In worklandia, we often say ridiculous things like “How will we measure success on this project?” & then I stab myself in the eye with some scissors and the meeting is adjourned and that’s that. But sometimes, it’s a good question to ask. More than “what do I want to do with my life?” the question “what feels successful to me?” feels like something I can answer right here and now.

I recently re-read this post about seeing Diane DiPrima speak, and it reminded me that we have our answers. The doubting, treading water moments – there’s nothing there to learn from. Silence it & just listen.

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
– WB Yeats

When I let the concept of “success” kick around my noggin, what floats to the surface are thoughts like:

knowing without being told
cosmic hum
expansive view of reality
being open to potential
released from boundaries
solidly intangible

Success doesn’t have to be a series of things happening, it can be a state of being. Achievement = being grounded and checked in. It’s not about a bucket list or finally taking that trip to China. It’s about being the most tuned in version possible of the little fizzing chunk of matter that is Me.

People like to talk a lot about luck, and the traits that make people lucky. But if you’re awake and following your intuition, you’ll feel grounded, secure, and like you’re on the right path. Sometimes this means doors open without being pushed (“luck”) and sometimes you have to push (“work”). When I know I can trust my instinct, I will not steer myself in the wrong direction.  I don’t need to spend so much time thinking about what I want to do, I just need to be present, and trust that I will pick up the correct threads.

I started reading this book, Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth, and Art – & there are so many little messages that have me saying “YES YES THAT IS IT” that I may need to actually type out the whole book here. A handful of favorites:

The Yoruba believe that before we are born we meet the High God and request the life we want. Although the too-greedy may find their requests denied, within limits we can choose our fate. Unfortunately, at the moment of birth the soul forgets all that has transpired; therefore, when men and women feel they’ve gotten off-track, when the way seems confused and knotted up, they go to the diviner in hopes of seeing once again the design of things as it is remembered in heaven.


Turning things over to chance, letting them fall as they may, means in this case “forgetting the hand,” which in turn means, first of all, getting away from the hand’s acquired and habitual gestures.


More conservative minds deprive coincidence of meaning by treating it as background noise or garbage, but the shape-shifting mind pesters the distinction between accident and essence and remakes this world out of whatever happens.


  1. I like this post a lot and ponder the idea of “success” often. It’s a moving target that I rarely let myself grasp hold of… always something I push into the future; a carrot dangling. And that’s not fair, because I often easily feel like I’m always scrambling, racing to catch up and then I look at other people and think they have it and I don’t. I probably do have it (partially) but am not letting myself enjoy it. So I think for success to be enjoyable I have to realize it now as well as look forward to more of it. That said, this is not natural for me and so I most often feel like a failure.

    1. Thank you. These are the kind of posts that really resonate with me. Your description of being present enough to pick up the threads that fit best is a beautiful reminder of our small but key section in the big weaving.

    2. When I start feeling failure-y or overwhelmed, I try to focus on what makes me feel NOT that way. Cheesy, I know, but that’s how I came to this conclusion – “Ok, I feel weird. When do I feel happy? When I’m tuned in. Oh, ok.” It sounds simple but it’s freaking hard not to analyze and focus on perceived failure!

  2. Thank you for this post, I think we’re cosmically in tune (perhaps the new moon?), I’ve recently embarked on the career of my dreams, fulfilling a potential I always knew I had. Although financially I’m barely hanging on, my passion and faith in knowing I’m doing what I was meant to do keep propelling me forward. I had a “regular” job for 17 yrs where I was miserable-every single day. Now I go to work with actual glee, no matter what is in store for me (I work as a freelance makeup artist, every job is a new adventure).
    I don’t know if you read Kime Buzzelli’s blog or are familiar with her, but this was her post yesterday, totally apropos:


    1. Oh! I used to read her blog sometimes but haven’t checked it in over a year. I love it! I used to write tiny mantras over my bed in the various apartments I’ve lived in, and Let Go was one of them.

      Hooray for following your dreams!

