How Do You Measure Success?

How do you measure success? It’s a question that the entertainment industry forces you to ask yourself many times.

Is success directing/acting in a play at the National Theatre? Is it writing a hit musical? Is it having the opportunity to actually turn down work? Is it getting your foot in the door at a large venue? Is it getting a review in The Guardian? Is it earning more than minimum wage? Is it earning anything at all? Or is it simply finding the motivation to keep dreaming big when haven’t worked in six months?

We all measure success in different ways, for some you’re either making it big or you’re not making it at all. For others it’s the smaller things that give us success. And for some it’s measuring yourself against your peers. The latter one is the dangerous way of doing it – it usually leads to the Royal Court/NT/Donmar/Young Vic website, CV stalking, a bottle of wine and a drunken cry of “WHY NOT ME??” *

At the moment I’m trying to re-evaluate the way I measure my success (or lack thereof at certain times). It’s far too easy to look back five years ago and scold yourself for not seeing an opportunity that could have sky rocketed your career or forever anguish over that time you said something really stupid to someone really important. Likewise it’s all too easy to dismiss all of your hard work, moments of inspiration and praise from those you respect because for whatever reason it didn’t immediately propel you to instant stardom.

But you know what? Maybe the key to measuring your success is just being, well, realistic. Burns a bit to say that, even for me. Always dream big, and aim for the best but don’t diminish your own successes, however small, by comparing them to others who seem higher up the career ladder.

* Personal experience? Noooo. Never. Not at all. AS IF. Nervous laughing etc etc.

3 thoughts on “How Do You Measure Success?

  1. How do you measure success? All of the above, and a whole lot more too. Basically, anything that nudges you further up the ladder to achieving your goal, no matter how small. The corollary of that is brutally rejecting anything that nudges you further away from your goal – again, no matter how small.

    Not diminishing your successes is a good place to start. Bigging them up by hanging them on the living room and corridor walls, or treasuring and preserving them in a cuttings/portfolio/scrapbook is even better.

    There’s nothing wrong with measuring yourself against others, or with scolding yourself for past mistakes. How can you hope to climb the ladder yourself unless you have:

    a realistic assessment of where you are on the ladder
    an increasing knowledge of the mistakes that hold you back and a determination not to repeat them

    The trick isn’t in avoiding those things, but in how you react to them.

    Respecting, admiring and even worshiping those higher up the ladder will draw you up to them. Resenting them will drive you down. Any ladder where you can’t look up with respect and admiration for those higher up, like politics for example, is a ladder you really don’t want to be on yourself.

    Giving yourself a good scolding for the mistakes you’ve made in the past creates the necessary pain and discomfort you need to discourage you from doing it again. Rewarding yourself with a bottle of wine and wallowing in your own self-pity might work if you’re the lead vocalist in Coldplay, but it wouldn’t give you the kick in the pants you need to get your ass further up any other ladder I can think of.

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  2. Hi Ian, thanks for your comments 🙂 I agree with everything you’ve said, and of course I think it is certainly no bad thing to give yourself a scolding for missing opportunities/saying the wrong thing/being lazy – I think most people in the industry do this on an incredibly regular basis (or if they don’t then they should do! haha!) I think what you’ve pointed out about how you react to these situations is true, and my post was me trying to find a productive of reacting to success vs lack of success that actually improved my state of mind instead of diminishing it. It’s a tough balance though which I guess is why I’m trying out the ‘realistic’ approach for a while to see how it works out when I get yet another rejection email (or no email at all!) Kate xxx

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    • OK, so what’s a “realistic” approach to yet another rejection? Thinking positively about your previous successes is certainly better than letting the b***tards grind you down, but are those the only two possible “realities” and reactions to chose from?

      Think of it like a play. How might different characters react in similar situations?

      How about the E15 Mothers for instance? They didn’t just get their job applications rejected, they were socially cleansed out of their homes in London and threatened with transportation to Manchester or Birmingham. So how did they react?

      Going Underground – Focus E15 mothers on social housing

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