What is success anyway?

As I tentatively finish up one book and start thinking about the next, I find myself thinking about the why…

Why am I writing? Is it out of some self-gratifying desire for success? For riches? For my name to be spoken of by people I’ve never met? To be remembered?

If it is about those things then I’m clearly losing. I recall telling people that I wrote to make sense of my existence. But what was so wrong about my life before? As bad health tries to reduce my living to managing what most would say is the bare minimum (I refuse to let it), I’m realising that I’ve got a poor handle on success. As Churchill once said,

Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.

There’s something in that- don’t let the seen success of the people around you mislead or discourage you. Believe me, they all face their own hidden failures that they have to struggle through and overcome.

Does your heart sink when you see your Twitter feed filled with competitions won and publishing deals achieved? Or babies born and promotions acquired? Does it look to you that everyone has managed ‘success’ and you’re still in the frustrated state of counting likes and retweets on one hand? Do you look at your life and wonder what you have to show for it?

One of my grannies used to frequently tell us about being among the first women doctors of her time. She was also married to a Presbyterian moderator. But. At the end of her days she often sat alone in her nursing home wondering why the visitors had stopped coming. She is still remembered by those who loved her, but the achievements she talked of have flown away. When I think about granny, I remember her cycling on her wee red bike with freshly baked soda farls for our after-school snack more than I think about her publicly recognised titles.

I’m learning that I need to reconsider what truly matters. I could write a book that fitted with the style of the ones that get critical acclaim from publishers and Twitter. I could aim for a thousand likes. But, like granny, all that success will one day just fly away.

So I’ll do what I should have always done: write a book that is true to myself, hold my loved ones close, treasure the little, often unnoticed gifts strewn in my daily path and celebrate every decision to just keep going, no matter what. Success is fleeting but love is forever.

Think about that next time you let social media try to tell you you’re not as worthy as someone else.

Think about what you have overcome this very day and remember what true success really is.

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