Saturday, October 10, 2015

Defining Success — in Life and in Writing

by Beth Vogt @BethVogt

"Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." Winston Churchill
People like to talk about success—they like to bandy about different definitions for it. Success is this. Success is that.

And they’re all usually talking about something as far from failure as you can get.

I’ve been reading Alton Gansky’s book Imagination@ Work. (Alton’s a friend and a colleague.
I admire him. Even if I didn’t know him, I’d recommend his book. It’s like a series of “here’s what I’ve been thinking about” conversations with a witty, intelligent guy.)

But back to the topic at hand: failure.

Alton poses the question: What would you do, if you knew you could not fail? (That is a topic for another blog.)

I answered his question by writing this question in my journal: How do you define failure?

And then I wrote:
Success—less than

And by that I mean that what appears to be success in one person’s eyes can feel like a failure in someone else’s.

Say, for example, I land a book contract.

But I don’t earn out my advance.

Or I don’t win an award.

Or I don’t get offered a second contract.

Or I don’t ______________ (fill in the blank).

It’s the whole “being nibbled to death by ducks” experience. Turning success into failure because it wasn’t good enough.

But Beth, you say, Winston Churchill was talking about success—and defining it as facing failure enthusiastically.

I know. And I love his definition.

But Churchill got me thinking. And so did Alton. We need to enthusiastically face both our failures and our successes and not let the little duckies (dare I name them comparison and envy and disappointment?) nibble them all to pieces.

In Your Words: How do you define failure or success? And how do you face them with enthusiasm?

Defining success - in life and in #writing - via @BethVogt on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Beth K. Vogt believes God’s best often waits behind the doors marked “Never.” 

A nonfiction writer and editor who said she’d never write fiction, Beth is now a novelist with Howard Books. She enjoys writing inspirational contemporary romance because she believes there’s more to happily-ever-after than the fairy tales tell us. Connect with Beth on her website, Twitter, Facebook, or check out her blog on quotes, In Others’ Words.


  1. Great article. I define success as Doing all things for the Glory of God. Obeying Him is where I find success. I have seen my friends get published, offered speaking engagements, and teach at writers retreats; I am so happy for them. Why? Because that is the Lord's will. When I turned my will over to God, (I do struggle at times with wanting my own) I find joy knowing that His name is being glorified in and through the other person. I can rejoice with my friends. My time will come in His timing.

    1. Cherrilyn: I so respect your attitude -- your choice -- to celebrate others and their success. And to define your success and doing all things for Glory of God.

  2. Beth,
    Before my first big speaking engagement my pastor once said to me, "Trish, I know if I fail, I can fail successfully with God." God will bring both failure and success, but we must never forget that if we are in Christ, every failure is a purposeful step towards God's definition of success in our lives. Failures, just like trials, should be embraced, turned over in prayer, left at the cross, where we get up off our knees and step out in faith, yet again. He is the One who rose from the dead, and so we rise, again and again, with our eyes fixed on the Author and Perfecter of our faith, knowing every hardship is meant for our good and His glory. The goal is not that we turn failure into success, but rather that He is glorified in our failure. Now that is success.

    Trish Pederson

    1. Trish: "The goal is not that we turn failure into success, but rather that He is glorified in our failure."
      Such a powerful truth!