Here we go again. It’s January, and maybe you’re like me, compelled to take stock of that dreaded checklist—the promises-to-myself that I constructed last year at this time.

Let’s see…recover well from a hip replacement. Check. (Thanks mostly to Karen’s love and care. I wasn’t such a good patient the first couple of weeks.) Um…finish a new novel. Check. (Currently under review at a publishing house.) Lose the extra eight pounds occupying my mid-section, gained after convalescing. Check…? Well, not so much.

(I tried. I really tried ☹️. I’m resolved to keep at it.)

What about you? How’d you do?

Yes…the new year is upon us. Some will set new goals or continue to work toward previous aspirations, encouraged by progress made. Others will throw our hands up and mutter, “What’s the use,” in frustration.

From my desktop to yours, take heart. The slate has been wiped clean. Thank God we get a chance to have at it again. But let me ask…how do we—you—define success or failure in any particular endeavor, large or small?

Success is something I think about often as an aspiring novelist, especially at this time of year. What’s my measuring stick?

Is my success based on the number of books I sell? My achievement of fame and fortune, or lack thereof? Perhaps it’s something as complicated as making the New York Times Best Sellers List. Or as simple as typing the final two words—The End—on the last page of any manuscript I write.

The bulk of popular literature on this subject says success is measured by our earnings or the amount of wealth we accumulate in a lifetime. But there are many rich folks leading unhappy, miserable lives. Right? That’s certainly not fulfillment.

How do we go about achieving success in whatever we’re engaged in?

In some cases, success might be achieved by sticking to a defined game plan with specific objectives. Or, as Winston Churchill told the students in a speech at Harrow School in 1941, at the height of World War II, when we decide to…

“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense.”

I suspect a stick-to-it attitude is part of the answer. I’m inspired by Thomas Edison. As we know, he perfected the first commercially practical incandescent light bulb using a filament of carbonized cotton thread. But Edison truly succeeded by following his gameplan, failing enough times, and never giving in. I wonder if Churchill drew his inspiration from Edison’s example.

His first design resulted in a bulb that remained lit for 13.5 hours…not long enough. But Edison refused to quit, over and over again. He conducted another twelve hundred experiments over the course of 18 months, testing more than six thousand different vegetable fibers at a cost of $40,000. He failed, pure and simple, until he didn’t. And the rest of this success story is history.

He invented a bulb that lasted over 40 hours, and thus changed the world.

I think all too often, when we fall short of reaching a certain goal and “give in”—burn out, to use the light bulb metaphor—we count our efforts as a failure. When an author sells five books rather than 5,000, becomes discouraged, and decides to abandon his or her first love, we might be tempted to counsel them to give up. Find another hobby. But what if one of those five readers was profoundly moved by the author’s story, and a life was changed?

Best as I can tell, the definition of success is personal.

As in Edison’s case, it might involve the attainment of personal and business goals—short-term or long-term—that gives you a sense of purpose. Or achieving joy and fulfillment; or obtaining financial stability; or reaching professional goals; or realizing personal growth and development; or having a positive impact on other people; or…

You fill in the blank.

Sometimes, I reach deep inside and ask myself, “What am I doing? Is it worth it?”

You know what I mean.

At times, it feels like I’m beating my head against a brick wall and getting nowhere. And then I remember, I’m really writing to an audience of one, creating and fashioning in my own way like He does, and I’m filled with purpose again.


It’s not one size fits all. Edison was driven to invent a light bulb that worked. I’m driven primarily by a love of storytelling and getting the right words on the page. That’s what makes my lightbulb glow.

What drives you? It might be something as grand as building an enterprise, or something as personal as developing a new hobby. If your definition is meaningful to you and fits with your values and aspirations, then be encouraged. You’ve made a difference. You’ve succeeded.

So, in this season of setting new goals and resolutions, endeavor ahead with confidence. And have a Happy New Year!