I had a birthday the other day, and as most of you know, I’m no spring chicken. But I started to wonder – has my life been a success?
Now, I must admit I don’t feel entirely comfortable using the past tense here because I’ve still got some gas left in the tank – I hope!
But it made me think – what constitutes success in a life?
If someone has an expensive car and a luxurious house by the harbour, would you say that person is a success?
You probably would, right?
What if they have a massive stock or property portfolio, or a beautiful holiday home by the sea, or a swanky mountain retreat – would you say that person is a success?
Again, you probably would.
Supposing that same person has several failed marriages. And a brood of children that hate his or her guts. And supposing that person got their wealth through greed and deceit. Would you still regard that person a success?
Material wealth and possessions aren’t, in my view, an indicator of success.
In the work I do, as a filmmaker and author, success can be marked by awards. But I know plenty of people who have done great work that’s had a major impact on culture and they’ve never won an award.
Good critical reviews for a creative work could be seen to be a marker of success – but again history shows us that what we regard as masterpieces now were often dismissed or even vilified at the time when these works were first released and critiqued.
In the creative industries, if you make a lot of money you’re regarded as being a success.
But what you make, or do, could be ugly and hurtful.
If someone for instance became wealthy by making pornography, would you regard that person a success? Or if they created works that were exploitative or incited hatred or violence – is that a successful life?
For me, morals and ethics hold way more sway than material displays of success.
Did Gandhi achieve success in life?
You bet he did.
Did Mother Teresa achieve success in life?
Damn right she did.
They both had bugger all in terms of possessions.
But the impact they made on humanity was immeasurable.
We all can’t be Gandhis or Mother Teresas,
but in some small way we can put a dent in the Universe,
As Steve Jobs put it.
We were born to create.
That’s what our purpose is, I believe.
And every day we create, all of us, in one way or another.
What we create, and how we do it, is what defines us.
I was on a podcast recently hosted by an entrepreneur,
and he asked me:
What would you say has been your greatest success?
My family, I told this podcaster.
That flummoxed him.
He didn’t expected me to say that.
But I believe it absolutely.
Everything else is secondary to that.
For me, success in life is waking up each morning,
being able to do what I love doing.
That to me is a successful life.