Notes from the Commonplace Book: Success

Note: If you don’t know about Commonplace Book or Journal, you can read about what goes into one, what mine looks like, 10 things you can put in yours if you want to start one, or the difference between a commonplace and visual journal.

Mine commonplace book is stuffed with notes and today, I thought I’d take the string of notes I have on success and put it here. Un-edited, just ideas I’ve jotted down on success. Some may resonate, some may sound completely wild or untrue to your experiences.

Comment, head off to your own journal to rant, or just think. It’s Friday and Halloween and I know you are busy.

Fear of success takes several forms
1. If I become successful, will it be enough? Don’t I have to become more successful then, and more after that? Too much work, don’t want all that.

2. Success breeds responsibility, like this:  If I become really successful, I’ll have to hire people—a bookkeeper, an admin—and what if I can’t support them? What if my income is reduced too much in the effort of supporting them? Gasp, choke.

3. Lack of definition of success. “Success” is a faraway goal. Here’s how my coaching clients tackle this thorny problem:  I can always run toward success and enjoy the chase. But if I catch it, like a dog chasing a car, what do I actually DO with it?  If I actually succeed, what if I don’t please my parents or get accepted by my friends? Most people want enough money to live on, but wealth isn’t what looks like success or happiness to them. And if they claim to be successful, their neighbors and friends will point out how ridiculous it is to call yourself “successful,” because you aren’t obviously wealthy. So it’s easier to avoid success.

I think of myself as successful because I’ve had a business for 12 years and have always managed to pay the bills, really love the variety of my work, meeting new people with different ideas, and being able to say No to those whose core values don’t line up with mine. But few people would agree that I’m “successful.” My success is based on my happiness and the ability to take some very strange talents I have and make a living from them, rather than celebrity or piles of cash.

4. Our consumer culture has a lot to do with “permission” in people’s lives. More of us look to the people around us–at work, mostly, where people are also in competition with us–for validation. No one who is in competition with you is going to help you be successful unless it also helps them.

5. Deserving success. This is very tied into #3 above, but it is for people pleasers who cannot define success for themselves. They don’t trust their gut, so they allow people to define success for them. So, of course, they are never successful. If you are, people may be jealous or hate you, and that’s not success. This is a really vicious cycle, but important.

—Quinn McDonald coaches people who fear success.

16 thoughts on “Notes from the Commonplace Book: Success

  1. Guess I have been really lucky. I grew up poor. I remember eating “red soup” a beet and vegetable soup three times a day when my Dad was in school on the GI bill because that was what my grandma had canned for the winter. So I have succeeded beyond my wildest dreams in teh money category even though I am not wicked well off. Besides that we knew when it was “enough” and more wasn’t needed or even wanted. Also my Mom used to say “it’s only money” when we were judging things against each other and money didn’t always win over happy. I was also taught to decide if I felt I had done a good job, not how well someone else thought I had done and my opinion was the one that counted unless it was a teacher/student or boss/employee situation and then I just had to judge against the standard, not whether ” I” was good enough or not. probably that’s why I have been pretty happy all my life.

  2. I was at Jerry’s Artarama the other day and couldn’t resist buying a lovely little notebook. I’ve looked at it several times since then and thought “that was dumb, you need one more notebook to sit around for what?’ Thank you for this post, I needed that lovely little book so I could begin a commonplace journal! Who knew?! You are like my of guardian angels Quinn who keeps steering me new directions that I didn’t know I needed to go. Thank you!

    • Lovely little notebooks cry out to be purchased. I know. I’ve never regretted buying one, either. They can be repurposed, given away, shared, and made into a Commonplace Book, where you will find so much joy, you won’t believe it.

  3. I’m a butterfly . . . to all intents and purposes a very successful butterfly flitting from one thing to another. Trouble is, part of this butterfly’s heart would like to be really good at one thing if only she could work out what the one thing is. This butterfly has fallen in lust but hasn’t fallen in love yet, that’s the problem.

    • And with YOUR artwork, that can be a big risk. It’s hard to brush aside the green on the other side of the fence. Even when we are pretty sure it’s just old poop with moss on it. It’s still green and tempting.

  4. Great post. I too consider myself successful for similar reasons. I may not be as successful as other people – but I have succeeded in establishing a business that has been better than my wildest dreams could have predicted. I don’t make millions but I have really enjoyed the process over the last 27 years.

    The hardest thing I have had to deal with is jealousy, especially from others that have tried and ‘failed’. Many of them failed because they didn’t have vision but tried to copy another’s model – probably not mine. ‘Without a vision a man dies’, which I believe is a misquote.

    • Other people’s jealousy can really eat into us, particularly if we want others to succeed, too. Many people fail because they don’t get up every day and show up. That sounds trivial, but it is hard to do that.

      • Getting up and showing up is the first rule – yes. And there are days that it would be good to stay in bed. I give myself 15 minutes of creativity each day before the house wakes up – that gets me out of bed, regardless of day or where I am. I’d miss it if I didn’t do it.

        Keep up the good work. Your posts are always worth reading.

  5. Lordy – it is not even about success it is about overcoming all of the ennui that I seem to possess in my inability to DO anything. I want to write, or at least I tell myself that. But when I have the time to do so, I find almost ANYTHING else to do instead!

    • Not to change your mind or anything, but my guess is that you aren’t writing because 1. you don’t want to commit or 2. You are afraid to finish. Just guessing. I could be totally wrong.

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