Most people say they want success, but when you ask them what success means you get wildly different responses. We recently asked some of the best and brightest in our community to tell us about how they define success and have shared their responses below.

Steven Vargas | Dancer, Actor and Multimedia Journalist

If I feel happy and fulfilled in what I am doing, then I feel successful. More importantly, when I know that my art and writing impacts people, I know that I have succeeded in my purpose as a creator. For example, some of my work on prison abolition and stories on different dance communities received plenty of response and engagement from viewers. When I know that my creations can make people feel something or think critically about an issue, I know that I have succeeded. It can be easy to get caught up in the numbers and try to make something that’ll trend, but I’ve learned that when I don’t care or pay attention to those attributes, I create the best work that grabs people’s attention. It results in something more authentic and honest that I think is important to uphold as an artist. It reminds me of a “movement for actors” class I took in my undergrad. The basis of the class that was drilled in my head from the start was to not care. The second I ignored what people thought, my movement felt more genuine and my subsequent work came from a place of honesty. I take this lesson with me in everything I do. Read more>>

Maegen Rzasa-Cleary | Farmers’ Market Manager & Yoga Instructor

Being rooted in my values with integrity…when what I feel on the inside matches what is expressed on the outside…and vice versa. Read more>>

Matondo Kiantandu | Actor/Writer/Producer

I believe it’s being able to maintain independence and reasonable financial security while having control over creative pursuits. When you can say no and still keep your lights on it’s a victory. It takes away desperation and when you say yes you know it can be something special. Read more>>

Jamaal Thomas | Entrepreneur, Product Manager, and Brand Developer

I define success as freedom–the freedom to create and access in all arenas of one’s life. And, right behind that is inspiring another on their journey to success. Read more>>

Mark Stansell | Maker of Dope Shit

Success to me has a fluid and transient meaning. It can take on many forms for whoever and whatever. Some may see it as a monetary achievement or a commercial one. One may measure it by the amount of followers they have on social media, while another would say success comes from how others perceive you and the direction of your growth. Personally, success means being able to say “I did this.” That doesn’t mean I did it alone, but rather my goal was accomplished is some shape or form through various avenues of trial and error. I look at it as an ongoing race against myself. To constantly improve, not just personally, but creatively, business wise and artistically. People tend to think, “Once I reach ‘X’ then that means I’ll be successful”, they tend to forget that to plateau is to flatline. Yes, there may be lows that set you back, but to truly be successful you must keep climbing and try to break the ceilings set upon you by society or even yourself. Read more>>

Charles Grace | Musician/Songwriter

My understanding of success is shaped by two metaphors: lighting the long fuse and pushing the ball a little further down the road. Both of these images paint the picture of longevity. In my life experience, I have often misinterpreted success and fame or instant recognition. The older I become, the more I admire people who develop resilience over a longer period of time. These individuals are battle-tested, and they have learned how to keep moving in the midst of adversity. The common denominator for success has to do with identity and where we choose to place our sense of value and worth. If we place the burden of success on circumstances or accolades, then it will be short-lived. However, if we are able to distinguish who we are from what we do, then that success is more substantial and life-giving. Read more>>

Jennifer Cagle | CEO & Founder of The V Spa

I’d have to relate to my all time favorite Maya Angelou quote, “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” Read more>>

Mila Gokhman | Artist and Designer

From the first moment when I began working as an artist, I didn’t know what would be. The more I was working, the more I knew it was the only way for me to survive. I didn’t think about success. I was making my art for a long period before my work was shown in St. Petersburg, Tallinn, and Kiev, and even then it was not an easy life. When I was young, I was very open to people and loved connecting. If they liked what I was doing, I felt successful. The main thing for me is to see my work exposed. It was more important to me than seeing all of the articles and seeing myself on TV. If I felt my art worked in the exposition, it made me happy. In America, where I came in 2000, to be successful, you need to make money. My friends knew America would be difficult for me. I never wanted to sell my work because I wanted to keep it for my exhibitions–to see everything I made on the walls of a museum. I am not ambitious for myself, but for my art. Read more>>

Cass Ford | Smut Writer & Author of Best-Selling Erotic Romance Novel, Prince of Sin

I’ve been doing a lot of soul work and coincidentally, I recently redefined my definition of success. Success to me is living a joyful life, staying true to my beliefs, living consciously, having fun, working on being less anxious and more present, doing what I want to do each day (not what I ‘should’ do) and feeling more grateful. As a storyteller, for me, success means telling stories that have an impact—that make people think or just give them all the feels and help them escape or unwind. For a long time, success to me meant gaining and achieving material things—more money, more senior job titles, more best-selling books, buying a house… But it became exhausting. I’m already a success and I deserve to be happy every day, not only once I’ve achieved certain things. Plus, once you achieve them, it’s never enough—you’ll keep wanting more and you’ll never let yourself be happy. Read more>>

