My recent posts about materialism and the messed-up standards of people in today’s society got me thinking about the topic of success. I know a lot of people think I’m a not a success, but I see myself as one. The reason for the discrepancy is that we’re looking at the same thing from totally different points of view.
We’ve been taught that success means you’re making a lot of money, or your name is extremely well known, and preferably both. The thing is, that’s a very shallow view of success. Success is much more about your accomplishments than how much money you’ve made from them. We need to stop thinking about everything from such a materialistic point of view.
Some of the greatest artists and writers never made a cent from their work until after they were dead. Does that mean they weren’t successful when they were alive or that they weren’t amazingly talented? Didn’t they still create amazing works of art and literature? Some great inventors sold their inventions for a handful of dollars and someone else got rich off them. Did that make the inventor any less successful, or any less of a genius? Some of the most influential people who have ever lived have names you’d never recognize if you saw them written down. Does that mean they didn’t do great things?
As a society we’ve come to associate every aspect of life with money. There’s so much more than that! It is totally possible to be successful in many aspects, even when there’s little or no money to show for it. I’ve published 25 books in multiple different formats. I consider myself to be a successful writer and self-publisher. I’ve created literally thousands of pieces of art. I’d say I’m a successful artist. I’ve done a lot more than that too. I say screw anyone who say’s I’m not a success because I’m not wealthy.
I suppose one could argue semantics and say that it would be more appropriate to call someone “accomplished” rather than successful. I might even agree with them. My issue is less with the terminology and more with the idea that you’re nothing if you’re not making money. You could walk up to someone on the street and say “Guy X has written 300 full-length novels in his life. Would you consider him a success?” and they would ask “How much did he make?” They would only care about the profit, and tell you it wasn’t worth anything if he didn’t get paid for it, or didn’t get paid enough. It’s a twisted mentality.
We need to look at the people around us, including ourselves, and see how much we’ve done. The amount of money garnered is of much less value than the work itself. Of course, if you think monetary success is so important, maybe you should start buying the books and art of these talented people. Give money to that amazing violinist on the street corner. Do something to help them find the financial success you think is so important instead of scoffing at people who have more talent than you could ever dream of. And there’s another thing. People will look down on those who aren’t financially successful even when they’re more intelligent, talented and accomplished than most people with 10 times their income. That’s just sad that anyone would hold someone with money in higher regard than someone with great ability.
I suppose that this post, while I hope it will educate some of the shallow folks out there, is more directed at those of you out there who fit into the “starving artist” category. Whether you write, invent, create music or art or whatever, ignore the people looking at you telling you to go out and do something with your life. Live your dream, follow your passion. The money will come someday, and even if it doesn’t, at least you lived a life worth remembering, rather than selling out to the materialism machine. Don’t let anyone make you feel like your talent is worthless or that you’re just a “hobbyist”. Do what you love, revel in every success and milestone, and tell those nay-sayers to get bent.