Fun fact: I’ve never been financially stable. Not one year in my entire adult life.
I’ve scraped by. Some years, the years I considered windfalls, were still relatively slim. Others, I never would have made it without help from my family.
I live in the home I grew up in, with other family members. I share a car. I don’t go on fancy vacations. Or eat out. Or get my hair done.
Is this a sacrifice?
It’s supposed to be. But I don’t feel as though I’m missing anything. I don’t get excited by designer handbags or flights to Hawaii. I get excited by tools of the trade (and every year, it seems as though I need another subscription to another piece of software for formatting or design or some other aspect of book creation).
What I’ve struggled with over the years (the lede’s buried a bit here), is the question of whether this is success. We’ve all been conditioned to consider one’s finances as the true indicator of success. If it’s in the bank, your idea worked. Congratulations. We’re told that our main goal–or perhaps the only goal–is income. An accumulation of wealth. Anything that doesn’t pay out wasn’t worth our time. And, by extension, if it isn’t already popular, I, as a consumer, shouldn’t be interested in it, either. Because monetary success = good. (This attitude obviously helps to keep unknowns from breaking out and making that oh-so-precious money, of course.)
In 2016, I saw two different books release from two different Big 5 publishers. My writing take-home that year? Four figures. (It’s important here to note that’s not the full amount I made on those books–but because of how advances are divided up, that’s what I made that year.) That line of reasoning didn’t help relieve the disappointment, though. And I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a disappointment. Something I felt should be hidden away, not admitted to.
In the years since, I’ve felt myself letting go of these feelings. Not because I was trying to. They just slowly dissipated. The same way I felt myself letting go of checking on my online stats every two seconds. My dream was to become a writer. By hook or crook, I am a writer. I get up every single day and immerse myself in stories.
What is that, if not success?
There will always be people who buy into the idea that monetary success is the only success. Often, these are people who are happy to share what they make each year–because they’re proud of it. They aren’t having four-figure years. They have new cars and pictures of Hawaii. That’s fine. It’s not wrong. It’s their definition. It just doesn’t happen to be mine.
My definition (I’ve said this so many times the last few years) is, simply, this: Success is getting your teeth kicked in and then getting back up the next day and putting your heart into your work all over again, with the same passion and enthusiasm you felt the day before. Not letting the outside world convince you what you’re doing isn’t worthy of your time. Holding on to your passions, even when other people think it’s foolish.
Because the thing is, I don’t have to live up to anyone else’s definition of success. Only mine.
The same is true of you–you only have to live up to your definition.
That, it seems, is the true secret of success.