Brittnei & Billy Henderson | Brittnei – CEO & Personal Trainer Billy – Chief Manufacture of Holistic Products

When people think of success, often they look around at other people and everything else before looking inside themselves. We agree that it is based upon the individual and has different timelines in which you constantly celebrate the small victories because success is continuous. For BRAIN, success looks like making a difference in people’s lives and leaving behind our teachings to be passed on for generations. Almost like leaving a piece of ourselves to behind for others to learn from. On this journey, we work together always and think of others constantly fulfilling goals, smiling, complimenting each other, laughing, and enjoying what we’re doing, because it isn’t about making money, but how you make an impact on your community, how other people tell the story of how you what you’ve meant to them, and putting great things into the world. Read more>

Zosia | Musician

Success is one of the most complex, subjective terms I know. I hear it and use it constantly, but until recently I didn’t fully consider what it means to me. At its core, success is the accomplishment of goals. But the most important thing for me is to distinguish between authentic goals and the ones we are expected to have. Wealth and status are typical “goals” in our culture, and they very well could be authentic aspirations. But I think it’s vital to recognize when we are aiming for something because we think we should. I love and hate social media, and part of the dislike comes from the comparison culture it’s generated. These platforms are the go-to way to publicize our successes. For example, musicians have begun posting their Spotify year-in-review statistics. Before this trend, this information wasn’t so readily available. We may have been aware of charting songs or platinum albums, but we didn’t know how well every artist was performing. Read more>>

Grace Chomick | Illustrator

I define it as a feeling of fulfillment. And I think that goes for things of all scale – from a single task or project, all the way up to your career and the cumulation of your life. If you feel fulfillment in what you’re doing, in what you’ve accomplished, in who you are, you have found success. Read more>>

Ericka Sance | Artist, musician & Psyche-Rock Princess

Success is when you attain a perfect balance between the material & spiritual. Whatever that means in the daily tasks of life. Success is having true love, friendship, health and a safe environment to be expressive of our thoughts and feelings. It is something that most people associate with work & accomplishments. But I have always felt that it’s also about emotional achievement. Something that fulfills my whole being. Not just something material but also spiritual. Read more>>

Talïn Tanielian | Animator and VFX Artist

Success for me is finding balance and happiness in your daily routine. It’s all about figuring out what you’re passionate about, and for me, that is storytelling and animation. If you’re working hard on something that just isn’t fulfilling to you, you owe it to yourself to pursue something that is going to change that for the better. If you’re overworking, you need to take breaks so that you can recharge and put out your absolute best work. It’s your life, you deserve to live it! I believe the only way you will be successful is through hard work and discipline, but it’s so important that you love what you’re doing every step of the way. Give yourself breaks and allow yourself to have fun. Read more>>

Ramon Navos-Moral | Topline Songwriter / Vocalist

Most people relate money with success. I don’t blame them, but once you have money, you’ll realize that it is far from being successful. For me, offering a product or service that can affect another individual’s life in a positive way is the definition of success. The money they pay you fills your pockets, but knowing that you made a difference in another person’s life will fill your soul. Read more>>

Caroline Koziol | Actress

I really don’t know how to answer this question. Recently I realised that we are all unique and there is no “average child”. Something that works for Martin, doesn’t necessary mean it will work for Amelia, something that works for Michelle, doesn’t mean it will work for Pola. Not only I’m talking about diet(with fitness industry being so popular- 2000 calories diet won’t work for everyone, because we all have different sizes and lifestyle), but also about happiness and success. As human beings we always want more, there is no final destination to anything in life. If you gain 10k followers, you want 20k, then 100 k then 1 million. If you buy a house, you then want to decorate it, then maybe have a better and bigger place. I thought that If I get my book published, I would feel happy and successful- I didn’t. I was more upset because I realised that I didn’t enjoy the process of it. I thought that If I lost weight I would be successful and happy but I wasn’t. I was more worried than before because I didn’t know how to maintain healthy weight. Read more>>

André Carmo | Adventure Filmmaker and Photographer

I think success is a very personal metric. I believe only someone can determine if they are successful or not because it truly depends on what they value! For me, being such a goal-driven person, overcoming challenges brings me happiness. Thus believing that for me to be successful, I need to push myself and overcome those challenges. Read more>>

Ashley Hogan | Actress

A person’s individual success varies. For myself, I define it as being fulfilled and happy as I reach my goals in life. Read more>>

Caren Young | Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Consultant and Award-Winning Burlesque Performer

I define success as “would this be something I”m proud/excited to talk about when I’m 80 years old?” Thinking about success in that way really eliminates the drive for making more money, having a bigger house/car or flexing on others and pushes you to think about what makes you happy and fulfilled. I’m now more interested in the story that can be told and how I can help others – and yes, I consider myself a success. Read more>>

