Tonight is the big college football national championship game. The first one ever decided via a playoff system. Oregon vs. Ohio State.
Many could care less. But those who do number in the millions. We have some extended family who are pretty excited. (One used a foam-head Duckbill hat as his Christmas tree topper – see the picture to the right).
Be careful if you disparage Ohio State while in the company of bestselling author Rachel Hauck. You may lose a limb. (Considering that her agent is an Oregon fan you have to wonder about their recent conversations.)
But tonight’s success will not last much beyond the headlines. For example, can you name the national college football champion in 2010? Or name the winner of American Idol in 2013? Or what was the bestselling Christian novel in 2009? Or, even harder, name the five top selling Christian novels in 2014. Last week Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, started a bookclub…what book did he ask everyone to buy and read with him? (It sold out on Amazon within minutes of the announcement.)
My point is that success is fleeting. On top today, forgotten tomorrow. But that depends on your definition of success, doesn’t it? Author and Artists tend to depend on adjectives like “bestselling” to “award winning” to define whether or not they are doing a good job. The problem is that the arts rarely have a method to quantify success. So sales numbers, or awards, or bestseller lists become the criteria upon which everyone relies.
I celebrate every author who does achieve bestseller status or receives an award. They are confirmation and encouragement that is hard to achieve. But at the same time I know of writers who are wildly successful with their writing but will never garner such attention. They labor with stories or with non-fiction topics that have a focus that will not capture the imagination of the commercial market or go viral in social media.
Wouldn’t it be interesting to hear the stories of authors who receive letters from readers telling of changed lives? I’ve seen a few over the years and they can be astounding. Readers, of novels or non-fiction, choosing life over suicide. Birth over abortion. Recommitment to marriage instead of divorce. Studies instead of drugs or sex. Don’t know about you, but I’d like to define that as success. And a type of success that is not “fleeting” but “eternal.”
Thank you for acknowledging the more “behind the scenes” measure of success. That affirmed the work I need to do today.
After one such letter, I told myself, “I’d have written this book just for that one person.” Thanks for reminding me.
Oh yes! And as Christian authors the idea that someone might know more about Christ from your work and be Saved is enormous! What if you only helped one person find eternity. That’s like 1 X infinity. It equals infinity. You can’t beat that number.
My thoughts exactly!
Thanks for the reminder that my primary job on earth is to point others to Jesus.
Have a great day!
Thanks Steve. Very encouraging and so true. This helps set my writing day off on a hopeful, productive note.
Amen! When people ask me how my book is selling, I’ve starting saying, “I don’t really know, but I am hearing stories of how it is helping people. That is what matters most to me.”
I average an email a week from readers. Mostly appreciative. But also an occasional slam which used to upset me, but now amuses me.
The most humbling note was just three lines long that included the words “I was at a point in my marriage where I was ready to throw in the towel when a friend suggested I read it. This will be our 20th anniversary. My marriage is saved within two days!! Unbelievable! Thank you again! Jessica”
I keep a print out of that email handy just to remind me never to take any of this for granted.
This is a fabulous blog. Puts it all in perspective. I have found much more satisfaction in those readers’ letters and how stories and books have changed lives. I truly believe when we get to heaven, we will see exactly how much our writing affected others for eternity’s sake.
Steve, thanks for the reminder that in defining success should never come from external accolades. Like you mentioned, those can be encouraging, but they shouldn’t be defining.
I loved this post. You got me thinking about my definition of success. Thank you.
Erin Taylor Young
Amen, Steve. The encouragement of changed lives is a beautiful reminder that our work has, by God’s grace, and made a difference. And yet beyond that, I think there is another measure of success–the success of a life lived in obedience. Of writers who speak God’s word faithfully because they know they’ve been called by God to do that very thing…whether anyone listens to them or not. In our process of writing with God, of faithfully walking with him, we ourselves are changed. We delight God. We glorify him. And we will one day hear words that proclaim our success: Well done, good and faithful servant.
Sandy Faye Mauck
…but Lord I wrote books in your name….and they were bestsellers…
I never knew you.
I want to be well KNOWN in heaven!
Amen Connie —1x infinity
and Amen Erin—Well done good and faithful servant!
Very nice -both the blog and the responses.
Rebecca Lorraine Walker
Great post, Steve. Fulfilling the purpose of the one who called us is success. Touching lives for him will always be the best accolades we can receive. Sure, we love to garner other recognition, but to know we’ve helped someone on their journey touches our soul and lifts it to the heavens.
Love this blog!
Awesome post, Steve. Though tonight’s winner will go down in the halls of history as being the winner of the first Play off game. 😉
But you are so right how fleeting success can be. We cannot get our identity in temporal things but in eternal, in who He says we are! “Beloved.”
Thanks for the shout out and GO BUCKEYES!!!!!
Or they will go down in history as the LOSER of the first CFP championship game.
It’s not like we hold a grudge or anything but it is tough for us in Arizona to forgive Ohio State for beating Arizona State in the Rose Bowl in 1997. After all, it has only been 18 years and people still talk about it.
I remember that great ’97 Rose Bowl Game. 😉
Hi Steve and Rachel,
We don’t often hold grudges in Boise, either … you remember, BSU is in the “Little Sisters of the Poor” conference… 😉
Seriously, I enjoyed your post, Steve. I’m a new writer, and I began writing my novel as a legacy for my children and grandchildren. If that’s as far as it goes, I’ll be satisfied; but if others are edified, that would great too.
Thanks for the encouraging blog.
