Thursday, October 15, 2009

Codifying Success

I guess one of the hotter topics amongst the online content community these days is coming up with a working definition of success.

On the surface it seems easy enough - success defines itself, you're either successful or you're not. But for bloggers, writers, and other people who live in an online world success seems much harder to define. It also seems to be much more elusive than for people of the "bricks and mortar set," something more like the Quest for the Holy Grail rather than The Hudsucker Proxy (for all you fans of mediocre movies from the 80's).

I guess we all see success in a different, personal, ultimately selfish way. Honestly, how many of us define our personal success as the eradication of war, poverty, disease and general human misery? Is the creation of a world without AIDS a marker of success for anyone who doesn't have AIDS or wasn't directly involved in the research required to make it happen? Conversely, how many of us see the death of a child from a preventable cause somewhere in the world at a rate of one every three seconds as a personal failure?

Assuming we can sleep at night without having solved all the world's problems (and the vast majority of us unfortunately can) is it possible to seek success in a manner that brings us personal gratification and fulfills our obligation to the preservation/betterment of the planet and the human race?

Can we do like Carnegie and repay a lifetime of success at any cost with unbridled philanthropy and the use our success to provide the foundations upon which others may succeed in the future?

Or can we, as one of the world's greatest wife's friends says, be successful simply by having a stable, steady income that earns enough to keep a roof overhead, food on the table, the bills paid and a little something saved for a rainy day?

I'm not sure there is an easy answer to all of this. Perhaps it lies not in the achievement of success, but in the pursuit of it. After all, there is no pre-determined point at which everyone will agree "You are a success." Even Bill Gates, the world's richest man, is a failure in the eyes of some (just Google "spawn of satan" and you'll see what I mean), so there really is no empirical benchmark we can look to and say "When I am there, I am a success."

So I'll keep looking to the journey, not the destination, for guidance. Yes, I still have goals (as anyone who's seen my refridgerator door will attest to), but I've been trying for some time now to pay more attention to how I'm reaching those goals, not just the goals themselves.

We open another show here tonight at Grinder. Another goal has been reached, another play crossed off the "to do" list of plays I must do before I die. But is it a success? I could ask at the box office, but I think instead I'll wait until it is all over, and I have in my hands both the house counts and a comprehensive picture of the entire process, from finding out about the show to putting the last set piece back in the barn.

That's when we'll see what our "success" decides to look like.

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