"You're my role model," is another way I've heard it.
Both comments mean they've defined me as successful. And yes, I am, but it's because I've decided I'm a success.
My definition has shifted through the decades. When I began publishing articles, and before moving into books, I envisioned halos of success around those who had published a book—a real book through a royalty-paying publisher. In my mind, that author had arrived.
Then I sold my first book, followed by a second and a third. My concept of achievement changed to think anyone who had published more books than I had or produced bigger sales figures was successful. Thus, for me, professional triumph was a moving target.
At this stage of my development, I admit that I'm successful—but not for the reasons I once understood. At the end of my email signature each month, I write one of my maxims. Here's what I wrote one month: The greatest privilege I have in this life is to be exactly who I am.
Almost every morning I awaken and thank God for what I call my joyful contentment. I truly like my life and relish being who I am. Others may be (and are) more successful with larger sales, more published books, or any other measurement. And if I focused on external measures to judge whether I was a star, I'd probably say, "Not quite."
I'd always find reasons I wasn't successful.
And so will you.
But if you and I measure internally, it means we don't have to be famous, make millions, or publish 400 books during our lifetimes. If we like ourselves, embrace our work, and live with integrity intact, we're successful.
Each day I thank God for my talents. I didn't give them to myself. So what reason do I have to boast? My task is to be faithful in using my gifts.