Wow! That was just what I needed to hear at a time I needed to hear it! Your definition of success is spot-on: changing lives. I’m stuck tight in that worldly definition of success, even though I know it’s not the appropriate definition.
My new goal in this area is to restructure how I view my own success: “Success is being where God wants me to be, doing what He wants me to be doing.” This new definition of success could become my ‘Word of the Year’ (thanks, Karen Ball, for introducing me to that concept!)!
It’s so easy to get caught up in the bestseller WATCH or the Amazon ranking WATCH. This is a needed and timely reminder, Steve.
Which reminds me, one of the most rewarding letters I ever received was from a woman who told me that she hadn’t been active in a church for many years. After reading my books, she decided to try again. Now she is in a place where she is nurtured and learning!
So pleased that God was able to use words from my computer to His glory.
Thanks Steve, I’ve seen many definitions of “success”. However, I like your’s the best. It keeps everything in the right perspective.
To God’s glory.
I hate to admit it, but I was caught up in the world’s definition, so thanks for the reminder and getting me on the right path.
Amen. I am just about finished reading Cure for the Common Life by Max Lucado. Such a great book about finding your sweet spot. So many stories in here…including one about how he (Max) sat at a table in a book store waiting to sign books. A customer came up to him…”You write books?” the customer asked.
“I do. Want me to sign it?”
“No thanks,” he answered and left.
Just a great chapter in the book about “tanking your reputation.”
Success is about knowing our sweet spot and using it for the Glory of God. Max says, “Imagine if everyone worked for the audience of One.”
A great blog today about defining success. Thanks!
Oh…one more thing…Go Packers!
Thank you for the reminder and words of encouragement. It so easy to get lost in the world’s view of success that we forget Christ’s definition for success. So many times I need to be reminded who I am truly writing for…an audience of One.
Beautiful thoughts, Steve! Success, measured in awards and sales figures is fleeting. But the eternal rewards that come from obedience, dedication, and sacrifice are immeasurable.
Pamela S. Black
Great post. I really needed to hear that.
Amy Boucher Pye
I’m no best-selling author, as Steve knows! I’ve had to learn the hard way that it’s not up to me and my efforts to determine my worth – or my patch – as a writer. Sometimes we do receive gifts in the form of letters. I write about an amazing way God used some devotionals I wrote during an earthquake in New Zealand in my blog: http://www.amyboucherpye.com/2014/05/23/life-changing-words-how-god-used-a-devotional-during-a-crisis/ (hope it’s okay to put that link, Steve).
Thanks for this reminder, which I needed to hear today. Oh, and I don’t care about college football, but LOVE Rachel’s writing! She has a lot of fans in the UK!
You are so right, Steve. When I worked at Focus on the Family, I remember Dr. Dobson speaking about how the world will “trash your trophies” and one of his examples was seeing his first book in a discount bin.
I knew when I started working on my novel that I would, most likely, have a small readership because of my platform. So I had to decide if I would write anyway. Not that it was ever really a question. . . .
Robert Winkler Burke
The point is that the conjecture of the publishing world, that printing and promoting another milk Christian project… is being proved by the universe to be a chart line that starts with some high interest, and quickly flat lines unto forgetfulness. (Hence, Christian books that sell for $25 are sold six months later for 25¢ at the garage sale table.)
What is the universe telling us is the Return on Investment in such?
Rather, the world needs a thing like happened in 1776. It took many decades of thoughtful, independent thinking, wherein the second-greatest docs in the history of the world were created! First docs were the OT and NT. The second most important docs in history are the Dec. of Indie ’76, Constitution and Bill of Rights. This really took about a hundred years to put together. (Might through in the Gettysburg Address, wherein mutual dedication to self-restraint is proscribed!)
So, what you need is this: A project so controversial, but at the same time incontrovertibly True by all High Measure Standards… and self-shaming to major institutions by the evidence they are so behind the ball… that this project starts with a low acceptance rate, that climbs, and climbs, and over more time climbs, and becomes understood as a major help unto mankind.
Anything like this is, by definition, prophetic. That means that the day has now come when Evangelical mighties have to come to the table of truth… and forever decide betwixt two things… either shenanigan church and rapture-mania, give-to-get-greed, emergent-gobbledygook…. is the path to the future of all-powerful-rube-control…. or needs to be flushed down the toilet…. because prophetically, we are now given a choice… to do the greater, the harder thing… to live in truth, instead of mouthing a textual truth and walking in a shenanigan spirit fead by fear, greed, laziness and other unclean entities.
So, this project would make major ministries question themselves for the first time, the fact they’ve never had a debate whether selling subtext evil emotion Gospiel is good and if the fruit of that is good? Or does it explain the infinite explosions and implosions of empowered ministries who sell the philosopher’s stone of “support my ministry-and-God-will-return-the-monies-sent-by-you-to-us”… etc.
So, it is going to be a tough New Millennium, at first. But truth will win, and things will truly be better and folk will love listening to 60s music, which had hope and life, and not the worship-weakness praise music of today’s ratted-out condition. So it will be a restoration of all good things!
I heard George Clooney’s acceptance speech at the Golden Globes and remembered I had recently read similar sentiments, about the true measure of success. It was this blog post. Thank you.
“I don’t remember what awards Lauren Bacall won. I just remember her saying “You know how to whistle Steve, just put your lips together and blow.” And I have no idea what kind of hardware Robin Williams took home but I sure remember carpe diem and “Seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.” I’ll never forget that. So congratulations to all of you for having a very good year.” – George Clooney