The Search for Success

I’ve been ruminating over this topic for some time now, this idea of success.  Who has it? Who wants it?  Who thinks they have it? Who do others think have it?

Do I want it? Do I have it?

What is IT?

The world has a lot of opinions on success. A lot of them include climbing your way to the top, stepping over your enemies.  They involve defeating other people in order to achieve your personal success. Becoming the top of your career…a popularity contest of sorts or at the very least a monetary marker.  The one who makes the most money or is the most well known is the “successful” one.

But I think that these are all notions that lead to many of us feeling as though we are failures or that our work has failed.  There can be hierarchies of this. Perhaps I feel more successful than some while still feeling like a failure compared to the accomplishments of others.  And why is that?

It’s because I have compared myself. I have looked at someone else’s work and found my success or lack there of in a comparison of my work to theirs.

  • They have done more.
  • They have a fabric line.
  • They regularly chat with “big names/sewlebrities”.
  • They have written multiple books.
  • They have more followers than me.
  • They have more blog sponsors than me.
  • They get more comments on their blog.
  • They have more things published than I do.
  • They are constantly using the newest fabric line available.
  • They have seemingly unending budgets for fabric or are always being sent the latest fabrics by manufacturers.
  • Their children never seem to get in the way of their sewing time.
  • They produce massive quantities of quilts.
  • They are teaching at every up and coming event and traveling the world to do so.
  • Their health never gets in the way of their production.

Does any of this sound familiar? If not, then congratulations. I truly mean that. It means you have avoided the pitfalls of comparison and are allowing yourself to simply create.  That is a beautiful thing : creating without comparison. Because if there is one thing I have learned, it is this:

Comparison Kills Creativity

I honestly don’t know yet if I am successful.  This is a question I’m still really exploring and diving deeper in to. But I know the world is full of wisdom and I’m ready to hear yours. I know that success is often the result of deep struggle, overcoming an obstacle we didn’t think we could. I know that success is rarely handed to you on a platter, you have to actually do work (though Hollywood may make us feel otherwise). I know success is not inherited. Each person must define and achieve it herself.

I’m also coming to understand that success is not a strictly positive experience.  What someone may look at in my work for example and see as a success, I find as a purely vulnerable exposed moment.  I’m waiting for the inevitable criticism that comes with pleasing people.  Because you can’t please all people all the time.  I have a book coming out in the spring and I know that some will view that as a success…wow, you wrote a book.  But while I did a work that I am incredibly proud of, there is that fear of the first bad review on amazon.  The vulnerability of putting your name on something and telling the world that this is a part of me.  If it fails does that mean I have failed?

Vulnerability. I think that this is intrinsically linked to success for me at least. Writing this.  Sharing my work. Waiting for a comment, any comment, on my blog.  Reminding myself not to compare. To follow my own path.

It takes courage.  And some days it takes a LOT of courage.

59 thoughts on “The Search for Success”

  1. Thank you for writing this post. I needed to hear this today!!!
    I will print out theses quotes and put them on my design wall!!!
    I look up at you, you know? 🙂 succesful blog, great book coming out! You inspire me!!!
    esthersipatchandquilt at yahoo com
    ipatchandquilt dot wordpress dot com

  2. Great quotes to accompany the subject. It's so darn hard to be comfortable with one's own walk in life & not compare it to others. It does get much easier with age though 🙂

  3. Oh Angela, I can not thank you enough for this. What an amazing post that so hits home. I made a goal this year to "Be Happy With Me", which in my mind pretty much means, stop comparing myself to others. How wonderful it was to read your post and see put into beautiful words the same idea. Oh, thank you, thank you!! If I were in IN still I would come give you a hug because I totally feel like I have just been given a huge hug. You are such a great friend and a wonderful and inspiring quilter.

  4. This is a lovely post. These quotes are awesome, and I concur with Belinda that it all becomes much easier as we age. Thank you for this and all your posts – your creativity and thoughts are always inspiring to me (although I am not much of a commenter in blogland :).

    1. I'm so glad you like the quotes! I have heard a number of people say that these things get better with age. I think it is because you have already figured out who you instead of still struggling with who you want to be. But I'm definitely still learning!

    2. At 59, I find I am always "becoming" …. I am different now than I was 10 years ago, and different then than 10 years before that. My life experiences, interests and pursuits have changed me along the way and I expect they will always do so. I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up, but I'm very happy with the journey!

    3. At 59, I find I am always "becoming" …. I am different now than I was 10 years ago, and different then than 10 years before that. My life experiences, interests and pursuits have changed me along the way and I expect they will always do so. I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up, but I'm very happy with the journey!

