I woke up at 5:45 am this morning in a little town outside of Woodstock, NY surrounded by the people and things that mean the most to me. Julia and I are taking a two-week working vacation up in the Catskills and we brought the whole (pet) family with us – including our friends’ dog, Fluffnut. I’ve been wanting to unplug and get away from everything, but the reality is, these days that’s pretty impossible. So rather than overworking and pre-loading content to take a few days off from the computer, we decided to go somewhere quiet that has WiFi and access to the things we need to keep working. Julia’s working on a cookbook and I’m working on my normal posts and some big-picture business planning, but we’re both happy to be working away from our normal noisy neighborhood. The dogs and cat are pretty happy to get away, too.
As I pulled my laptop onto my lap this morning, I kept getting distracted by an issue of People magazine sitting on the counter. It’s my go-to impulse buy at any grocery store and today a short interview with musician Ed Sheeran caught my eye. At the end of the interview they asked him what success looked like to him. His answer struck a chord (no pun intended) with me. He said, “I think the meaning of life is family. If I can have a wife, kids, animals and a house – that is success.” I found myself nodding and then staring out the window a bit, realizing that my own personal journey has been about coming to the same realization. It took me a while, but these days, I find that defining success means focusing less on tangible things and more on the intangible moments that teach us something about who we really are and what we really want.
*Photo above by Casey Stark from the #dscolor feed on Instagram
Read on to hear the four questions I ask myself every night to stay in touch with what matters most…
When I started Design*Sponge 10 years ago, my goals were simple: to find a place to talk about the things I loved and to find a few people to share that conversation. The site grew beyond anything I could have ever imagined and that has been one of the greatest surprises, and gifts, in my life so far. I never expected to be running a business 10 years later or be managing a business that supported friends and co-workers, too. It’s been a great and ongoing challenge to balance the business and editorial side of my job, but it’s a challenge I feel honored to have.
That said, I find that as I grow older, I crave fewer things and the things I do crave come from a place of heritage, tradition and slowness. Instead of seeking out more and more varieties of things, I want fewer – and I want those fewer things to be functional and personal. When I tell other bloggers and friends about this desire for less and less, I find people share the same sentiment, but also share the accompanying feeling of dread. Dread that comes from a place of worrying that that my desire to have less is bad for business.
We all work in a community based around the idea of NEW and what’s the latest/hottest/coolest something. Searching for those things used to excite me and then it kept me up at night worrying that I wouldn’t find that thing fast enough or before someone else. So I naturally found myself turning away from so much product coverage and writing more about what it took to create a space (rented, owned, small, big – it doesn’t matter) that felt like home.
While sifting through emails and comments related to our reader survey last week, many people wrote asking for more (and more frequent) trend coverage, product roundups and greater numbers of posts about items that are under $25. I sat with those requests for a long time. They resonated strongly because they echo so much of what the internet is about right now: demanding more and more and in smaller, bite-sized pieces. I read and re-read each request and tried to get at the core of what people wanted. I sat down and thought about hiring someone to just cover trends and products and then I caught myself doing that slide so many of us recognize – the slide into what we think we’re supposed to do to make everyone happy. It’s a slide that often comes at the expense of what makes us happy.
Then it hit me: I have to find a way to make these requests and that content fit within the lens of what we believe. I will never be able to make everyone happy, but if I can work harder to give people more of what they want, but presented in a way that best expresses what our site believes in, we’ll have a better chance at making both ourselves, and readers, happy.
The definition of success that’s easy to fall into is one that produces the biggest results: the most readers, the most pageviews, the most press and the most financial success. But the one that really matters to me these days is one that focuses on how I feel when I settle into bed each night. Am I proud of what I put out into the world today? Have I been respectful to and appreciative of the people and things that mean the most to me? Am I able to support myself and contribute to my family’s well-being? Am I, along with my family, happy and healthy? If I can say “yes” to all of these questions, I feel that I’ve reached the sort of success that means something to me. Sure, I regularly have days where I can’t say “yes” to all of these – or any of these – but the closer I get to having all these bases covered, the closer I feel to attaining the sort of success that matters to me.
There’s nothing wrong with striving for “more” and “better,” but the question I find most helpful to come back to over and over is, “Who and what do I want by my side when I’m 85?” Will it be endless stacks of magazines and inexpensive ombre vases? Or will it be a sense of peace and quiet and someone to share it with? Chances are, it will be a little bit of both (I will always love vases). For me, success is about a constant balancing act: Working towards gleaning out the things that don’t make me feel happy, calm and whole and slowly adding things, people and moments that make me feel like I’m exactly where I want to be. – xo, grace
What does success mean for all of you? Has it changed as you’ve gotten older? Does the success you’ve achieved feel different than you expected when you aimed for it? What are the things that make you sleep well at night? I’m curious to know the core questions and touchstones we all set for ourselves to stay in tuned with what matters most to each of us.