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The Success List: Success Looks a Lot Different to You Than it Does to Me, Right?

What vision pops into your head when I say the word ‘success’?

Do you think I’m talking about success in your business – or success in your life?

And really – are they even two separate things?

Because to me, they’re pretty much one and the same.

I can’t define the success of my business separately from the success I feel in my self.

The success of my business is wrapped up tightly with not only my sense of achievement and self-worth as a person, but also with the sense of freedom and joy I feel when I think about the life and lifestyle I have chosen for myself.

I say chosen, because it is a choice. It’s not luck (though there is some of that in the mix). It’s not a blessing (because I worked my ASS off to get where I am, there was no divine agency involved).

I chose to walk the path less travelled.

I choose to live the life less lived.

I choose to live a lifestyle that can be supported by my choice of work.

If I wanted a big house in the suburbs, 3 kids, 2 cars, and the latest everything, it would be almost impossible with the money I currently earn.

So, instead, I choose to live in a converted shed with no bathroom or kitchen (they’re down in the main house) until we can build our own house. I choose not to have children so I have the freedom to travel and devote my life to my work – because that’s my joy. I choose to work longer hours than I ever did in a ‘real’ job so that I can make the money we need to live the life we do.

None of this – NONE of it – is a sacrifice. It is a choice, a choice I make joyfully, each and every day.

That being said, it’s also not something I’ve done alone. Without the love and support of my family, friends, customers, online colleagues, and,  most of all – my partner-in-life-and-crime/husband/rock/one-man-cheer-squad/food-maker/big-bunch-of-balloons-like-in-that-movie-UP – Nick, it would have been infinitely harder.

However I got here, and whatever here is… I feel like I have achieved a modicum of ‘success’ in my life. There are certainly many more mountains to climb, lions to tame, and rivers to cross… but for now, life it pretty damn great.

So – what is success?

I can’t tell you what success looks like to you, because honestly, it’s going to be hella different… but I can tell you what it means to me, and you might see some echos of your own version of success in there.

How to define success? I don’t think I CAN define it in a single sentence or pithy statement. What I can do, however, is give you (and me) snapshots of what success looks and feels like in my life, and from those snapshots, a broader and more beautifully vast vision can emerge.

And so, I give you my Success List.

Success is…

  • writing this blog post while sitting in a hotel room in Seattle, half-way through a 2-month trip around Canada and the USA that we were able to just decide to take – on a whim – because of the flexibility of our lives and the money in the bank – and because I wanted to attend the World Domination Summit (#WDS2013)
  • being able to get up and go to sleep every day at whatever time I want
  • structuring my day to suit me, rather than someone else’s schedule
  • doing the work I want, when I want
  • living in the country because I don’t have to commute
  • making enough money so my husband doesn’t have to have a job – he can stay home and work with me, and support me and our life by doing the bulk of the domestic chores, too
  • being free to chuck in work for a day and go to the beach (though, lets be honest, my inner workaholic doesn’t let me do this TOO often!)
  • making/having enough money to buy whatever I want whenever I want… thankfully, I prefer op shop clothes over designer duds, and my idea of fancy is a bottle of $20 wine and a block of good Lindt chocolate
  • being able to stop work at any given moment, walk into my bedroom, and cuddle my cat/husband/read a book for a while/go for a walk/lay outside in the paddock looking at the sky
  • (interlude – have you noticed that so far, I’ve pretty much been talking about my life, rather than my actual business? There’s a lesson there…)
  • being able to make beautiful things with my own two hands, and people loving them enough to buy them, so I know that my little droplets of beauty are spreading around the world
  • the joy of standing in front of a group of people who have a dream, and hopefully sharing something with them that will spark an idea or give them inspiration to make that dream a reality
  • having someone email me to tell me that something I put out there into the world changed their life. (This is a BIG one.)
  • getting to speak at this year’s Problogger Training Event (alongside people like Jonathan Fields, Darren Rowse, Clare Bowditch, Trey Ratcliff, Pip Lincolne, Amy Porterfield and Tsh Oxenreider)
  • being truly loved
  • laughing with my family every day
  • enacting my new ideas with passion
  • having the time to read a couple of novels every week on my kindle
  • making enough money to travel multiple times every year
  • being happy every day

That, right now, is what success means to me.

But hey… why stop there? Why not have a FUTURE Success List, too?

In the future, Success will be:

  • giving a TED talk
  • making my husband feel loved and valued every day
  • teaching people that they CAN live life differently and make a living following their passion
  • buying a beach house
  • taking care of my parents in their old age and making sure they never feel alone
  • taking care of my own health so that I can live to whatever age I live to in full health and vitality – able to do what I want to do until the day I die, because I never want to ‘retire’
  • finishing and publishing a book
  • speaking regularly all over the world
  • getting my jewellery in gallery shops
  • having a ‘proper’ art show with some unique, conceptual jewellery pieces
  • starting my own charity/legacy (I have one in mind, and have for years)
  • making every day joyful and meaningful
  • t.b.a. …

It’s amazing how writing this list opens you up – not only to the possibilities, but also to the awesome things you already have in your life!

It really makes you grateful and thankful for every wonderful thing you already have… and hopeful for those experiences to come in the future!

I would love, love, love to hear what success means to you, too.

In fact – here’s a challenge for you.

I challenge you to write a post on YOUR blog outlining your Success List.

(Feel free to steal the above photo and use it!!) 

Come back here and leave the link below in the comments/tweet me/facebook it etc etc… however you share, I’d love to read it.

 P.S. You can share this post on twitter by clicking here to tweet: What does Success look like to you? @JessVanDen challenges you to share your #SuccessList with the world.


Van Den has written 320 posts in this blog.

Jess Van Den is the editor of Create & Thrive, and has been a full-time creative entrepreneur since 2010. She makes eco-conscious, contemporary, handmade sterling silver jewellery under the Epheriell label, and blogs about her jewellery and other beautiful things at You can catch her on twitter @JessVanDen.


[…] lovely lady and entrenpreneur by the name of Jessica Van Den Wassenberg wrote a post on her blog, Create & Thrive, about what success means to her. At the end of her post she invited her followers to write a […]


So excited to hear you speak at problogger later this year. It is going to be an amazing weekend. Thanks for sharing all you do here. Deb xx


Thank you so much, Deb!

Imogen Wilson

Can’t wait to read the book you mention writing, on your future success list!


Thanks Imogen 🙂 I have no idea what it will be, but it will happen! 😀

Libby Lucas

Your list is amazing Jess, and yes so reflects many of my ideals…am going through a difficult change in my life at present and so completing this list may well keep me inspired, and help me with decisions rather than being overwhelmed – thank you x


I hope you come through it stronger and happier, Libby x I’m glad my list helped you in a small way x


Beautiful post – thank you for sharing, Tash! And you’ve done a good job with those kids – I don’t like many, but I do like them ;D

Success List | imogenwilsonjewellery

[…] delivered to my inbox. It was just the pick me up I needed. The thing that caught my eye was this post entitled ‘The Success List’ where Jess listed what success means to her. It sounded like she […]

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