Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Defining Success

My thinking of late seems to be maintaining a consistent theme: success. What does it mean to me and ... is it important?

A while back I made my frustrations apparent through a mostly negative blog post about, what I perceived to be, failed opportunities. Since then, I've been doing some soul-searching on where I'm going, what I really want, and I'm finding that I have a lot of preconceived notions on what "success" means. 
         For example, I thought that having people write about your work, buy your art, or even having lots of comments on your blog meant that you were successful. When you break that down, it means that I'm relying on justification from others to prove my worth. When I think about it, that doesn't seem to make sense. Only doing things for the approval of others? 

It reminds me of watching Project Runway (before I realized how much I couldn't stand that show) and how the designers that tended to fail were the ones who listened to the judges' advice maybe a little too much and changed their idea too frequently, to the point where it wasn't even their idea anymore. And then failing in the same ways, my senior year of college because of the same issues. That's why you hear so many people say 

trust your gut 
be true to yourself/your vision/your idea


so why am I not considering such sage advice when it comes to defining success?

Yesterday, I was watching a documentary on fashion designer, Marc Jacobs, and was so utterly struck by a comment the narrator made. It was talking about an earlier fashion show he did (if you know about his career, it was the grunge collection he did for Perry Ellis), he said, and I quote: 

"It was a critical success 
but a commercial failure."

What? So you're saying ... one of his most iconic lines, a show that I was taught in fashion school, the one that created a shift in the way modern women of the 90's dressed ... was a failure? I had to laugh at the dichotomy within this sentence. That's another point I've been coming back to this week       ..............       equating success with money.

I don't want money to have such a hold on me that it becomes the platform in which I make all my career decisions! Alas, I know too well that our society is built upon it but dammit! I don't want it to wholly dictate this part of my life; a career that I am attempting to build in the name of creative fulfillment!

So, I'm working on a new way to define success in my own career, in my own life, in my own heart.

My success is not determined by how many hours in a day I spend "working", or what kind of press I get for an art show, or how many people visited my website in the last month, or what OTHER PEOPLE are doing in their lives. 

From now on, I'm defining success by how excited I get to come up with an idea and see it through to execution, by the connections I make through my work, the observations I learn about myself that help me grow, my ability to keep a clean kitchen, exercising and eating healthy on a daily basis, staying positive and being a source of support for the ones I love.

My career is not my life, but it's a part of it, and I think I will be a whole lot more happy if I base my success on my own terms.


A quick snap of the art show as it was being installed in Durham last Monday. More photos coming soon of the completed space!


  1. Really important realizations here. Success has to be self-defined, especially in art. Love what you do ...

    1. Thanks Kathryn! I'm sure many before me have figured these things out but it feels good to come to it in my own terms!

  2. I can really relate to this. Thanks for putting it into words! <3