, much to the distress of Andrew, I think I’m finally ready.
Success is Subjective
First of all, success has to be your own personal endeavour. You need to be the one to decide if you’re successful or not. Measuring yourself against other people’s metrics and against the standards of social media, is not a life I would like to lead. So you can have success right now, if you want it. If so far, you’ve been measuring your own success through a metric that is both cynical and enticing at the same time, and sounds a little bit like Emma Thompson in Stranger Than Fiction, it might be time to move on. Abandon your old life, and begin a new one, with me, your single bestie behind the computer screen.
Metrics such as ‘work towards something I am passionate about‘ and ‘find clarity and ease with [insert stressful project here]’, are wonderful. They’re going to inspire you to put your head down and forget all about what other people are doing, or not doing. But valuations like ‘make $1,000,000 by the end of 2018‘ or ‘land a role on Riverdale so I can make out with Cole Sprouse‘ will only inspire rigidity and an inability to adapt to your environment (which I will remind you, is ever-changing). All the while, working towards these goals will also highlight how you are not achieving those things. And quite frankly, probably send you into a depressive spiral that involves peanut butter and a Skype call to your Mum and the family dog.
Fall in love with the work, not the results
Not in love with the work? Fall in love with some other work. And keep trying until you find the one. You’ll probably get very confused and fail miserably along the way, but you will definitely learn some things (I strike again with golden dating advice – you’re welcome.) And let’s all remember that Vincent Van Gogh worked his absolute ass off his entire life, and was never fully recognised and respected as an artist until after his death. But I bet he enjoyed every moment of that work, and is looking down on us now, perpetually dancing to Earth, Wind & Fire, and laughing at the irony.
You don’t have to be famous to make a difference
‘I just want to make a name for myself, so I can combat climate change deniers like Leo’.
True, we take Leonardo’s thoughts and opinions very seriously, because we love his work and respect him. And being a household name means he can reach all corners of the earth with his message. But surely posting a cute pic of penguins stranded on a melting iceberg to millions of people is not the only way to enact change in our world.
Excuse me while I get prophetic and spiritual; in our lives we connect with other human beings, share our feelings, support one another and communicate our ideas, thoughts and values, even though it might be uncomfortable. And in our work we emote, we release, we let go, express our feelings, and this resonates with countless others. It’s actually up to us to show people how to connect, that is how we make a difference and inspire change and understanding. And if that isn’t a good enough reason to continue down this path to (your own defined version of) success, then I don’t know what is.
Cool, now back to my usual self, making jokes about my love life:
This subheading is called: ‘Social Media is like the dude who makes you feel like shit, but you keep going back to him anyway’
I read a study recently that quantified people are more likely to share a story of success on social media, than they are to call their friends and family. Ay Carumba, what a world it has become! Freak-outs aside, I think this really has something to do with public image, self-worth and a projected personality. We already know that with so much information, news, advice, stories and images available to us at the tip of our fingertips, our brains are struggling a little bit. This constant stream of data from our newsfeed and TV screens is changing the way we see the world, and more importantly how we see ourselves. It makes us feel powerless, like we cannot impact change, and also fiddles with our self-esteem. We subscribe to these images of ‘success’ or ‘fame’ which serve as a constant reminder that we are not ‘successful’ or ‘famous’. And so without even realising it, we go about our day trying to impress that ‘dude who makes us feel like shit’ instead of living for ourselves, because we love and value our work.
Also, in light of recent events – #harveydoesntlivehereanymore – it’s also important to remember that we can’t always trust the prominent voices in our industry – just because they famous, doesn’t mean they right.
I think I’m ready for a conclusion
I really need you to ask yourself this, I know I joke a lot, but I’m being serious now:
“Do I want to be famous, or successful?”
Understanding the difference between the two, and realising that you can be the judge of your own success, has literally changed my life. This comes through the realisation that you can define your own success, you can work towards something that has meaning for you, and to be impactful doesn’t mean we have lots of Instagram followers or our own TV show.
We are successful because we are still here, right now. Loving what we do, bearing witness to these moments of our own lives and telling that ‘dude who makes us feel like shit’ to go and make himself feel like shit instead. And just understanding that makes a difference.