Success – How do You Measure it?

My first art showing of the fall season went very well with the sale of several paintings and prints.  The proceeds from this first fall show will just about recoup the costs of my art supplies, printing and framing for the year.  So I call that a success!

But I have been thinking, what if I had not sold anything at the show?  Is that failure?  How do I define success and failure?  How do you?   Seems as if these days success is measured in sales numbers, income generated, or positions attained.  Parents measure success in terms of their children’s GPA or admittance into a certain college, or excellence in the arts or sports.  As individuals we may count ourselves successful if we have some money in the bank, a nice house, new car, or title behind our name.

But is “attaining” everything?  I hope not.  I would posit that the pursuit itself is the thing of joy.  For only as we are learning our craft, practicing our art/sport, working up the ranks in business, or practicing the discipline of saving for that new home or car, are we happiest.  It’s Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  Abraham Maslow, in his 1943 paper, “A Theory of Human Motivation,” extended the idea that once we attain that which we believe will make us happy, it no longer does.  Instead we strive for yet the next rung of the ladder, the next level of attainment, of happiness.

So, had I not sold a piece at the show, I hope I would still have felt the thrill of showing the level of my art as it stands now, while looking forward eagerly to learning the next technique, finding the next exciting medium, picturing the next perfect subject.  Success in the striving!


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