It’s important to define success in whatever endeavour we engage in – if only so we have something to look at and gage how far or how close we are (or even whether- yes!- we are there already).
Fame and success have often becomes synonymous. How often do you read the phrase “fame and success”? (other than at the top of this blog post – smart arse) If you think of a successful writer, chances are your thoughts will first go to the famous ones, the Stephen Kings and J.K. Rowlings of this world. Likewise for most successful actors, singers, and most other artists.
Granted if you think of a successful accountant you probably won’t try to think up a famous one (is there such a thing? Maybe in accounting circles). Likewise for succesful actuaries (which I what I used to do, once upon a time. If it is night time where you are and you are unable to sleep, click here and you’ll find yourself dozing off from boredom almost instantly!)
And what of the endless TV shows out there whose sole purpose is to take people from obscurity and give them 15 min of fame?
I watched the first couple episodes of Lindsay, the documentary about Lindsay Lohan that’s being shown on the Oprah Winfrey Network. I’m not normally a fan of this type of TV show (I’m not that keen on fly on the wall reality shows in general) but a friend told me she found it interesting so I had a look.
It was equally sad and fascinating. Watching her spend an entire day locked in a hotel room to avoid paparazzi outside (from what they showed she did nothing all day. That would have driven me insane. If I had a whole day locked in I would probably read Ursula Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea which is next on my reading list), or not being able to go to an AA meeting because she was being tailed by the press, was just quite sad.
Now I’m well aware that she courted the media, and that part of the reason she is so (in)famous now is because of her reckless past behaviour. I’m not throwing her a pity party here, it was just amazing to see just how limited the life of a famous person can actually be.
As a very quick aside – one thing that also surprised me was that despite the vast resources at her disposal, she doesn’t seem to do anything when in between films. Days filled up with personal training and life coaching seems pretty empty to me. If I was a famous actress in between films, I’d probably be…well writing a book to be honest!
Anyway, it brought into focus for me the fact that fame and success shouldn’t be as closely associated as they are. Fame is no great thing. Sure it must be a big ego boost to have thousands, or millions, know your name, but the price for that ego boost? Looking at Lindsay Lohan’s fame, I’m not sure I would call that success.
The smaller actors who are doing what they love and making films that they believe in, and managing to make a decent living out of it whilst still retaining their private life? Now that seems more like success.
Same with writers. I think the real success stories out there are the writers that we might not have heard of at the moment, who have a few books out and are planning a few more, who are making a living off their words and having a good time whilst doing it. They have a small but loyal readership base. That’s what I’d define as success.
Sure if someone came to me tomorrow and told me they would turn me into the next J.K. Rowling I’m not going to say no. And if I write a book that jumps to the top of the best seller list I’m obviously going to be thrilled (in fact that would be wonderful!)
But for now, if I can support myself purely from my writing – well I would call that a roaring success. I don’t know, maybe I lack ambition.
What’s your definition of success, are you reaching for the stars? If you had a chance at fame, would you take it?