What is Success?

Recently, a friend mentioned something about identity and jobs and I commented that I feel like now that I don’t have a job I no longer have an identity, at least in the eyes of the world. We like to define people by their jobs. I wrote about this and about how I didn’t want to be defined by my job six years ago. The problem is, people still want to judge people and their success by what they do and how much money they make. I have failed at society’s view of success my entire life.

When I was in college I failed at being successful by struggling with my grades at first, changing majors at the last minute, and taking over 5 years to graduate. I failed at being successful by deciding to get a library science degree instead of going into a better field. I failed at being successful by not only being a librarian, but also being the “jail guy” instead of a real librarian. I failed at being successful by being turned down for every promotion I applied for at my job I failed at being successful by never moving up a pay grade for the entire 25 years I worked at the library. I failed at being successful by making less money than my wife. I failed at being successful by quitting my job before I was eligible to retire. In the eyes of the world, I could easily be seen as a failure and I’m sure in the eyes of some, I am.

Now, I don’t even know what would be considered a success for me. Is it writing a blog post? Is it getting a certain number of views? Is it writing non-blog stuff? Is it number of words? Is it being published? Is it getting stuff done around the house? Has success passed me by and I am now a lost cause? I have no salary. I have no title. I have no job. By society’s standard I am very far from successful.

But what is success, really?

I raised two kids who have grown to be decent people.

I devoted more time to spending time with them than working(at home and work)

I worked for 14 years with a church youth group and like to think I was a positive influence on the lives of a number of teens.

I coached youth sports and danced in the dad’s dance at my daughter’s dance recital.

I chaperoned school fields trips.

I created a program at work that encouraged the singing talent of area teens.

I believe that the impact I had on lives from that list is a better way to judge my success than job titles and bank accounts. I would rather have that list than more hours at work making more money. Others would disagree.

How do you define success?

24 thoughts on “What is Success?

  1. I really like this post – it’s a success! How wonderful to use our talents to serve others. I try to live to my own internal standards, not the world’s standards. Have a good Monday!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Success is what we alone define it. F*ck what society thinks. I’d add that success isn’t achieving something. It’s enjoying achieving something. Not money or titles or fame or being right. Success is loving what you’re doing. If you do I don’t believe the other stuff won’t matter. Great post

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I was “lucky” enough to have my entire life implode when I was 23. Now, I truly believe that it was a blessing it happened when I was so young, though at the time I certainly did not think so. As a result, I spent several years in survival mode– picking up the pieces, trying to rebuild and reshape my existence. One of the benefits I gained from this was the destruction of my “give-a-damn”.

    I didn’t have the time nor energy to think about, much less worry about, what other people thought of my life and how I was living it. I only had the energy to work on the things I decided were important…things that were going to benefit me in the long run.

    But, I was floundering. I didn’t know HOW to build a life back from nothing. I didn’t know WHERE to spend my limited time and energy, I didn’t know HOW to decide what was important. To help me focus, a friend offered some advice that helped me then and has continued to shape my life for the last twenty-eight years. She asked me to think about what I wanted written on my tombstone. If an action was related to what I wanted written there, it was worth my energy. If it wasn’t related, forget about it. She also said think about how I would finish the sentence “I wish I had spent more time…” when I was on my death bed.

    It is morbid, but it worked for me. I don’t think anyone every said “I wish I had spent more time at work/making money/worrying bout (insert anything)” while on their death bed.

    So, I think you have had an ultimately successful life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I definitely think about the death bed thng sometimes. I know for sure more time at work is not something I will wish for but I sometimes think others I know mght actually think that.
      I’m glad you had a friend who helped you figure it out.


      1. She was a very wise woman. I am more grateful for her presence in my life than I was ever able to adequately express.

        It makes me sad, but I think you are correct. There are some people who think work/money/etc are that important.

        Caveat: when a person doesn’t have enough money to survive, much less thrive, the thoughts of it can be all encompassing which is completely understandable. Been there, done that, have absolutely no desire to experience it again.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I think it depends on how you define it. To be a librarian in a prison must have been interesting and you probably have a few stories to tell. Once I had someone criticize me while I was teaching elementary because I had never had children and most likely could not understand how best to teach them. I cried and was very upset as it was one of my stepchildren who said this to me. He is an adult. I am an adult. Anyway, I later read stories that some of the best elementary teachers do not have children. So there, it depends on who you are listening to….

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I would like to think I had a positive impact on some of the students I came into contact with. Just like being part of a library in a prison is kind of interesting. I am sure you hear many stories. My stepson and I still get along but it took me awhile to move on from his observation.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I think you understand what success for you is; you just need to remember that. As a self-employed person for the bulk of my career, I always felt judged less successful because I didn’t work 24/7 to make lots of money, because I preferred not to have employees but to do everything myself (later with my husband), because my attitude has generally been “it’s only money” (except for the two times I had trouble extracting payment from bad clients), and probably a myriad other “reasons” that never really mattered to me. I was honest, straightforward, worked hard, and not greedy. I managed to support myself after my divorce without alimony, only child support that was reasonable. Success isn’t represented by status or money.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Good post! Success, to me, is waking up every morning. Doing what I need to do to keep healthy and content. Try not to hurt other people. Be respectful of others. And going to sleep knowing that even if I didn’t make the world better I didn’t make it worse

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s such a good question to ponder. We live near each other, and we know that, around here, the first question someone asks you when you meet is: What do you do? And they don’t mean on the weekends. Or, what do you do with your family? Or, how do you volunteer your time? It’s about what you do as a profession to make money. Such a rat race! My life feels like a success if I am actually looking forward to getting up out of bed in the morning. And, since I started freelancing, about 10 years ago, I can say I really do. But there are people who need to work with a team, and my work life wouldn’t suit them. And I have mom friends who don’t work at all. But I will say that making some money–even just grocery money–does fulfill some need in me. However, I know I’m very lucky to have the support to do what I like and work as much as I like–so I can engage in other “work”–family, church, social-life work, and work on just me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve seen a lot of judgment over the years toward people who don’t have “real jobs” the closer we get to normal the more pressure I’m going to feel to go back to the rat race. I’m glad you have the support to do what you like.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I recognize that feeling. I got my girlfriend pregnant when I was 19, I moved back in with my parents at 23, I was single father, sleeping on a couch at 26. I lost my business to the recession in 2008 and had my home foreclosed on. I’ve never had a relationship last more than 4 years. At nearly 50 years old, I’m a bartender. I never went to college. By most standards, I’m a failure at life.

    But I don’t feel that way. I stepped up when most men leave, and raise my son, who is now a highly successful and sought after talent in his field. I over came the changes of being undereducated to build a business and buy a house. When I lost it, it took years for me to recover and I had to redefine my life.

    As I bartender, many wonder when I’ll get a “real job”, but every night, I help people relax and enjoy themselves and make their lives a little better through our interactions. I’ve never been married, but I’ve had the good fortune to know and love several truly amazing and inspiring women, and had their love in return.

    And, much to my surprise, as I’ve grown older, and learned to look at my life as one of achievements and challenges over come, I’ve found many younger people looking to me as a role model. One young man, an extremely talented musician (which I an NOT! LOL) even told me “You are who I want to be.”

    When I stopped measuring success by other people’s standards, I suddenly found I was successful, and other people felt it too.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s