Thinking About Success—May 29, 2019

A joyous life-cycle event has me thinking about the meaning of success.

Last week I came across the following quote from Bob Dylan, on the occasion of his birthday: 

"A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do."

I find comfort in the Dylan quote, primarily because it runs counter to the widespread perception of "success" as deriving from wealth or fame. The quote certainly prompted me to think about my own personal success, and about what it means to be successful as a medical writer. Although I have days when I'd rather do anything but medical writing (for example, watch baseball on TV, play guitar, go hiking, take a nap, lounge in the back yard with a good book and a cold drink), if I go by Dylan's definition of success, I consider myself successful: I am able to spend my days pursuing my chosen profession. I may never get rich from medical writing, but the income I earn affords a nice life for me and my family. What's more -- and perhaps most importantly -- as a freelance I have the autonomy to set my own hours and accept (or decline) assignments as I choose. The nature of my work, aided by the interconnectedness of the digital world, also allows me to live and work wherever I please, and I consider myself extremely fortunate to work from home and to live in a beautiful part of the country.

As another measure of success, I am proud to have helped raise three wonderful children. All three of my boys are intellectually curious and passionate about their interests, qualities that bode well for their success as adults. This point was brought home to me this past weekend, when my eldest son Matthew was graduated from Brown University. In addition to all the pomp and pageantry of Commencement Weekend, and the tender moments of joy and reflection, I had the profoundly emotional experience of driving Matthew to the airport after graduation, so he could return to the job he started a few weeks ago. As he walked into the terminal, turned around and waved to me, I felt I was literally sending him out into the world. It's a moment that will stay with me forever.