San Francisco, California

The Measure of Success

What does success look like? I asked him in the dim light. A jazz band was playing on the mezzanine behind us and I was slumped at the bar in a half-drunken stupor, moaning triumphantly about everything. I whined about how I’d trained myself to see likes, faves, retweets, and hearts as the measure of my life. And how I’d spent the best part of a decade looking at the rectangle in my pocket light up with recognition; I had scrolled endlessly through feeds looking for myself, waiting for attention that, when it came, it always felt a little cold. A little hollow.

Now I had begun to question the stats, but leaving those measurements of success behind felt like my career had begun to stall precipitously with them. And so I asked JB, perhaps the smartest and most talented person that I know, for advice.

What does success really look like?

He didn’t have an answer, as he was still trying to figure that out for himself, too. And so we just sat at the fancy bar and nursed our drinks in silence for a moment until we began laughing again—a joke is one step behind us, always—and as the evening and the lights and the cocktails blended together into a luminous broth I forgot about the question altogether.

Yet now, after years of thinking about this question, I might now have an answer. On this rainy day in San Francisco last week it suddenly hit me that I think I know what success is (maybe, hopefully, perhaps, I think, I hope).

Success is a pile of books on my desk; written, published, and designed by my friends.