Monday, 2 March 2015

How To Be Successful

How To be Successful

The definition of success is all wrong, is skewed and twisted and it's tricking humans everywhere into thinking that their lives are incomplete. Success is a bear trap in a forest overflowing with bears - everyone gets bitten. Ears prick up at the mention of it, it's a thirst that can't be quenched. A cut of meat so good, yet so expensive... and we all want a bite.

Here's what I've realised.

Society nurtured me into thinking that success was money, in all shapes and forms. Maybe it was a beautiful, well-kept house. Maybe it was waking up every morning without a worry in how you are going to pay your bills, provide for yourself and your family. Success was soft fabric wrapped around my skin, that whispered: "Don't you want me?"

Success is a carefully woven web, designed to trap and motivate you into a life spent wanting that next thing. Success is approval of the masses, success is being pretty enough, sexy enough. But don't worry - if you weren't born that way, like most of us weren't; you can always buy, buy, buy. Work, consume, work, die.

It all started dawning on me a year ago, after a break-up. I'd felt unhappy, unfulfilled. I'd assumed this was down to the relationship being a wrong fit, so I left. My life was maths, and I deducted the odd number and thought I'd be left with something positive, something even.

But I wasn't.

My life revolved around my work, the Sun to my Earth. More than that, money was the gravity that made it all go. "Just take this job" I thought, and things will grow, and change and evolve and be better. And so, I made a decision to quit. I wanted OFF. I wanted OUT. Since I couldn't figure out what was wrong with my life, as I had so many reasons to be happy, I figured the only way was to throw my life out of the window and start from scratch.

Here's what I did.

1) I moved in with my parents.

Having wonderful parents who didn't ask me to pay rent while I stayed with them helped me hugely. It gave me a few months to work out what I was doing with myself, where I wanted to go. Financial pressures and commitments are some of the heaviest weights you can take on during your journey, and I would highly recommend against them. Success isn't your living situation. Drop your pride, screw the postcode. Imagine being able to live for free, or very little... appealing, huh?

2) I stopped taking on any paid work.

This was tough, because money is nice because you can buy things and do things. But I needed to let it go... my days were filled with computer screens with emotionless emails, chore after chore. I felt chained to my clients because they'd offered me money, I was bound by needing to have a good reputation... because successful photographers don't get bad reviews. Successful photographers make everyone happy, every client is the most important client in the world - no matter what time of night, no matter whether I'm crying from my break-up, no matter whether I'm wondering whether maybe life just isn't meant for me. It didn't matter if the skies were blue and the air blew warm against my skin, if gold fields beckoned, because I Am Successful. Don't you think I'm successful?

3) I remembered what I loved.

At first, when I made the decision to stop earning money, I was daunted by the empty days that lay ahead of me. My instinct with nothing to do was to be productive, organize a workshop or do some client work. But with nothing ahead of me, I forced my guilty self to make plans. Fun, I planned fun. It had been a while since I remembered what fun was to me - here's the list I made in the blog post I wrote at the time.

"Going for a walk
Going to the gym
Seeing friends
Putting music on and just enjoying it for a while
Looking out of the window without feeling guilty for not being productive
Being unproductive
Being productive
Shooting personal work which I enjoy
Stroking my new hair growth
Cuddling my cat"

Turns out, there is even way more fun stuff to do that even those things. I started to guzzle documentaries on space, wanting to know about my place in the Universe. What am I here to do? I'm pretty sure I wasn't given the incredible ability to perceive everything around me just so I could pay bills all my life.

My life turned. I wasn't successful, I was alive. I was running through the streets at 2am with rain hitting my face and violins booming in my ears. I was drunk, dancing and spinning and tapping my silver shoes, as I kissed a handsome stranger on a handsome street. I was soaking my mind in a bath, while my emails built up and up and up. I was devouring poetry and learning that the world was just as alive as my mind, while my phone buzzed and beeped. I ignored it. You can't buy me anymore, I don't want your money. I don't need your money. I need my time. I don't need to be successful.

I was driving with the windows down, exhaling carbon dioxide as song. I was learning to dance in my living rooms, while the neighbours looked on. I was free from the dungeon that had been unlocked all along.

And one day, after months of living, I broke down. It was my first ever happiness break down. I had gone to McDonalds to get some lunch, windows down and music up, as usual. The girl at the drive through looked at me, and smiled. She said, "Hey, it's you! Happy girl! You're everyone's favourite customer here. We love it when you come by." And I smiled inside and out. I loved seeing them, too. A lovely bunch of people, just trying to get by.
I got my food, and started driving back home. The sunlight was hitting my eyes in that way that it did, time was slipping by the way it did, and all of a sudden I just felt overwhelmed with love and pride. I was Happy Girl. I'd made it, I was finally the person I wanted to be all along. I parked up outside my cheap apartment in the cheap beautiful countryside, and broke down. I cried the way I'd cried a year before, broken and alone. But this time, I was crying with pure, pure joy. There aren't words to describe it. I wanted to drive back and hug that girl.

This is how to be successful.

Forget the money. Forget the likes, forget the beautifully decorated house in the countryside. Throw your life out of the window and start again. Because you only get one youth, one life, one chance at it all. There is space next to me for you in the grassy fields filled with gold, and I know this, because when I lie there as the sun is going down, no one is next to me. I always wonder where everyone is at 3am and the stars are white on an ocean of wonder.

But maybe they're too busy being successful.


