Success is fine, but success is fleeting. Significance is lasting.–Beth Brooke
If you know anything about us, you know we have a very unusual definition of success. Several years ago, we left the rat-race, stopped climbing corporate ladders, got out of the fast lane, ditched the American Dream, and refused to keep up with the Joneses. If these things don’t define success, what does? For us, it is a sense of fulfillment, a life lived with purpose, and the hope that when it’s time to meet our Maker, we’ll die without regret. That doesn’t mean we don’t need money to live, or that we lack ambition; rather, that our goals, financial and otherwise, are in line with our principles.
What I wanted, when I first started writing my memoir, Leaving the Safe Harbor, the Risks and Rewards of Raising a Family on a Boat, was to fulfill a lifelong dream of publishing a book. Beyond that, I wanted to find one reader, just one, who would read the hope and joy in my words and be inspired, falling back on my favorite Emily Dickenson poem:
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
Because I set my expectations so low–I was just hoping to write a book that didn’t suck–there was nowhere to go but up. Leaving the Safe Harbor has far surpassed my hopes and dreams, and is experiencing unexpected success, winning awards and hitting “#1 New Release” in its category for the first two days after launch, and continuing to make best-seller lists. I mention this, not to boast (though of course I am overjoyed), but rather to encourage. You, dear reader, whoever you are, you have an unfulfilled dream. We all do. Go pursue it, or die trying. Do it with all your heart, do it for yourself, do it for your family, do it for God. Define, for yourself, what “success” would look like, and it doesn’t have to be tied to accolades or money. For me, it is enough that I finished something, that I shared my story for posterity, and that my words have resonated in one heart.
Of course, I did not do any of this alone. I worked hard and made sacrifices to write this book, but I also had help. I have a family who put up with me and fended for themselves when I was buried in my writing. I had a supportive group of praying friends that walked with me through every scary step. I have Ingenium Books, a small hybrid publisher that goes above and beyond, and an editor who is now my friend. I have an enthusiastic launch team that read and recommended my book and continues to put my name out there, even convincing local bookstores and libraries to get it on the shelf. And, of course, I have a sense of God-given purpose, for which I am eternally grateful. If I never sell another copy, it was a worthwhile effort and a joyful endeavor. Whatever it is that you do that brings you closer to that sense of fulfilment and significance–go do it! The feeling of accomplishment is so worth it.