Riding That Success Train

The ever-charming and entertaining Joshilyn Jackson posted a blog post today that started me thinking.  I’m the kind of person for whom “good” is not usually “enough,” and my definition of success is constantly being adjusted upwards.  It’s a good thing, having goals, but there’s also something to be said for enjoying the moment, for appreciating what you’ve achieved.  I tend not to do this, and I’ve become more and more conscious of my attitude as my children have grown. I want them to strive to be their best in everything, but I also want them to be able to delight in the high points without rushing forward to the next peak.  And I want them to realize that who they are, and what they are worth, comes from within, not from some outward goal that they may or may not make.

I don’t always help myself on this path, but luckily I have people around me who will remind me of what’s important.  Sometimes I have an epic fail. (Example:  I’m not really a Tiger Mom, but when my daughter came home with a fabulous report card I couldn’t …quite … stop myself from asking why she went from an A+ to an A in one subject.  My husband didn’t hang me upside down for that one, but he was definitely tempted.)

In my writing career, I’ve spent a lot of time focussing on what’s ahead, instead of what’s in front of me right now.  Finishing my book, finding an agent, connecting with an editor, seeing my book in stores … it’s like climbing a mountain, and as soon as you reach the top of one, there’s another summit to tackle.  And the thing is, it never ends.  There will always be some other goal, just out of reach.  And if you tie your self-worth to whether you attain it, you will never be content with what you’ve already accomplished.

I’m starting to understand, too, that after a certain point, much of this whole thing is out of my control.  At the end of the day, the only reasonable goal is to write the best book I am capable of, do what I can to get it into the world, and let it go.  And then spend time with the real prize, the people (and slobbering beasts) who matter.  Because if you think time on each mountain top is short, the time you have with the people you love is infinitely shorter.

How do you define success?

Liz Michalski


  1. Lynn Barry on April 26, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    Success: When you ask your 12,10, and 8 year old boys ONLY ONCE to clean the family room up while you run to the store, and actually find it clean!! when you come back. Sometimes they really do listen! (or just take pity on me…)
    Just kidding- I think there is personal success- happy, healthy family, happy home, and professional success- getting “there”….whatever that goal might be…but yeah, once you get “there”, hopefully there’s always more to go! What fun is there in being done? 🙂

    • liz on April 26, 2011 at 8:55 pm

      Ha! I’m still waiting for that definition to kick in around here, Lynn!

  2. Christine on April 28, 2011 at 11:22 am

    Liz, you make some excellent points!

    I think if you can feel at peace in the present, find the joy in a moment, you have found success. Of course there is nothing wrong with striving to climb the mountain, but when it comes down to it, the climb is the pleasure in life; once you hit the summit, the fun and challenge is over and all you have is “I did this.” The achievement is simply a reminder of the memories you made along the way, and the improvements you wish to make on the way through the next journey. I guess that’s why I love books so much (like yours!!)– because they are a record of the characters’ and the authors’ journeys.

    My 2cents

    • liz on April 28, 2011 at 9:48 pm

      That is so true, Chris. And nicely put!

  3. Al on May 6, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    Killing terrorists.

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