  1. Someday. One step at a time. Lately I have been thinking of this. What does it take to be called successful? To become successful? Most of the time I am pressured because of not earning more money and the plan of making photography as your job is not acceptable for your family. I know I'm not there yet. I'm far from being there. But I hope someday I may be able to make peace with myself and realize what it is that I am really meant and want to do. I hope I may be able to experience the happiness that you felt. Someday. One day. :) Thank you for sharing this article. Bless you. :)

  2. And what if we don't have the luxury of returning, rent free to a parent and accepting their help? What if we don't have the luxury of the 'Rosie' name, to know that if we decide to take a few months out.... we'll only be in even more demand when we return to what it is we do? What if there are beautiful, little innocents depending on us to provide? What then? Such a lovely story. You are a fortunate person.

    1. Cheaper home. Children are financial commitments you choose and have to work with. I didn't know that I would be in demand when and if I decided to go back to photography... I pissed a whole lot of clients off in those months, but I did choose to stay open and honest online about my reasons why. You don't owe anyone anything, and no one owes you anything, either. I choose to wake up every single day and take my happiness and reason to live from what is free and present, if you bind yourself to something that you have to suffer for, it's a recipe for disaster. I will encourage my children one day to do the same thing. I am very fortunate. But I also chose to do things differently than the majority of people, and had the motivation to keep doing it. I wasn't born with connected parents, I didn't have any contacts, I didn't have any qualifications. I sat and I wrote and I photographed and people happened to listen. Maybe it's my hair, but you can buy hair now, too. What's stopping you?

  3. This is so incredibly true. I've been travelling and living of a freaking tight budget for two years and have never been this happy.
    Neither have I ever met as many happy down-to-earth and passionate people 💜

  4. You don't even know what this post has meant to me. I've been following your work since 2009 (and you were one of the first people who showed me what photography could be). I mean, you don't know who I am, and I don't know who you are, but the idea of success has been so hard on my mind lately. I just had my Junior Portfolio Review for my university (to become a senior in my art program), and had that huge existential crisis of, "Oh shoot, I have to be a real adult soon, can I really make money and support myself with my art? Do I even want to compete with everyone in the world? Do I really want to be controlled by money?" Yeah, your post made me cry (again) and it's incredibly comforting to see that I'm not alone in this and that it's okay to not make money and that happiness and fulfillment are really the mos important things and it's actually possible to pursue them.

    I'm still processing everything--your post, these past few days as I get accepted into the final year of my program and then become a real adult--but I just wanted to say thank you, and that you sharing this has helped one random stranger that you don't know tremendously. Thank you.

  5. I clearly need to print this out and put it somewhere I can see it everyday. Hopefully all problems will pass and I will be able to quit my day job to start taking photography as a living.

    Thanks and wish I could go to that field with you some day. Or any field.

  6. This has brought tears to my eyes. Why has no-one worked this out earlier! Rosie to be so young and insgihtful and share this with everyone is truly a gift. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, this couldnt have come at a better time for me. I am inspired and brought back down to earth.
    I'm so happy for you too! xx

  7. Rosie, your such an inspiration! So much wisdom in this post, must remember to read this whenever I'm thinking too much about becoming 'successful'. Thank you! xx

  8. While photography is a significant part of my life, but I really have trouble to make a living out of it because I hate being asked and told what and how to shoot. I enjoy shooting personal work and long give up on all kind of assignment jobs. Only not long ago I realized there is way to make money from shooting personal works, which is stock photo. It may sound cheesy and not glamorous as assignment photography and probably won't make you rich but there are people who are doing it full time, while are shooting what they love. If you have time, you may check out Trevillion, Arcangel, Offset and Stocksy. These 4 agencies may work for your images. I'm a little reluctant to leave my name here. But if you need more info, just let me know.

  9. Thank you Rosie for reminding us, and me that success is not about money. I strongly agree and I wish more parents would encourage their children with this particular statement. Sadly not mine. I believe that I will thrive but it will b difficult with the culture of the family, then again reading this gives me strength to fight (or meet in the middle) to the consequences. I will strike and push on for my happiness and thats what matters. Thank you again Rosie for this post and for being constant inspiration for so many people out there including me.


  10. For some reason this made me so happy! I read this and felt everything you wrote. I am not a professional photographer and not in the same situation but I am on my way to live and happiness. I now what it feels like to start living and slowly becoming happy. I have to admit that I've cried while reading this. Because I realized I am so close to be this Happy girl. I cried because I feel so good.
    Thank you so much for your words!!!

  11. Thank you, Happy Girl, for the words, for the music, for the picture of you with the Sun. :)

  12. Lovely! I quit my job 2 years ago as well. I did it because i didnt want to waste my life away in an office working for someone else to afford a trip around the world, living his/her life in the sunshine, while i sit at my desk and watch my whole life pass me by, trying to do what society thinks i was put on earth to do - push the economy and try to be successful. I didnt want to believe that there was nothing more than this out there! I am slowly realising that i was right :) and it makes me all the more happy to read your post! I now work on something that makes me happy, it doesn't make me rich but it makes me happy and i felt like it was worth a try, to break out and give myself a shot at happiness :)

    Thank you for sharing this with us!

  13. Being happy is more important than being successful. Imagine being a CEO in a company, but you were never truly happy with your job. You have all the success and the money, yet something is always missing. If someone was forced to be a doctor but he/she wanted to be a writer, he/she should follow his/her heart and be a writer, as that’s where happiness is. And who knows, that’s where success might be too, so you get the best of both worlds.

    Celine Goodson @ RMS Recruitment

  14. I was really want to get some more detail and information about the How to be successful but your blog helped me so much thank you for sharing it.
    How to be successful

  15. I have read many blogs but your blog are always very nice and now here I got some detail about the self improvement. Good work keep it up.
    self improvement