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198: Defining Creative Success



Success is an interesting concept. I’ve found that so much of what we think of as success relates to easy-to-identify, external quantitative metrics that allow us to compare ourselves to an expected standard of existing in the world. We can put a lot of pressure on ourselves to achieve this or achieve that by a certain age, including certain salary expectations, job title, followers, etc. for a variety of reasons.


What if, instead, we chose to acknowledge that success is a more difficult to identify, internal qualitative measure that should be customized to each and every individual?


I am just beginning to unlearn the ‘fake rules’ I’ve been conditioned to believe to be true, including the idea of what constitutes ‘success’. I’ve done a lot of self-reflection to reevaluate and recalibrate the metrics by which I measure my own success, understanding that if I don’t take matters into my own hands, I will get swept up in and defined by how the world judges my success. I am just starting to learn and live the realization that…


My Productivity ≠ My Worth

My Creativity ≠ My Worth

My To Do Lists ≠ My Worth

The Success of My Last Project ≠ My Worth

My Job Title ≠ My Worth

My Salary ≠ My Worth

What Others Say About Me ≠ My Worth

My Gold Stars ≠ My Worth


So if – all things being equal – we are worthy and worth it and wonderful no matter our creative outputs and no matter whether someone has told us ‘we belong here’, wouldn’t that change everything?!


I’ve spoken about it a lot before, but I think it’s worth repeating in this context. I use a tool I call “Creative Cousins” to look outside of myself for creative mentors (that I may or may not know personally) to discover themes that reflect why I look up to their work. I can then integrate these themes into redefining my own measures of creative success. This is my tried and true process that I engage in when I’m feeling a little lost and without direction. It only takes a couple of minutes and brings so much clarity, peace and encouragement.


For example, my Creative Cousins tend to be experimental, generous, curious and expressive. These are the themes that arise again and again in the work that they put into the world. Knowing this, I can make the choice to realign my expectations of what success looks like for myself using similar measures. Therefore, if I’m engaging in projects that are experimental, generous, with curiosity and expressiveness, I sleep soundly at night knowing I’m successful on my terms. It’s the realignment of expectations that’s a wonderfully freeing and creative act.


I’m excited for you to hear from our nine creatives, in response to the question: How do you measure the success of a narrative-driven project, and how has your definition of success evolved over the course of your career?




In the next episode, I pose the question: At the end of your life, what story do you hope others tell about you?


To be continued…


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Meet the 9 Creatives Featured in This Series



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Sound & Music Credits



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