I struggle with the concept of success. I want desparately to be a “successful” person, but often I get confused with what that really means. Too often I get wrapped up in capitalism’s measure of success: income. Today, I read a definition that resonated with me. From W. Stephen Smith’s book “The Naked Voice:”
Success is all about the joy we attain in pursuit of our passions.
Think on that.
Thus, a successful mother is one who finds joy in mothering, a successful singer is one who finds joy in singing, etc. Each person will come at that joy in individual ways. I’ll never forget how liberated I felt when I decided I was going to mother in a way that made me happy. I read several books on sleep training, feeding children, etc. when I was a new mom. Their detailed instructions lead to a sort of mechanical mothering that didn’t sit well with me. I felt guilty when I wanted to rock my child to sleep, I felt like a bad mother when I would forgo a nap for an outing. And yet, it was precisely those things that brought me happiness (and when Mom’s happy- everybody’s happy!).
I love that Smith says success is all about the joy we attain in pursuit of our passions. He emphasizes that only when one enjoys the journey will they enjoy the end result. (The book is a vocal pedagogy book so it is based on singers, but applies more broadly.) He says often he hears singers that say: “I’m going to go for this until I’m 30 and if I’m not singing at the Met by then, I’ll quit.” He suggests then, “Then quit!” If you’re not enjoying the journey then it is not worth it. This idea has become cliche, too often wisdom becomes such because it is repeated tritely.
Here’s a simple example from today. All month I’ve been trying to decide how to celebrate Scotland’s birthday. One day I’d think, he’s so young he won’t get it anyway, we’ll just give him a few presents make a cake for dinner and call it good. The next day I’d feel like this was a great opportunity to celebrate Scotland, expess our love, and add a little punch to life. Finally, I decided to go for it, have a party- make it fun. Today I spent the bulk of the day preparing for his party tomorrow- making party hats, decorations, frosting, etc. A warm spirit of excitement and love filled my heart as I thought of my sweet boy, how much I love him, and how I hope he will feel of that love tomorrow and always as he looks at pictures of his special day. Then it hit me, I would have never felt this joy if I’d simply bypassed the party and went the easy route. I would have lost an opportunity for happiness.