Celebrating the Little Things: The Importance of Your Own Definition of Success

Written by Claire L. Fishback, PMP

Book Coach & Story Strategist

January 9, 2023

Before we dig in to talking about success, let’s talk about a few different concepts and definitions.

Last week you learned about the Big Deal Goal or BDG of finishing a 90,000 word manuscript and how to break it down into smaller, more manageable targets.

Big Deal Goals or BDGs are important. They are what will make you feel successful as a busy author. They are big picture, high level, all encompassing goals. They have deep meaning to you on a personal level, because to achieve one is worthy of a big reward. Maybe even some Dom Perignon or a new car! Okay, don’t get too ahead of yourself, Claire. But definitely worth some celebrating. And celebrating and rewards are what will keep you going. I talked about this back in this post about breaking bad habits.

Success is Personal

The second thing I want to define for you is success. Except, I can’t define it for you. You know why? Because Success is personal. Highly personal. One person’s success could even look like another person’s failure. I’ll explain that in a bit. It’s important to figure out what success looks like to you, and luckily, that’s what this post is all about.

The third thing is not a definition, but it’s something I learned while starting this little entrepreneurial journey I’m on. And that is: “stay in your own lane.” What does this mean? This means, don’t compare your first book to someone else’s twentieth book. Don’t compare yourself to anyone but yourself. So profound. But it’s true.

Here’s a personal example of mine. I produce one book per year. It’s either a novel, a short story collection, or in the case of 2022 a non-fiction book about productivity for authors.

My definition of success

I see other independently published authors producing a book a month.

When I first started, I was astonished by this. How on earth could they write and publish a book a month? I started listening to some podcasts by the people who were doing this, and learned a lot from them.

The key thing I learned was they are writing full time. They aren’t busy authors like us. They don’t have a day job that takes up 8 or more hours per day five or more days a week. Or even some other variable day job schedule. I know not everyone works a 9-5 job.

One book per year is pretty darn good, considering how much time I actually have to write and work on producing a book. It is my definition of success, but to those who publish 12 books per year that would be a big fat failure. This is what I meant about one person’s definition of success looking like another’s failure.

Set Yourself Up for Success by Defining What it means for you

This is why it’s important to set yourself up for success by defining it.

So, I learned to stay in my own lane. You can look at what others are doing, sure. Just don’t compare yourself to them. We are all different. We all have different definitions of success, which I’ll get into more in a minute, I swear. We are our own people. I think I say that a lot, because it’s true!

The key is to define what success looks like to you. For example, when I first started publishing my own books, I wrote down what success in my author business looked like.

My list had things like:

  • Have a book out to point people to when I tell them I’m a writer
  • Sell 100 books
  • Sell 500 books
  • Have a stranger subscribe to my newsletter

This was the first time I used level goals. Back in the Plan for anything posts (Part 1 & Part 2), I talked about the Level Up tool. It’s all about setting level goals so you can push yourself. Level 1 is the “everyone gets a trophy” goal, level two is harder, and level three is like the ultimate range of the goal.

Use Levels of success

You can use levels for your success, too.

  • Level 1: Sell 10 books
  • Level 2: Sell 100 books
  • Level 3: Sell 500 books and so forth

The small incremental goals don’t even have to be levels. They can just be small measurements, like selling a book to a stranger. You know most of your first sales are to your friends and family, but there’s magic in discovering you sold a book to a stranger. Someone outside of your circle.

During the launch of my first novel, The Blood of Seven, I did an event at a local book store in Denver, which has since closed, which is such a travesty. Anyway, I did a little speech about the book, then read a few passages from the first couple of chapters, opened up for questions, and then the signing of the books. Typical book launch things right?

Most of the people who came through the line I knew. Some were friends of friends. Then this woman approached the table.

“I heard you reading and was so intrigued I came in and bought your book.”

That, my friend, is the ultimate success right there. Though I don’t remember her name or what she looked like, I’ll never forget that moment when a stranger heard me reading and had to come in and buy my book immediately. Not only that, but she also stuck around for the Q&A and waited in line to get it signed!

That kind of small success is what I thrive off of. I don’t read my reviews, but every once in a while I accidentally do, lol. I have seen strangers reviewing my books, too. WIth five stars even!

What does success look like to you? You can aspire to be a bestseller of course. No one will stop you from aspiring to that incredible level – I mean, what author doesn’t want to be a bestseller? In the meantime, on your way to the top, create these little successes. They’ll keep you going when things get tough, and they will get tough. That’s the nature of creative work.

And, just like in the Three Rs post, make sure you celebrate and reward yourself for reaching these small successes.

Now, let’s shift gears, because you can’t have the sweet without the sour. Let’s discuss perceived failure. I mentioned this in passing in the same plan for anything posts I mentioned earlier.

Perceived Failure

Perceived failure is when you think you have failed because you didn’t properly set realistic expectations. Let me say that again, if you’re not paying full attention, listen up! Perceived failure is when you THINK you have failed because you didn’t set realistic expectations.

What does that even mean, Claire? It means you either didn’t define what success is to you from the start, OR you’re looking at someone else’s definition of success as a benchmark for yourself.

You must be your own benchmark. If you don’t set your own expectation of what success looks like, everything will feel like a failure.

When you define what success looks like to you, it makes committing to your goals and the habits you want to create easier. It gives you these little benchmarks to work toward.

Get the Success Planner

To help you out with defining what success is to you, I have created the Success Planner for you. It’s included in the Resource Library along with the Big Deal Goal workbook.

Set your timer, go write!



Get the Success Planner in The Resource Library. The Resource Library is chock full of useful cheat sheets, guides, workbooks, and planners. More added as I make them!

Get it in the resource library!

Get this resource AND MORE in the FREE Resource Library!

Get the worksheet, workbook, guide, or other tool mentioned in this post FREE in the Resource Library. The Resource Library is chock full of useful cheat sheets, guides, workbooks, and planners. More added as I make them!

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