The dictionary definition of success is:
“The accomplishment of an aim or purpose”
Success will be defined differently by different people. Of course as the dictionary definition says it’s about accomplishing an aim or a purpose. So, to further define our own success we have to determine what our aims are and what our purpose is, right?
I would go out on a limb and say that when most people talk about being successful, they’re referring to making lots of money, or at least a ‘decent’ amount by their standards. Some people would say that it’s not all about money and more about happiness.
So if we’re not all agreed on the definition of success, how do we measure it?
Many different successes in life
Okay, so if we’re going to view success as achieving something; a goal or a target, then one may say that in life you can have many different goals and targets. For example, get grades, get house, get car, find wife, have kids. They’re all various successes someone could have. But if someone achieves all those things where does that leave them? Does that mean they’ve achieved everything in life? Is that person successful?
I would argue it’s also a lot about how you go about your success and how happy your successes makes you. In fact I’d go as far as to say that happiness and fulfillment are measures of success that should not be forgotten about.
Different views of ‘Success’
Success, if you ask me, is an opinion. It’s a feeling. Sure If you want to measure success by how much money you’re making then perhaps it’s easier: you can set a target and work towards that amount. Success could be a target of £100,000 per year.
But success could also be in the way that you make your money, rather than just actually making it. Success will vary on grand scales for people. Perhaps you’ll have succeeded when your photography business pays your bills? Success for someone else could be as simple as earning enough from shooting weddings this year so that they can buy that 5D MkIII or Nikon D4s. To others though, success may be actually making some money from photography for a start.
Success will be determined by what is important to us in life, the stage of life we’re at and what we value most.
Success will change as our aims and purposes change
I think my definition of success and as such happiness has evolved over the years. It initially was a materialistic measure, which I think children and young people are too often taught in school, sometimes at home and all too often by television. I started working in IT at a young age and there was one particular person I looked up to who was very materialistic at the time. Because I looked up to him in the early days I somewhat inherited his narrow view of success (in my opinion). At a very young age I was earning a good amount of money. I mortgaged my own house with my own money at just 22 years old. But that didn't make me happy at all.
When I found photography I became more and more interested in spending time making photographs, sharing, discussing and experiencing photography and all it has to offer.
When I met my wife I was more interested in getting to know her and find out all about her and growing with her as a person. We experienced a lot together (and still are).
When I had children, I was mostly interested in spending time with them and making the best possible family I could. Photography was and still is a huge part of my life and I’m very distracted by it at all times. I say that I am distracted by it because at times life is about more than photography, it’s about all of those other things that I am now learning are part of what I’m calling my success.
As new things have come into my life and priorities have changed I’ve always found that the one component needed for me to make those new things fit and work in my life to a point where I can truly enjoy them, rather than make them feel like work, is TIME.
My own Definition of Happiness
I think my definition of happiness is having time and being in control of it. Making money, in whatever way that is, is a vehicle to buying time as far as I’m concerned. Obviously, having a hobby for photography like I do offers me an avenue to explore in terms of combining that and making the money I need to buy time. BUT, in the last few years I’ve realised that the finite amount of time I have in a day, or a week was being overly allocated to photography and taken away from my wife and children.
I think having a balance of time, control and money is my definition of happiness. Having time to explore what I come across in life and take opportunities, having control of that time so I can do things when I want to do them, and having enough money to be able to afford all of that.
Time, for me is the most important thing, but time is dependant on other things. (Control and Money). That’s my ‘formula’ so far.
Whilst some people will still consider money to be their measure of success, others will insist that money doesn’t matter at all and that’s absolutely fine. In my opinion money is necessary, but it’s a small part that enables the other components that I define as success. Unfortunately being a photographer, whether professional or a hobbyist isn’t the cheapest of passions to pursue when you compare it to say playing Squash or running. So again, you do need money to enable you to pursue what makes you happy. (if your passion isn’t free of course)
What does any of this have to do with photography?
You may be asking why on earth I am talking about this subject on a photography blog? Well, I want to get you thinking about why you’re doing this in the first place? Why are you trying to make money from photography? What does it offer you that your day job or current pursuit doesn’t? The point is that we sometimes forget why we’re doing things when we become obsessed with them and I know full well how addictive photography can be.
So, now that I’ve shared my thoughts on what I call success, what does ‘Success’ look like to you? It doesn’t have to be the same as me. Success to some can be financial security, or travelling the world and of course earning money is a necessary part of those things.
What is success to you?
P.S: I remember when I was very young and there were a few times where I’d asked for a gadget, such as a Sony Walkman, or a toy such as an Action Man. Sometimes I wouldn’t get those things. However, what my brothers and I did have in our childhood were plenty of great times: Travelling down to the Isle of White or to the Hayling Island coast in the UK. Disney Land Paris, City Breaks with my mum and Brothers, holidays to Greece, driving down to the South of France that took 2 days, camping in the garden things like that. They weren’t tangiblethings. They weren’t the gadgets or toys I asked for as a young boy. But what they were, were great times and memories. Sure, I didn’t get the Action Man or the Sony Walkman, most likely because I was a horrible child most of the time or we didn’t have the money for much of my childhood, but if I did get those toys, I wouldn’t be sitting here now saying to you that “I had the greatest Mum because she bought me the Walkman and the Action Man“.
However I am saying that I had a cool Mum because she gave me experiences and memories that I still have today. I did get other toys and gadgets of course, but I don’t know where any of those are today. However, I still remember those great times and today they still have value to me. It’s for reasons such as this that I believe my definition of success is less materialistic and more about time to enjoy happiness.
When I’m old and grey, will I remember the Sony Walkman? Or, will I remember the time my brother got stuck in a swing in the park that was clearly too small for him at Hayling Island?
Happiness to me is more than things and stuff and money.