Just as important as it is to define success for yourself, it’s equally important to define failure. Otherwise, you get caught up in other people’s definition.
There’s a lovely, heartbreaking scene at the end of Albert Brooks’ film, “Mother.” In it, he looks at his mom and discovers her in a whole new light and says: “For the first time, I don’t see you as my mother, I see you as a failure, and it’s wonderful!” She delicately responds–hurt, but covering–“I’m a failure and that’s wonderful?…Alright, honey, if that’s what you need.”
She doesn’t see herself that way. She has her own definition of what failure is. And she’s so comfortable with it that she doesn’t get defensive. She loves her son and just wants him to have peace of mind.
Once we own success and failure for ourselves and not the world, then we’re free to make the art we want. Life the life we want. Make the change we seek to make.
We’re only a success or failure if we haven’t lived up to our own definitions. And it’s okay if those definitions change over time. They should as we change.
But we must define these terms.
Otherwise the world will do it for us.