When was the last time you felt successful? Perhaps it was graduation from college. High school? When you landed your first “real” job? Or got a promotion? Or a raise? Or perhaps that time you won the 100 meter hurdles at the state meet. Maybe when you published your book? When you finished the series and every book was a best seller? Maybe when you got the lead role in a play. Or in a movie. Or when you got a great advance or contract. Or perhaps when you heard your parent say, “I’m proud of you.” Or when you received public acknowledgement that you are a person of value to the company. Maybe it was when someone noticed you’d lost 30 pounds. Or cleared up your skin, or got some new clothes. Maybe the last time you felt successful was when when you got a gold star on an assignment in fifth grade, or scored a basket in a junior high pick-up game.
Or maybe you are still waiting for that successful feeling because success has seemingly eluded you so far. Maybe you think that success just isn’t in the cards. That feeling of success can be awfully slippery. It can show up at your door like the popular guy that everyone wants to date, make you feel like a princess for a week and then disappear in a cloud of exhaust when you don’t follow the script or when you stop paying attention to what matters to you. The quest toward “feeling successful” can leave you wondering where your life went when you were looking around the corner for something else.
Or maybe, just maybe, success has worked its way into the fabric of your life, and you just haven’t been able to see it clearly. Perhaps it’s been hiding, or perhaps it’s been shoved down too many times by its old foe expectation. Maybe it showed up when you graduated college after 10 years of taking classes at night. Maybe it was there ever time you showed up for closing shift after putting your kids to bed. Maybe it showed up when you got your first real job offer and then turned it down to start a non profit even though you were sure to make less money than when you were waitressing during all those years of school. Maybe it showed up when you entered that hurdle race just because you wanted to experience the rush of running fast and jumping over things, even if everyone else was faster. Maybe it showed up when you self-published your book, or got a small part in a play, or in a movie and then again when you didn’t care if you made any money from your efforts because you were doing what you love — and it mattered to you that you were doing it. Maybe it showed up when you did what you felt called to do, despite what your parents thought you should do. Maybe it showed up when you realized that your parents were always proud of you but didn’t know how to say it because no one ever said it to them either. Maybe it showed up when you finally gained the self-confidence you needed (by making a point to take care of your physical self which lead to losing 10 pounds) to stand up in front of other people and sing at church. Maybe it’s been showing up up all this time but in shades of gray that are usually hard to notice when you are looking for fireworks.
When you are actually succeeding, it tends to be quiet and comes always quite unannounced and without a lot of fanfare. ~Teresita Fernández
Maybe success is like an owl flying though an icy moonlit sky, piercing the cold with nothing more than a presence that can be seen if only you look up from the path that you think will take you there. Maybe success is like a walk on a frozen lake in January when the only thing you have to show for your time is a set of footprints that are enough even though they’ll be gone as soon as the wind starts to blow.
The way you live, the people you choose to love and the way you love them, the words that come out of your mouth, the size of the world you make for yourself, your ability to influence the things you believe in, your obsessions, your failures — all of these components will become the raw material for the life – [and the success] – you make.
Success depends on each of us noticing it — the minor flourishes, the mountain top moments, the little upward steps that are interspersed between regular falls into chasms — and then continuing to live in a way that uses this raw material of life to illustrate our story in a way that pierces the world, even if it feels like no one else sees it. Even if it feels like success is the thing of dreams, the thing that happens to someone else, or the pie in the sky. Perhaps success is everywhere if we let it permeate our existence in the quiet ways that it wants to.