Success: profit or purpose?

Success: profit or purpose?

“Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.” — Albert Einstein

From his $5,000 suit to his subtle swagger and Mona Lisa smile, Harvey Specter is the epitome of success. The male protagonist of Amazon Prime’s movie, ‘Suits’, embodies achievement in the most commonly accepted meaning of the word. While I’m sure most people would recognize the first definition of success offered by Webster’s Dictionary, the accomplishment of an aim or purpose, we’d also acknowledge the second as more widely used in our culture today: the attainment of popularity or profit pulls rank on aim or purpose any day.

How ironic, then, that Harvey Specter isn’t actually representative of the popularity or profit motive at all, as he seems at first glance, but is driven by the accomplishment of an aim or purpose, the objective to be determined by him and his own value system. He decides the appropriateness of the goal often in direct opposition to society or those in power. If you’ve never enjoyed the tortuous twists of this series yourself, but this description intrigues you, click the link on the ‘Suits’ title above and start your own infatuation with Harvey Specter and his collaborative cohorts at his law firm. It’s a reminder for me of the foolish and often hilarious addictions to success in today’s culture, and how an outlier can turn that definition on its ear.

You might wonder why Mr. Specter has captured my attention, aside from his classification as one of the most appealing and authentic hunks with a great sense of humor since Cary Grant. It’s because I’ve been playing around with provocative thoughts about success ever since I unexpectedly received a wonderful review of my published book of essays, ‘Twilight Perspectives’, and lately my historical novel, ‘Certain Liberties’. These reviews have stoked my personal version of success ever since I started writing again, and the recent one is a perfect example:

This review reminds me of the day a friend questioned me about the sanity of my commitment to writing so late in life, saying that unless I knew for a fact I’d be making a great deal of money and would be a great success, he couldn’t see the sense of putting in the precious time and effort ‘at my age’. I explained I wasn’t doing it to make money or reach hundreds of thousands of people, realizing as I spoke that my disclaimer was falling on deaf ears. I chalked his inability to hear up to his lack of artistic temperament, knowing full well that he actually had quite a lot of talent, but was motivated by a competitive drive that could only be satisfied by profit; he and millions of others. If it isn’t money, it’s numbers of another kind (readers, publishers, agents…), but success is still often measured in data points; though not for everyone, and certainly not for me.

In my Harvey Specter-like fashion, it’s the individual voices of real people telling me they’ve heard what I was saying and understood why I said it that mean the most. There are no other data points that could measure success for me. To have arrived at my age (I’m writing this bit of nostalgia on my birthday) and found that my work matters and has reached someone, is the most spectacular measure of success I can imagine. And truly, I never did picture it as a possibility when I first started back to writing. Of course it’s my sole purpose now, after my need to get the characters and stories out of my head. Satisfying that collaborative purpose, not profit, is my measure of success, and I’m grateful for every reader who gives my work the consideration it’s due without regard for my age or number of years assigned to my work. You’re all proof that success should be purposeful rather than profitable. And my only appropriate response is, thank you.

Aging

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What Is Talent?

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The Art of Persistence

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The Magic of Historical Fiction

The Magic of Historical Fiction

I now see historical fiction as a far cry from guilty pleasure. It seems to me it’s an imperative for exposing the truth. Sarah Blake, author of one of my favorite reads The Guest Book, put it particularly well in a presentation for PBS Newshour, June 19th- ‘In my humble opinion’. She said:  “But what if, this time, we look at the truth in the mirror, and break now from then, making a truer now, one that doesn’t forget the past, but confronts, acknowledges, reconstructs and so, we can hope, repairs?” Continue Reading

We Need To Read

We Need To Read

Can you remember the last book you read cover to cover? Of course I can! What a ridiculous question. Except In our hectic lives, a lot of us lack the time or patience to finish a book. Well whose fault is that? Why not make the time and work on the patience?  And after a long day at work we end up spending [wasting] time on less attention-intensive entertainment [substitute mind candy here], like binge-watching Netflix shows. True, but no one can control that addiction but the person whose appetite is out-of-control. Continue Reading