Defining "Success" in the Digital Age

I’ve been thinking a lot about this abstract concept of success lately. What does it mean to lead a “successful” existence and where does my own happiness fit in?

As a small business owner, perspective is sometimes hard to come by. Much of 6162’s day-to-day grind occurs in a vacuum without many opportunities for relational feedback from outside my own bubble. Being constantly on the grind also tends to make you see the world in competitive, zero-sum terms. As a result, I am constantly measuring myself against my peers and capitalizing on every opportunity to demonstrate my own inferiority: “Oh, Joe just made an amazing national commercial for this top ad agency!”; “Jeeze, Molly started her own marketing firm but has much bigger clients.”; “My high school friend has over a million subscribers on his YouTube page!”

Clearly none of this thought process is constructive, and yet I can’t help myself from playing this “grass is greener” game nearly every chance I get. Maybe it’s not human nature, but it’s definitely a quirk of our current social moment to qualify success exclusively by direct comparison. As these mental gymnastics are enabled and amplified by social media I’m sure you can see the downside. Rarely do we stop and just look inward at our own lives and see what we currently have. I just wonder… when will the chase end and the feeling of true accomplishment set in? 

Well, what’s interesting is when I talk more deeply to these friends who scored the high roller clients and internet-famous prestige, I get a suspiciously familiar story in return. I’m surprised to hear that these people I deeply respect and admire are envious because I’m working on projects that make a difference. Or they lament how bothersome working within the bureaucracy of large clients is. Or even the guy with the bevvy of Youtube fans is trying to make ends meet. So wait… these people I’m drooling over – hell, obsessing over – still don’t feel like they’re successful?! 

The more I have these heart-to-heart conversations, the more I realize that success is naturally tricky. How do I know I have achieved it? Theoretically there is no point where I can’t pursue more: more clients, more friends, more money… More. More. More. It’s pretty freaking maddening after awhile! 

At the end of the day, I am embracing the idea that we are all just doing the best we can. When we are able to come together in vulnerability we will see that every version of work and achievement comes with its moments of self-doubt. There is no winner’s circle that comes at the natural conclusion of my life’s work. There is no single hurdle that I will clear forevermore designating me “successful.” I’d argue that I am successful when I am happy. Happy in the way I recognize how fortunate I am to lead a comfortable life while helping our clients to do genuine good in the world. Happy when I feel fulfilled by and truly engaged in my work. It feels so obvious as I type it yet I’m still hankering to peek over on my Facebook feed to see what everyone else is up to. 

Obviously I’ve yet to figure out the silver bullet, but I think just taking a few breaths and taking credit for your life can go a long way. I’ve been trying to make a point to ask myself every day: “Am I happy?” So I challenge each of you reading this to think about what success truly means to you and at the end of it all… are you happy?