Let’s talk about success.

I’d like to say that everyone has their own definition, that each individual has their own set of standards by which they declare a pursuit a success or a failure – but, by and large, that is unfortunately not true. In reality, everyone means basically the same thing when they say success, and they mean profitable. Even people who aren’t that invested in the ideals of moneymaking tend to default to that definition.

Those of us who question the concept of money as measure of personal worth intuit that this definition of success is unjust. It is telling that we mean something so different when we speak of ‘good’ art than we do of ‘successful’ art. Surely, art should be considered successful if it succeeds at what it endeavors to do – and yet, no, the only success is financial success It’s built into our very language: We assume everyone is just in it for the money.

Anyone who pursues anything else, if they don’t happen to find money along the way, is just a failure by default.

This also leads to unnecessary conflict. One well-known independent game developer stated that, so far, there hadn’t been any hugely successful indie games developed by women. This is, as far as I know, the case – given the horribly misleading and limiting currently popular definition of the term ‘successful’. However, some people take umbrage to this declaration, since there have been many women who are successful in indie games by the standards of expression, influence, and aesthetic. Neither side of this conflict is really incorrect, but the word they’re both using is sabotaged, is suspect, is broken.

The word success doesn’t need to be tied this closely to this particular meaning. We already have the words ‘lucrative’ and ‘profitable’ to describe such financially rewarding endeavors – and isn’t it curious how different the colloquial associations we have with those terms are? ‘Lucrative’ and ‘profitable’ have an edge of immorality, of mercenary greed, of cold calculation, that “successful” just doesn’t seem to share.

Why, it’s almost as though some person with a keen eye and ear for marketing opportunities, at some point down the line, sneakily substituted ‘successful’ in for places where we would normally say ‘profitable’. It’s almost as though it were a cold, clear, concerted effort to re-brand greed as something inherently good.

After all, would you begrudge someone their success? What kind of person would that make you?

We must either redefine the word ‘success’ and bring it back into line with our personal aspirations, or those of us who defy having our worth measured in dollars must cease to use the term to describe our goals.

As things stand, I am determined to succeed – even if I must give up ‘success’ to do so.

1 comment
  1. I couldn’t agree with you more. As a result of the generally held views of success lots of people end up doing things not because they love them, but rather because they believe it will make them “successful”.

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