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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Success is a Result, Not a Goal

Flaubert said that success is a result, not a goal. (Le succés est une conséquence et non un but). It is a consequence of what you've done. Seeing it as a goal, deferred to the future, means making it more nebulous, less grounded. Of course, until it exists, it has to remain merely a goal.

What this axiom seems to suggests is the emptiness of the notion of "promise." Seen before the fact, success is a big question mark. Seen in retrospect, it seems almost inevitable. So success is almost a sure thing, the logical consequence of a series of actions.

Easy for me to say, I guess. I've always seen it more or less like this.


Andrew Shields said...

Sebald wrote that "writing is necessary, not literature." The writing is the goal, not the success (the evaluation as "literature" or as "good criticism").

Jonathan said...

You can aspire to write, and in fact do so. There is no impediment. Success, however, is only judged after that fact. Your goal is to get the work done. Success is what may or may not result from this.

Andrew Shields said...

Here's another version of this: I have a friend who never says, "I'm a poet," but only, "I write poems."

"Poet" is like the success: it's for someone else to worry about.

Andrew Shields said...

And this from Pride and Prejudice, which I am re-reading: "I must not decide on my own performance."