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The Relativity of Success

Updated: Apr 9

"Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it."

― Maya Angelou




When hearing the word success, everyone's mind creates a different picture. What does success mean to you? Is it a big house, a well-paying job, or a happy family? Some people dream of climbing Mt. Everest, while others wish to walk out their front door. Triumphs come in all shapes and sizes.


One person feels victorious when they buy their first brand new car. Another may feel getting out of bed in the morning is an excellent achievement for the day.


American poet and civil-rights activist Maya Angelou is my selection for today's Kitchen Wall Wisdom quote. While she states it simply, achieving the type of success Angelou talks about in this phrase can be complicated.


What does it mean to like yourself? Truly like yourself? Most human experiences involve close, personal relationships. We work on these connections with people like our parents and coworkers because they're essential to our lives.


When thinking about your relationships, which do you feel is the most important? Is it your connection with your children, partner, or friends?


What about your relationship with yourself? The fact is, you spend more time with yourself than any other person on the planet. You know more about yourself, the good and the bad, than anyone else. So why wouldn't your relationship with yourself be the most important?


Those other relationships are essential, but how will you be equipped to care for others if you aren't caring for yourself?


Many of us have an inner critic. How strong is yours? When you listen to your inner monologue, ask yourself, "If other people talked to me that way, would I want to be their friend?" If the answer is no, you might need to work on challenging that voice.


It's okay to have a critic who pushes us to strive, but it's not okay to beat yourself up. Inner critics that are not contained can damage your self-esteem and ability to succeed. Everything else falls into place when we transform our definition of success into simply being kind to ourselves.

Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels

Now on to liking what you do, which isn't always straightforward either. There are tons of people out there whose jobs are far from what they want, but sometimes doing what you like doesn't pay the bills. Still, it's essentialetcThatto continue to do what you like, whether or not you earn a cent. It doesn't say anything about padding your 401K in this quote.


Doing what we like enriches our soul.


Some people are fortunate to find something they enjoy that brings financial security. My mother used to tell me, "If you half like what you do, then you're" winning." I couldn't agree more.


I've tried many different careers in my life. Bartender, farmer's market worker, real estate agent, complaint coordinator, the list goes on. But one thing I kept as a constant in my life is writing.


Becoming a writer is all I've ever wanted. And writing is what I'm doing. Am I successful? Well, that depends on how I look at it on any particular day.


If I look at it through the eyes of my inner novelist, I'm far from successful. I have one non-fiction book published but am still working on a full-length fiction piece. I have to admit. My younger self thought this first novel would be published and read by thousands at this point in my life.


Yet, when I view my writing path through different eyes, I feel successful for having come this far in my story's creation.


Successes are not fixed. They are malleable and subject to alteration at any given moment. And these changes help goals become achievable.


Have I reached every writing goal I've wanted thus far? No. But I keep moving forward, and that's success in itself.



The final part of Angelou's quote is to like how you do it. Since I only have my experience as a reference, I ask myself, "Do I like how I write?"


Honestly, not always. Learning to like how I express myself in print has been a life-long journey. I plan on following this path until the day I die. But I don't expect to reach a point of complete adoration for what I create. Art is a process, and I don't expect total perfection. At least not in this lifetime.


The important thing is that I like how I write more today than I did a year ago. My admiration for my work is much stronger now than when I first began. I'm sure I'll enjoy my writing much more a year from now as long as I keep at it and vow to improve.


That's the beauty of life. Change is constant, and embracing it is liberating. I've noticed artists who peak sometimes lose their appetite for reinvention. My goal is to continually plateau because there's nowhere to go from the top but down.


I may not always like the way I write, but I continue to do it no matter the circumstances. To me, this is the ultimate success.


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