  5. Success in my opinion is being happy when you have done your best. The trick is that you really have to work hard to do your best and be open to realizing what you did wrong and learn from it.

  6. A lovely post and I agree wholeheartedly with your statement that Comparison Kills Creativity, even if it is hard to remember that myself. It is nearly impossible to live on social media and not feel some sort of inferiority/jealousy; but at the end of the day I just have to remind myself that we are all on different paths.

  7. Love that Maya Angelou quote!

    My view on the whole success thing has certainly changed since I've started working in the industry rather than just as a blogger/quilter etc. I've noticed that people who are industry insiders (fabric designers, working for manufacturers, book editors, professional pattern writers, etc.) are not nearly as obsessed with the notion of success that seems to plague bloggers. It's been a refreshing thing to see that people who are competitors in the quilting world can be and actually are very friendly with one another. And you know what? Since letting go of that whole notion of blogger success, I've actually found more "success" in the online and real quilting world than I ever had before. I'm more excited about quilting because I feel connected with the tradition of it, rather than the whole modern quilting movement that first drew me in, which is honestly something I identify with less and less these days. Visiting traditional quilt guilds as a speaker and teacher has totally changed my perspective. We are just a small part of a huge industry. And while I love the friends I've made online, I'm no longer driven by that community but rather people I know in real life who inspire me.

    1. Lisa, you are speaking my truth. I think the key difference is that bloggers look to each other for validation and professionals, while nevertheless keeping an eye on the competition, are working to be their own unique person (and/or brand). Seeking the approval of fabric companies doesn't mean all that much if what you're creating is trying to get a new line promoted before anyone else, and you lose your own vision and sense of self. It's so driven by the push to get stuff out ASAP that the pleasures in being thoughtful and slower are lost. Would love to chat with you more about this, if you're interested.

  8. Well I do hope I'm not still the only comment coming through, because 6 people got in ahead of me here!

    Ah yes, the whole success thing. I have been that person, in my day job, looking at people the same age as me who seem to be further on than me in 'status' terms, and wondering how in heck that happened. Funnily enough, a few years down the line, my perspective is different, probably because I don't want to rule the world in my day job, in fact, I'd like to no longer be doing my day job in a few years, and be doing something creative instead! Now I look at those people and realise that by not rocketing upwards, I got a good, broad grounding. I have skills in lots of areas which mean that I have remained employable and head hunted while the people I was jealous of have not been.

    In your creative life I think you can rest assured that a lot of people think you far more successful than them – I would kill for your art quilt skills, for example! Think of it this way though, you have done a far broader spectrum of things than a lot of the 'famous quilters' I know. You may not be at what you consider to be your own high pinnacle yet, but you're building a good, solid foundation, which will give you a lot more options in the future than those that have been really focussed on one single thing, and will likely burn out.

    As for all the travel, I'd start playing the lottery ;o)

  9. Success is a hard concept. I'm not a fan of any of the big markers of success, in quilting or any other part of my life. Too often it seems like meeting that on paper definition of success ends up leaving happiness behind – and I would much rathef be happy than successful.

    I find when I focus less on being successful, less on what other people consider success and more on ehat I find fulfilling and challenging and joyful that I enjoy myself a whole lot more. Easier said than done, but its all about cultivating an attitude of happiness.

  10. So true. I have to remind myself that I am only "competing" with myself. Every day, trying to get better than I was yesterday. I love quilting and if I were the only person left on earth that quilts, I would still do it and love it.

  11. Oh Angela, I so needed to hear this today. It is often difficult to keep our definition of success in perspective. It can ruin friendships and actually hold you back if you let it rule your life. Finding out what your personal idea of success is the most important thing. I will revisit this post for reassurance from time to time. Thanks for the insight!

  12. Love your post. It gets somewhat easier to be happy with where you are as you age but sometimes that critical self sneaks in. I felt so bad about me after reading everyone's year in review posts. I felt like I had accomplished so little but a friend reminded me not to compare and she was right. But still. Thank you for the "food for thought" and be happy with you and where you are on this journey.

  13. I enjoyed reading this and allowing some of my thoughts earlier this year to resurface. My favorite quote was about success not being one big thing but a balance of many little things. That brings success into the context of real life, rather than achievements. I want to hold it there!

  14. Oh goodness that bullet list is great…sums up every thought I have had the past few years! Thank you for posting your fears, we are all human and share the exact same thoughts. I bet some of those "big namers" feel the exact same way, they just don't express it!

