Success is what you make it.
Emphasis there is on the word you. Success isn’t what others tell you it is. It’s what you are.
I am a case in point. My career path is varied to say the least. In fact, I don’t know what’s going to happen to me next year. But one thing I know, I’m a success.
I don’t have a million dollars. I don’t even own a house. I’m not married, I don’t have any kids, and I can’t think of any famous people I hang around with. But I’m successful.
And yet so many people think things like money, fame and possessions are the hallmarks of success. They aren’t, but people break their skulls trying to be successful in ways that are unsuitable to them. And that is simply because try to live up to unrealistic expectations – expectations that other people put on them.
Let me describe my path to getting where I am now. I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I was at school. I had a vague notion about being a doctor, mainly because my father was one. But it was never a firm career decision. In fact, my marks at school were very quickly proving that I didn’t have what it takes for a medical career. I wasn’t particularly brilliant. Just before school finished, I decided I wanted to a lawyer. But my marks didn’t let me get into university to do law.
I went to uni anyway, doing a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in Government and Ancient History. The theory was I could switch to Law at the end of the year. But two weeks into my first semester I was offered a job in a law firm as an articled clerk, so I took it. I could work five years as a clerk and study law at night.
Five years later, I left the firm as my tenure with them was up, but I hadn’t quite finished my exams. So I got a job with the Queensland Justice Department in the Magistrates Courts service. I did that for five years while I finished my qualifications and was admitted as a solicitor. Now I had changed plans. If I worked my way up through the public service ranks I could eventually become a magistrate. But it would be a long wait, about twenty years.
So I took a job in another law firm. I worked there for nine years as an associate solicitor in a two-man law practice in Central Queensland. Whilst there, I revived a life-long passion I had for the theatre and was involved in amateur theatre. I loved acting. After nine years as a lawyer, I decided I wanted to be a professional actor. So I walked into the boss’s office and told him I was auditioning for drama school. He asked “What if you don’t get in?” I said I was leaving anyway.
But I did get in. The next three years were the best in my life. I was the oldest student in my year at university. I obtained a degree in Creative Arts from the University of Southern Queensland. I then worked (or didn’t work) as a professional actor for a few years. I made a few advertisements, did a few film and TV roles, and appeared on stage. But there was little money in it, so I had to do other work to put food on the table.
I became a trainer with a company that taught medical software to doctors and clinical support staff. I would go out to medical conferences and doctors’ surgeries and teach them how to use the software. It was a lot of fun. The doctor who ran the company was also involved in adolescent health and he helped me obtain a position as a project officer in a programme that used Drama as a teaching medium for high school students to learn about adolescent health. I worked part time on that for a few years while I still tried to be an actor.
Eventually, I decided that I was better at teaching Drama than acting it. So I decided to become a teacher.
I went back to university – again – and studied for a Master of Teaching at the Queensland University of Technology. A few days after finishing I was fortunate enough to land a job at a Catholic boy’s school. I taught there for nine years, teaching Drama and Legal Studies, as well as English and a few other subjects.
I eventually decided I was sick of that. I wanted to move back to Brisbane. I quit school and moved. I became a tutor, working one-on-one with students in their own homes, supplementing their school learning. It was a lot of fun. And I landed myself another acting agent and launched back into acting to help pay the bills.
So here I am. A varied path, as I said. It hasn’t always been easy, but I’ve been very lucky and I have always made sure that I enjoyed what I was doing. And if ever I stopped enjoying it, I stopped doing it.
My father, as I said, was a doctor. He said he had patients who would come in and say “It hurts when I do this, doc.” Dad would tell them, “Well stop doing it.” I’ve tried to apply that to my life. When it starts to hurt, stop doing it.
Re-invent the meaning of success. Make your success personal, and maybe you can achieve it, too.