How do you know you’re successful? Is it a place where you can arrive, like a point on the map, or only a direction you can continually head for, knowing you will never really get “there”? And what is success anyway? Is it wealth, a large car, a high valuation, a lot of income? Or is it something else? And if so, what?
In a series of thought-provoking talks, highly successful TED speakers from entrepreneurs to best-selling authors address the question of just what it means to be successful and how you can tell when you’re there.
None of these talks is longer than about 17 minutes, most are under 10. If you obsess about success even a fraction as much as I do, they’re well worth your time for the change in perspective they can bring. Here are some of the lessons I drew from watching:
1. Being successful doesn’t mean you always succeed.
Art historian Sarah Lewis got a new understanding of success when she curated a retrospective of a famous artist and learned that not all that artist’s works were great. Or even all that good. In fact, the artist had thrown some of her earlier efforts into the trash, they were so unsatisfactory. Success, Lewis argues, is not a destination but a fleeting moment. Whereas mastery-getting as good at something as you can possibly be-is a life’s work.
2. Success is doing what you love.
After the blockbuster success of Eat, Pray, Love, author Elizabeth Gilbert faced a dilemma. Canny about the publishing world, she knew for a certainty that whatever book followed would meet with disdain from critics and would be a commercial failure compared with her first book.
What to do? Exactly what she did as a struggling diner waitress with a mailbox full of rejection slips. She said, “I’m going home,” which to her meant back to the act of writing. When the next book did indeed bomb, its poor reception in the marketplace didn’t rattle her, and when the one after that did better, that was nice. But either way, she says, she felt “bulletproof,” because whatever happened, she would keep writing, and as long as she was writing, she was home.
Read more at INC.