In my 20's and 30's, no matter what success I had, it wasn't enough. I wrote a play and got it produced, but it didn't win a Pulitzer Prize. I made a living as a headlining standup comic, but I didn't get a reoccurring part on a sitcom. No matter how hard I worked, success seemed to elude me.
My turning point was 15 years ago when I was teaching stand-up comedy in my converted garage in Venice, California. There was a student who couldn't understand how to write a joke. Then, after I took the time to explain to her what she needed to do, she got it! After that, she was hilarious.
The class wasn't on TV, nor written up in a review, but I realized at that moment, that success has nothing to do with how many people see what you do or how much money you make. Success is the satisfaction of a job well done. Realizing this, angst and resentment left me and I let myself feel successful. Cut to years later, that same student Sherri Shepard went on to having a successful comedy career on "The View," in movies, and in her own sitcom.
Now, in my career as a motivation speaker, I have spoken for 20 people in the Valley, and I've spoken for 8500 with President Clinton. What I've learned is that it doesn't matter how many people are in the audience, how much I'm getting paid, but rather it's the success of making a difference in people's lives -- and that's what true success is.