Aurora Vaughan | Movement Artist

I identify success with feeling proud of the process in which I achieved a goal. I am an avid believer in the idea that if I want to get something, go somewhere, and create, I want to do it ethically, equitably, and inclusively. That being said, those qualities and aspirations must aid me in my goal, not hinder me; this means I have to make informed choices about said goal and how I am going to get there. As an artist, I am inspired but others’ success when I see that they have utilized their resources well and maintained a moral approach. I am not interested in creative processes that harm others’ mental health, sense of importance in the world, or individuality. True success comes from honest work and an honest approach. Read more>>

Fen Alankus | Podcaster & Storyteller

To me, success essentially equals joy. I know that if I’m having fun and experiencing increased synchronicity, that’s it – I’ve entered the flow state of creation. That’s when I feel I’m working with the universe and not against it. But joy isn’t a “thing” to obtain. It’s like a realm that we get access to when we practice following our curiosity. To maintain this state, we have to face our fears regularly, do things outside of our comfort zones, and practice prioritizing our curiosity and intuition. Success feels like a consistent buzzing energy of enthusiasm with a hefty dash of fear and a pinch of magic. It’s a knowing that we are absolutely following the whisper of our heart’s desires. Read more>>

Michael Grandinetti | Master Illusionist, Star of NBC and CW TV Specials and Series

To me, success is being able to wake up every day and do what you love to do.  Early on, I didn’t realize how relatively rare that was, but there’s a good number of people that don’t seem to have a passion for their job and can’t wait for the weekends.  For me, seven days a week, there’s nothing more exciting than starting a new day and putting my energy into taking my work in new directions and I always love hearing when others feel the same.  I wish for everyone to find that and I think they can.  Success is also about constantly setting, pursuing, and reaching goals, regardless of how long it takes, and repeating that process over time.  In my particular line of work, creating and performing magic and illusions, the ultimate goal is to bring amazement and happiness to as many people around the world as I can.  Whenever I see smiling faces in an audience, or hear from someone, nearby or far away, that enjoyed our live show or one of our TV appearances, that’s what really makes me feel like my work is achieving its purpose. Read more>>

Silvia Imperatrice | Freelance movie and TV Producer and Translator

Success for me is something that I’m aspiring to every day. My biggest success would be being able through my projects to raise people’s awareness on some of the problems that are oftentimes neglected by society. I’m creating and investing in projects that have a big social impact first for me and then for others. Problems like deafness or blindness. If I can just shed some light on those issues, I would consider myself successful. Read more>>

Iván Emilio Albino | Actor and Host

Success to me is feeling at peace with the work you do everyday, regardless of money or fame. If you feel happy with your work and you are changing the life of at least one person from your work, then you are succeding at it. Read more>>

AmyLea Murphy | Author of Young Adult Fiction

Success, for me, is living a meaningful life. To me, that means living my life in the most authentic way and purposefully contributing to the world in a positive manner. Whether that’s through my writing, my parenting, or my efforts to be a good human on this planet, I want to be sure my life tips the balance in favor of the notion that people are basically good. If I can do that, I will consider myself a success. Everything else is icing on the cake. Read more>>

Dara | Certified Transformational Coach

My definition of success is much different from society’s definition. Once, I realized that I had the ability to come up with my own definition of success my entire life changed for the better. I was working for a good company out of college making good money. I had a car, an apartment, and a 401k. Through society’s definition you would say that I was very successful. Unfortunately, I didn’t want to get out of my bed in the morning. I was never excited to go to sleep, because I didn’t want to wake up the next day. Ultimately, this mentality caught up with me, and I was let go from this position. I ended up teaching English in a foreign country only a few months later. I had no friends, no car, no 401k, and was making a fraction of the money I was making in America, Through society’s definition you would most likely say I was failing. Something completely changed for me though. I was actually excited to get out of bed in the morning, because despite making much less money, I loved what I was doing. Read more>>

Zachariah Axel | Actor, Writer, & Producer

I love this question because success is not only so personal, it is a constantly evolving concept. I worked in the National Hockey League in my 20s. In professional sports we defined success by achieving enough wins to make the playoffs, and ultimately compete for the championship. I was fortunate to be part of the LA Kings championship run in 2014. One of the proudest moments of my life was being surrounded by teammates holding The Stanley Cup over my head. As I’ve grown, my idea of success has changed dramatically. When I was younger I defined success almost solely through my career. Nowadays, maybe even more so because I define myself as both an artist and an entrepreneur, success is less tied to career and more deeply woven into my sense of self. As a working actor, it can be easy to feel unsuccessful and discouraged if you go a long time between projects. But that is the nature of the entertainment business, highlighted even more so during Covid. Read more>>