Success.... What is success anyway? How do we get it? If we do, how do we know that we've achieved it? Well I'm convinced we are all as successful as we decide to be, but also we will never really "make it" either ... kinda ... Wait what? Yes. What I mean to say is that if you ever get to a point where you think, "There, I've done it, I've succeeded! I'm a success. I'm great." Then you fail. No matter how amazing you get (or already are) at something, there is always more you can accomplish. There's never NOT going to be room to grow, learn, refine, reflect, and change for the better.
Some people think that success means money, which I wouldn't completely argue with - successful people make money, right? But how much money? Where is the cut off that says, "ok NOW you make enough money to be considered a success." Let's say you land a wonderful photography opportunity causing a glorious pile of money to fall into your lap. Look back two months ago when you didn't have that money pile but were just as awesome, and the work you created was just as fantastic. Weren't you still successful then? Yes.
To me, success is like a ladder. Every single step of that ladder is another "success," but there's a catch - this ladder has no top, no end, no final rung. It's like a ladd-escalator that just keeps on winding ever upwards into the clouds. Rather than getting down on yourself while looking at other artists who you think have "made it," just realize that they are on their own ladder reaching for that next rung as well.
Sure, some people are great climbers and they are going to get really high up there faster than others, but that doesn't mean you can't catch up to them. You just have to do it on your own ladder. They have already used theirs and each success-step on their ladder has already been manhandled and then stepped on. So stick to your own ladder. It was made especially for you, especially by you. There is nothing stopping you from crawling up to that next peg, and the one after that, and the one after that. It's okay to daydream and fantasize about what's farther up your ladder, but don't lose valuable time standing on one step gazing high up to where your ladder disappears into the misty unknown. Just look at the step right above you and firmly grab a hold of it.
I live my career (and my every day life) by a lovely philosophy I borrowed from singer-songwriter Matt Nathanson: "I'll learn to get by, on little victories." I focus on every step of my ladder, celebrate it as a victory, feel those positive vibes, and let them propel me upwards in search of the next little victory. We are all successful everyday - we just have to see it that way. If you treat every opportunity, each blog post, every new picture, all the collaborations, interviews, features, new friends, compliments, high fives, or tasty sandwiches as a victory, you're going to start feeling better about yourself. You'll learn to notice all the positive little things you're accomplishing rather than care about where everyone else is currently on their success ladder.
If you're focusing on your "lack of success," you'll completely miss all your little victories. Start being more liberal with the self-back-patting, because happier more confident people make better work. (Trust me it's science or something ... you know, studies and experiments said so ... probably.) The point is we should all be celebrating all of our little successes and rewarding ourselves on a daily basis for working hard towards something we love. Only more good things can come of it. We can all be as successful as we want as long as we are willing to work our butts off, take our lumps, champion our successes and keep on climbing our ladders.