  3. Well this is a strange moment of something like cosmic ‘coincidence’ for me – I’m writing and reading a lot about Yoruba right now and Elegua/Papa Legba in particular. I’m going to check out that book…

  4. I’ve been mulling over my idea of success a lot lately, so this is a very timely post… I’ve had a lot of “luck” over my life (some heartache, too, but I prefer to see the positive side), and sometimes, I think I’m too quick to write it off as only that and forget that it was more than just chance. I went with my instincts, managed to be in the right place at the right time (which often took work), and was open.

    I’ve also been thinking about how completely opposite my sense of success is with a lot of our dominant cultural narrative. It’s hard to get away from that, though.

    Also? That Yeats quote is superb (of course I’m partial; see blog title ;)).

  5. This has been my most current and biggest struggle. I am thankful that you have chosen to address “success” in your blog.
    Mid January I left my job and decided to try my hand at writing knitting patterns. I figured I’d give myself six months to get sick of myself. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but defining success has been the most difficult part of this exercise. I keep having to move past what “the world” defines as success because I find it twists my creativity into something rather ugly. So far I’ve gotten past money=success. I’m currently working through popularity=success. I find it funny that these feeling have even become an issue since I started out just wanting to express myself in my knitting.
    I quite like the quote about the Yoruba. All too often I feel like something is amiss. I have found that I have to narrow down my goals when everything feels like it is falling apart. And perhaps in the end, all I really need is to have a body of work that I am personally proud to have created. Why should I cater to the things I imagine other people might like.

  6. “It’s about being the most tuned in version possible of the little fizzing chunk of matter that is Me.” -LOVE

    Yes you were right, our energies today were playing on the same path!

    Mmm.. Yummy yummy.

  7. your descriptions of success seems to be bouncing around my ideas of peace. somewhere in between the space of arrival and expectation, and ultimately indescribable. these are things i have been aiming for as of late and i suppose when i feel them i will have reached success.

  8. oh this is so eerie! I read this post of yours, nodding my heart along with it in recognition and vowing to cleave closely to this way of thinking as I move forward. I have been feeling somewhat lost and not yet reaching what I was born to be… Then I click through to your Diane DiPrima entry, reading it fresh, thinking it the first time, scroll down down down, and see with astonishment that I commented on that very entry, nearly two years ago. I suddenly remembered my state as I read that post then. It was like time travel, the past and future me’s meeting, here in the now, and I realized that everything, even the hardness and tough times in the in between, has been magic. Thank you for that and this!

  9. great post.
    I recently read Creativity For Life by Eric Maisel (sounds cheesy self-helpy but isn’t) which looks at the ideas you are discussing with an eye for the particular existential dilemma that is specific to creatives (artists, writers, musicians, scientists). Very helpful for re-placing meaning in the right place and quieting the trickster mind to gain room for the thoughts you want to be thinking and un-tangling blocks and mental knots in the way of “success” and all its meanings.

  10. Love this entry, especially the part about success being a state of being instead of “an accomplishment.” It’s so important to know that feeling and pursue it – there are tons of ways to be “successful” than to just check things off a to-do list. It’s so important to be aware of how you are and where you are in the world or else you might miss things that are right in front of your face, like life itself. Feels very spiritual but not in a hokey way at all.

  11. thank you. I have had so many thoughts swirling about my head about restlessness and “the future” and the whole “what am I doing” type of deal. When I’m not searching or fretting – I really am content with where I am now. And while it’s important to think of the future and keep striving – I also need to find a little faith and let go of my worry.

  12. Ah! The self-defining of success has been a big deal for me ever since graduating college. At that point, I had to realize that continuing to live and thrive with some degree of happiness is a marker of some sort of success. Now that I am doing my own business thing, success seems to hang more around aspects of self-determination. Can I make my own schedule? Do I feel in charge of what I am doing? Success, etc. opens up a lot of things for me to think about. Maybe I sublimate it by making all those little badges and medals!

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