Thursday, November 21, 2013

11/22/13—Contemplating Success

Today's Draw: Success from the Osho Zen in the What To Leave In The Past position from the Deck of 1000 Spreads. Are you a success? How do you know? And is success even important to you?

Well, this is a fine kettle of fish, huh? The tarot wants us to leave success and celebration in the past? Screw you, tarot! Am I right? Do I get an amen?

But then again...

Remember back when you were in school and you knew exactly how well you were doing by the grade or percentage at the top of your paper? If you got anything in the 80s and above, it felt good, didn't it? You knew were doing well. 

Then adulthood happened and you stopped getting grades. All of a sudden you're not so sure how well you're doing. Many of us have jobs where we rarely get thanked or praised for what we do. We're getting paid and, as long as we're getting paid, we must be doing ok. Right?

I remember letting go of the "graded" measure of success in exchange for something that was more self-referenced. I'm sure a lot of careers are like this, but in advertising, your work is up for review on a daily basis. It's extremely rare for a project to go through with no edits from the client. People like to edit stuff. They don't feel like they're doing their job if they don't find anything "wrong" with your work. I don't mean that in a bad way, just that if something is passed by you to edit, you're going to find something wrong. It's human nature. So a writer or artist can't be sensitive. 

I'm lucky. I get a lot of positive feedback. But beyond doing my best and right for a client, I'm not in it for the feedback. I can't be. The nicest thing a client can say about my work is that it got results. And because none of my clients really can or do measure that kind of thing, I just have to know within me that I'm doing a good job and presenting them in the best light. (They actually CAN measure the success of something, but there are so many variables in an ad—design, publication, placement, timing, strategy—that they can't isolate the writing as the main contributor to an ad's success, for example.)

That's really true about anything in life. If your child ends up in prison, was it because you were a bad mother? Maybe. Maybe not. Some people fail despite their upbringing. Some people have depression,   unfortunate incidents or other non-nurture issues that contribute to the person they become in adulthood. 

Tonight I was lamenting again about my dog Mystic's manic behavior. I've worked on it with her. She's improved a lot. But certain lessons just aren't taking. My other two dogs are usually referred to as "sweet, well-behaved and quiet." But Mystic is frequently manic and barky. A year of work has yielded little in a couple of key areas, while in other areas she's been a real hero in the things she's learned. It's not because I'm not a good mother or a failure. There are other issues to consider, like what happened before we found each other and her breed and whether or not something got messed up when she was shot in her head. I mean, I grew up around dogs and have had dogs for much of my adult life. This one is not like the others. 

So while we all want to be a success, it's really up to us to define what success even is. Most people understand it's not about money or how many Pandora charms you have on your bracelet. But what's harder to understand is that it's not always about results, either. It's not about how many books you've sold or whether or not you've found that cure for cancer you've spent your life chasing. It's about showing up. Knowing you've done your best. Helping others. Being kind. Growing. Whatever. 

Today's combo comes to us today to get us to ask ourselves what really makes us a success and what yardstick we should use—if any—to measure it. Life success, for example, may have nothing to do with your job at all. And if you never take the time to define what success looks like to you, how will you know it when you see it? Moreover, instead of chasing the idea of "success", maybe we should be shooting for some other star. Like happiness. Or inner peace. Or balance. The reception you get upon attaining those things might be quieter, but it's also a lot longer lasting and more fulfilling. 


  1. Lovely Post I try to be proud of my "little" successes ( In fact some of them are huge, like being kind to somebody.) It teaches me to be grateful an proud on a daily basis.

  2. This is something I've been struggling with just recently. My mum went back to work when I was just over 3 months old, and I've always felt I shouldn't be "just a mother". Yet, I also feel I shouldn't short-change my children. I need to do some serious thinking about how I define success! Or, as you suggest, consider what I can best aim for...

    1. I've been most of my adult life "just a Mother" and it is still a work in progress. It has been the one thing I am most proud of in my life.
      My teaching job has always been the less important one

    2. I can see where that's a struggle. My mother waited until I was in school to work. One of my sisters was a full-time mother and the other waited a while before going to work. I don't want children and never have, but I can imagine the struggle. Personally I feel like you can't have it all. Something suffers with all those balls in the air. And more than just considering whether to work or not, you have to consider what you want to model for the child. Do you want them to see you give up on your dreams (unless your dreams are to become a mommy)? Do you want them to think work is more important than family? And how do you demonstrate balance? Those are all HUGE questions to answer and it's enormous pressure. I just saw a friend post on Facebook the other day that now that she's been out of the workforce for 20 years, she has no idea how to re-enter the workforce or what to do with her time. On the other hand, I know someone who was the breadwinner in the family and her husband did a lot of the childcare, but her guilt made her overindulge her children and do nothing to care for herself. Each made different choices and both are going to face an identity crisis when the kids go away. And just the idea of that...something that has dominated your entire being for 20 years changing just like that. Of course it leaves a hole. And of course you're going to struggle when you consider all the options! I don't know how you figure it out. But I do know there are worse things than a working mother. And there is no way to skate through without your heart breaking at one time or another. From what I've observed, no matter what you do there will always be something they'll feel shortchanged about when they get old enough to find their voice...haha. So whatever it is, make your choice be something you choose consciously and with the best intentions, which most moms already do. The more you're at peace with your choice, the better the energy you'll bring into the mothering. :)

    3. Hi Ellen, no offence intended by saying "just a mother", I'm talking about old tapes that play in my head.
      And yes, Tierney, I think you're right when you say "there is no way to skate through without your heart breaking at one time or another... there will always be something they'll feel shortchanged about..." I guess I'm going to have to feel my way through this, moment by moment: do I want to do this or that; what should my priority be right now? :)

    4. I was' nt offended at all.:) Just sharing how it's been for me. I have never had the doubts and guilt. I can imagine it's hard.