What Does Success Look Like?

Success is a problem.

I mean, as a word. It’s a complicated notion that’s often given a simple definition.

The associations are accomplishments, tangible gains, and an antithesis to any kind of failure. For me, it’s too simplistic an idea — considering, for one, that we’re unable to see far enough into the future to determine progress or regress. But that’s not even it. The truth is that success is often a subjective crown, worn by the person who decides when to wear it and when it’s deserving of self-shame. Neither are quite beneficial.

When it comes to frameworks, however, success is in the development. It’s in the building of — and sometimes that means breaking a few beams. For me, it’s in the creation of something bigger, and each failure on the way is a step in the creation. This is what makes success so difficult to define in the monthly challenges I’m taken on.

It’s a nuance that I have a hard time explaining, so let’s try.

My monthly challenges are a chance to open up opportunities to test myself. That’s simple yes. But as I outlined previously, these are parts to a great sum — to develop a systemization of success. To find what it is that makes me successful and what allows me to fail. And to stay accountable to it.

I want to succeed in these short-term monthly challenges. But I want even more to succeed in the long-term game here of developing and refining a self-success system. And I realize to do this — the latter — that I’ll need to fail. That I’ll need to not hit the goals developed in my challenge (and sometimes arbitrarily developed) in order to achieve my something greater.

So how do I go on wanting to accomplish a goal and wanting to fail at the same time? Well, it’s tough. I approach it with my utmost. I approach it wanting to hit the challenge but prioritizing knowledge and experience over short-term gains. If I don’t finish a challenge, hard questions must be asked. If I do finish one, actions must be examined in detail. I must keep asking, “what happened?” and seeing that answer above all else. The problem is to not detach from the realm of happening. And that’s tough not to do.

Each month, particularly in the beginning, I play participant, referee, judge, and historian. The roles themselves are enough to throw the entire endeavor off, but I mustn’t let it.

Herein lies the problem I started with: success is not a simple location. So what is success?

Success must then be truth. It must be an uncovering of something in the action of achievement or the missing of it. That’s where I’m trying to head. It’s not just the pie-in-the-sky hope of my framework — there are steps along the way that can be called successful or not. But these are not the steps of finishing a challenge with a 100% achievement rate. Nor a 70%, or a 30% rate and calling it a failure, or a 0% and missing entirely. That’s not the mark of judgment where one stands successful or not.

Success, then, is the rumbling beauty of transparency. What is working and why? Can we determine to know? Can we place success as a quantum point in history that we can look back on, build on from, and not reduce to a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ — but to make fecund unto the possibility of moving forward.

Success is a continuation. And so I move forward one month. And one after. And onward.