Thursday, March 18, 2010

Measures of Success

“Let’s just be thankful that Cezanne didn’t have a guidance counselor in high school who looked as his primitive sketches and told him to try accounting.”

- Malcolm Gladwell, What the Dog Saw and other adventures

Elana Johnson just wrote a post asking, “What Defines Success?”* I found the question intriguing, especially after the post I wrote yesterday. I responded in her comments section, which wound up almost being a post in itself:

- When my children are thriving

- Even when I can make every excuse to get out of it, I exercise.

- A meal I've created comes out delicious

- I'm told that I'm a good friend

- Being married to my best friend

- Completing a rough draft

- Completing a final draft

- Writing a good post

- Reading a great book

- Petting my cat

- Being out on a beautiful sunny day

- Teaching

Success I'm aiming for:


Publishing contract

Having a best seller would be pretty nice too.

I’d even add a few more items to my list:

- Spending time with friends and family (The ones I like)

- Eating a nice meal in a restaurant

- Enjoying a good cup of coffee or glass of red wine

- Listening to music

- Getting a new follower on my blog

- Reaching out to others when I’m down, so I know I’m not alone

- Surrounding myself with people who believe in me

My list got me… thinking. Sure, we always tell ourselves to appreciate the good things in our lives, like heath, solid relationships, security, and love. Then one itty-bitty thing goes wrong and all we see is FAILURE.

There are different measures of success. When I look at my 21 items, most of them have been achieved. Nobody knows more than me that some big ones have not yet happened, but I still hold out hope that they will.

How do you measure success?

If you haven’t read Malcolm Gladwell, please do. He makes any subject fascinating, and even the most complex issues become understandable. For more on him, see yesterday’s post “Late Bloomers” (including comments as well as the link to a previous post)**. His main message regarding late bloomers is that, “his or her success is highly contingent on the efforts of others.”

You may be getting the impression (sorry) that Cezanne is my favorite artist – he’s not. But he sits in the company of some great ones. And without his father and the artist, Camille Pissarro, Cezanne wouldn’t have reached his potential.

Who are the people in your lives who make it possible for you to pursue your dream?

I follow the blog of a writer who jokes about her muse (Daniel Craig)*** and Stephen King purports to having a burly guy muse. Who is my muse? Rather than a specific person, I’ve learned to appreciate a number of people who support me in different ways, which keeps me writing. Because if Gladwell is correct: that’s what it takes for a late bloomer to succeed. If you surround yourself with people who believe in you, then you’ll have succeeded in more ways than one.

“Cezanne was trying something so elusive that he couldn’t master it until he’d spent decades practicing.”

- Malcolm Gladwell, What the Dog Saw and other adventures

*Check out Elana’s post and her blog:

**Yesterday’s Gladwell-laden post:

***Scroll through for some views of Roxy’s muse:


  1. Hi Theresa, That was a lovely post, love those quotes especially the Cezanne one and accountancy.
    We are all talking about our dreams and hopes today, something in the air.
    I love yours, would agree that you have to have people around who believe in you and support and agree that in itself is a success.

  2. Wonderful post.

    Success for me, is rereading something I wrote and being proud of it. Sadly, it doesn't happen enough. But persevere I will :)

  3. Brigid, I thought that we were on the same wavelength when I read your post as well!

    I love the way you worded your last comment.

    Wendy, thank you. If you find any writing that you're proud of, that is a success. And if that goal keeps you at it, even better.

  4. Great post. I read Elana's post too, and was impressed. I like your definitions of success. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  5. "If you surround yourself with people who believe in you, then you’ll have succeeded in more ways than one." Oh I just LOVE that. I guess all my students really believe in me and I feel it...

  6. Angie, thanks for visiting my blog and becoming a follower!

    Halpey1, reading your blog, I can tell that your students believe in you.

  7. Oi! Roxy! 'ands of Dan, he's MINE!

    Jealous, moi, jamais!


    Oh I love, love lists and these are great lists! Sometimes you just need to write them all down to remind yourself how wonderful you are! It's true!!! Other people can get you down so it's up to you to pick yourself up, dust yourself down and start all over again and I really think having lists like these help!

    Also over the years I've streamlined my life to - for want of a better word - remove the passive aggressive types - you know the ones who drain you emotionally rather than uplift, the ones who always expect you to be there for them but somehow don't want to reciprocate, the ones who continuously see the negative and therefore drag you down with them.. well nuff already!

    It was a painful process removing these people and influences, but I can say hand on my heart even with a very slimmed down social circle, that now at this point in my life, I'm happier and able to be myself.

    You will be published, get that contract and the bestseller!! You'll see.


    Take care

  8. You're so funny about my muse, Theresa. I'm glad that whole thing entertains you. How was the Celtics game? I really appreciate your blog. In fact, it brought tears to my eyes because it's been a long day and I'm worn out and I feel so strongly the need to succeed in writing. It's nice to have my perspective restored. I would say the greatest support I get with writing comes from my critique group and fellow bloggers. Thanks for the great posts. I look forward to them!

  9. Old Kitty, I am a big fan of making lists when I'm faced with a big decision, but haven't too many like this.

    Good for you that you steamlined your life to keep out the emotional drainers. That's easier said than done - especially when it's family or someone very close. I'm glad you have surrounded yourself with positive influences.

    Roxy, the Celtics game was fun. I started writing a post related to that, but then this one sort of wrote itself. I'll post more on that tomorrow. Let's just say the Celtics won and the fans didn't disappoint.

    I'm sorry you had a long day. I'm glad that the post touched you. I appreciate the people I have on the home front, but only the writers know what it's like to be a struggling writer. Just as only teachers know what it's like to be a teacher. It's a gift that we can easily find one another now.

  10. I'm aiming for the same things you are in terms of success. Sometimes I aim so high I forget about all the things that are going well. Great post!

  11. Thanks, Aubrie. All this time I've been thinking of what was good in my life, but forgetting that they're successes too.

  12. I loved Elana's post too. And I loved your list. How I feel measures my success, meaning all I want to be is happy and to make others happy. But like you said, "Having a best seller would be pretty nice too". (Ha, ha.)

  13. Jackee, I agree with you, except when happiness for others is at odds with what would make us happy. Then it's a quandary. As for a best seller, I guess we'll work our way there with little steps!

  14. My book club just did a review on "Outliers" Is that written by Gladwell? Anyway, it follows a similar theme, on what makes a person a success. It's not a chance thing, but often a combination of where and when they're born and what opportunities and people came to them, along with natural abilities. It's fascinating stuff.

  15. KarenG, What the Dog Saw is a compilation of New Yorker articles he's done over the years. And articles/chapters like "Late Bloomers" made him look at outliers (People who are outside of the norm). I read, Outliers sometime in late summer or early fall and used info from it in a couple of posts. He has an earlier book or two that I enjoyed as well.

  16. Ah yes, the opposite of success. Failure. I think you can't have one without the other. And failure makes the success so much sweeter. Great post!

    PS. I love eating out. I think it's my favorite thing ever. :)

  17. Great question - and I love your list! How do I define success? I guess by my level of contentedness. If I'm happy... it's all good, I need to constantly remind myself of that!

    PS - Stop by my blog when you get a chance; I have an award there for you!

  18. Elana, it's true that we need failure in order to appreciate success. I'll keep that in mind.

    Talli, thanks for the award.

    It's good to remind yourself that you're happy. We don't need everything in order to be happy.

  19. I really loved this wonderful blog. Please keep up the good work.