I've been thinking a lot these past months about success. I've spent time with friends in conversation about success and what it means to us. How we define it as a culture. How I define it for myself. How the idea of success can creep in and change a moment, and how we all have our own measuring stick for what success is for us.
This past weekend I went to a Battle of the Bands at a local high school with my husband. One of his private music students was in one of the bands playing. There were some great bands, and there were also some nervous kids and some false starts and some out notes, but overall it was a truly great night. I sat there in the audience listening to each band play there 3 or 4 songs: some covers, mixed in with some originals and I felt gratitude.
I felt gratitude to each and every one of the kids that got up there to share their gifts, their passion, their excitement and their hopes of winning because it reminded me that I am on this path to do the same; to share with others what drives me to create, and keep creating. It's the winning that I sometimes trip over, the idea that in the process of working towards a creative goal there may be a winner and there may be a loser.
And I might be the loser.
I might not get into a show in a gallery I've always wanted to show at, one of my illustrations might not get picked for the poster that I was competing for, my design work might not get accepted by a publisher that I so hoped to work with, and etc.
Watching those kids jump around on stage, playing music together, having fun and sharing their hearts, I thought: wow, this is success. It's the trying for something and following through. Win or lose. Good or bad.
For me personally, I am looking at re-defining what success is, and that doesn't necessarrily include huge licensing deals or a solo show in a big gallery. It does, however, mean trying for something and following through. Would I turn down a big show or a great deal? Of course not, I'm not crazy. If I don't get either does that make me a failure? Not even close.
Every day I get up and try for something, even if it's just settling down the ugly voices in my head, or cleaning my studio because I can't find my favourite drawing pencil. Each day I get up and think about the projects I have on the table or on the computer monitor or on the easel and I'm excited to dive in and solve a problem or finish up a project that's just about there and make notes on the new ideas I gather during the creative process.
Every day I show up in my own life, on my own creative path and I create, and I've made my living this way for a lot of years now. So the beginnings of my own personal redefinition of success equals going for something and following through.
My husband's student's band rocked that high school auditorium and had people up on their feet yelling and clapping and waving lit up cell phones in time with the beat. The crowd was yelling encore encore as they finished their last song.
They didn't win.
Were they successful? Damn straight they were.