What is success and who deserves it?

Tim Jeeves, 2 October 2012

People present: Sarah, Mary, Jamie, Britt, Guy (and others who joined later)

We began with a suggestion that work isn't always distributed fairly. That there are people who decide who gets the work - funders, institutions, casting agents, etc - and these people get into habits of making certain choices of who to work with without necessarily opening this up to other people or even considering alternatives.

Of course this isn't done out of malice, but is more due to manner in which the system in which we work forces time and money pressures upon these decision makers'; they will have a very real struggle to find the resources to cast the net wider than that which they already know.

Sometimes people get work who haven't done any training or have any real passion for their work - do these people deserve this ‘success’?

What is fair is very hard to assess - we're all going to judge by our experiences. Very few people are going to think that they've gained access to ‘success’ unfairly; it's only human that when we're outside and missing out on things that we'll judge the system harshly.

Typically, our understanding of success is very outcome orientated - is there not an echo of something like success in a project where someone begins something and then realises it's not for them.

There are differences between artistic work and having a career. Success is not necessary for the former in isolation, but this does need to be built upon for the latter.

To some degree, success is set by our expectations of it. We talked of how - for some people - getting out of bed is a real challenge, and when they meet that challenge, they rightly feel like they have achieved something.

A sense of validation of these successes is important - or at least, an acknowledgment that what we internally assess mattters.

There is always the possibility of the inverse to this - when people tell the artist that they have made good work, even though the artist themselves doesn't feel that to be the case.

Sometimes that could be the manifestation of an overly polite culture. We often don't say what we think.

There are culture makers - people who define what develops into hype. With new media, more voices are being heard quicker. This doesn't mean that the culture makers will disappear, but there will be more of them and the more voices that are heard, the more possibility there will be for people to articulate what they feel about a show (i.e. there won't be that syndrome where people like a 5 star show, because it's a 5 star show and they're too shy to disagree with the assessment).

Judging success in terms of numbers matters more at a governmental and policy level much more than it is typically felt to be of value on the ground.

We returned to a discussion around internal and external success.

It is always going to be impossible to fix a definition of success, but it is nevertheless a real thing. Perhaps asking ‘What do we need?’ is a better question? Validation feels important here.

Of course, everybody deserves validation, though as a culture we often see success in terms of competition (that person did better than that person).

Then we got confused for a bit.

We found our feet again by having a discussion about the X Factor and people who say their life is going to be over if they get voted off.

We talked about how it is important to take the time to reflect on success, the fact that there is an appropriate length of time for this that we don't often give ourselves because we are too busy moving on to the next thing.

We finished by thinking about the people who are incredibly unsuccessful, yet have a real aura of success about them.


X Factor, time to reflect, culture makers, external validation, new media reviews, career, competitiveness, success, politeness, Success