  15. The things that seem important now may seem miniscule later.
    I consider myself to be a success now because I raised 2 children who became productive good people and are each raising, with their spouses, 2 children each that seem to be being raised in the same way. To me, when it's all said and done, that's what's really important!

  16. Great post, Angela! I heard once that happiness lies not in having what you want, but in wanting what you have. I think success could be very similar. If you are doing what you are meant to be doing, the world's definition of success doesn't matter! I love your blog and am always inspired by what I read and see here. As far as I'm concerned, you're a success!!

  17. Oh Angela – you are the very epitome of quilting success, at least in my eyes! Since I've started following you, you've won the sliced competition, had at least one quilt exhibited at QuiltCon, appeared on Pat Sloan's show (right?) taught at Sewing Summit, and now have written a book. And these are just the things that I've noticed in my little world – I'm sure there are tons more that I missed!

    You have inspired me to figure out my own pathway to success and I am so grateful to you for that! Hip hip hooray for you. I will be your biggest cheerleader when you need it!!

  18. I believe if you keep going the way you are going Angela, you will be fine. There is nothing worse then someone who thinks the world should worship them because they are successful. In my eyes that is just plain ignorant and arrogant. Sadly I do see it here a lot online. God for bid if someone should them that they suck or that they need to come down off their high horse. Instead they stick their fingers in their ears and yell; LALALALALALA! Then they delete your comment or not even post your comment and then complain that some one was being mean to them just to get sympathy out of their followers.

    [sigh] Yeah.

    Now that your book for what I understand is complete, its time to put on a thick skin. If the occasion arises that you do receive a bad review. Listen to what the reviewer has to say. It may help you for the next book you plan to write. Believe me on this! I do review books, write book reviews, and I will let you know flat out if it sucks. I will also let you know what you could have done better to make improvements in the future. You'll have to take it as constructive criticism, unless you really do get one that says: You suck! In that case, that's just plain idiotic and pointless. Please don't sweat it, you'll be fine. By the way I have only given one bad review. Every other book I have reviewed has met their objectives and none of the authors pulled any fast ones over their public eye.

    Best of luck to ya Angela! BTW great post!!! We all need someone to step up say it every once in a while!

  19. The thing is that we never know the depth of how we have touched others by the work of our hands and the sound of our thoughts and words. You have made a far greater impact by being genuine and sharing who you are as you are than you ever will know .

  20. I don't know that I can say anything new here, but thank you for sharing honestly. I know I struggle daily with me self esteem and knowing that others (especially whom I view as incredibly awesome as you) occasionally have doubts makes me feel less alone. Thank you.

  21. well done. Success also entails for me that it is the process of how I got to where I am or where my finish is that is really more important than the final product or goal. Success is also more of an attitude for me. Your blog is awesome and I wish you well on your upcoming book!!

    1. I think considering the process is a vital part of success as well. I wouldn't be proud of something that I crawled over other people to get. Integrity and Love will always be the basis of anything that I create and do.

  22. I find it interesting that this is the second quilting blog I have read since the beginning of this year with this same theme. I guess I never really realized how competitive quilting has become and I personally think that is very sad. Quilting is a time honored skill and to have it reduced to this level is very disturbing to me. As for success, I think you are already a success in that you have such a wonderful talent. If you are happy not just in you quilting endeavors but in your life overall, then you have achieved success. I too have read the blogs where it seems children, illness, spouses, and life in general seem to be set aside and often wonder how people's lives can be so perfect. Obviously those people are simply choosing to separate their personal lives from their professional lives as far as the blogs go. Please keep doing whatever it is that makes you personally happy and as hard as it seems, don't think about the others. You are very talented so please don't undersell yourself.

    1. It's hard for me to separate my life from what I create. So much of what I do is inspired, led forward and perpetuated by my personal circumstances. My best pieces seem to be the ones where I let myself be guided by my life and instincts.

      Competition may only lay in my own heart. I don't need to be competitive but I'm pretty driven…so it comes out naturally. But quilting should always be a joyful thing for me. When it is not, that is the problem.

  23. I love the honesty of your post. I want to be great at lots of things. a mother, a lover, a friend, a manager in IT, blogwriter, quilter, I can go on for some time. But hey, I can't do it all successfully every day, but I try. And I try to enjoy the ride especially! And forgive myself for not being perfect at everything, every day. Hope you get through your doubtful patch.

  24. A very honest post, thank you for this. I don't think success is that important to a happy life, there are so many more important things to concentrate on, I just don't think it really matters, especially if worrying about it makes you miserable. My motto these days is 'there are no right or wrong ways to live your life, only different ways, all are valid'. Does that help?!