Illustrator Rukmini Poddar Shares Her Thoughts on Success and What She Learned By Committing to Something for 100 Days
Written by Rukmini Poddar
Success and failure can be terrifyingly subjective. What we consider to be a failure can be totally normal to someone else. Or what others consider to be a success won’t feel nearly like an accomplishment for myself. It can actually feel quite tragic when I define successes by something nearly unattainable or my failures by my smallest mistakes.
I can’t count how many times I’ve called myself a failure: Not having a job. Ending a relationship. Being uncertain about my future. Hurting a friend. Not being reliable enough to get the job done. Not getting an A. Finding out I never replied to that urgent e-mail last week. It feels that there are unlimited ways I can brand myself a failure in my own eyes.
Recently, I’ve learned something different about success and failure. I’ve learned that I have the power to define what success and failure look like for ME. And it’s slowly helping to transform my creative process and my own self-value.
I notice how I’m so conditioned to believe that my success is given to me by the world outside. I barely ever stop to think that maybe true success and satisfaction comes from within me. When I depend on external validation for my internal sense of self-value I will always feel depleted. I will always feeling like an empty shell on the outside.
What is revolutionary is when I learned that my own internal compass can decide whether or not I’ve succeeded, and the only one who gets to decide that is me. How liberating is that! I am no longer dependent on the world outside of myself. It’s the beginning of true self of love and self-sustainability.
So what is success for me?
It’s consistency. Being able to show up every day and draw. It’s like taking my creativity to the gym and training a muscle. I show up first, and eventually the creativity shows up afterwards.
It’s kindness. This is something I’m forever working on, by reminding myself that people come first. Through my artwork I want to make sure that I’m creating work that fosters thoughtfulness and engagement with my audience.
It’s clarity. I eat what is good for me. I spend time with people who nourish me. I simply know what are my values and do whatever is in my power that day to come closer in alignment with them. It’s reminding myself that my priority is to call my parents. Or spent time at my temple, in prayer. Or choosing not to stay out too late when I’m tired. Or knowing when to say goodbye to someone when I need my space.
I believe if I keep these on the forefront of my vision, I can be successful on my own terms and act from a place of grounding. It’s not always easy to come back to these values, but that’s why I think even 1mm in the right direction is still a success in its own right. It’s not about reaching the goal. Its about whether or not I decided to turn towards the goal. Once I decide to live with kindness, clarity and consistency I remind myself that I’m moving towards that goal.
So what is helping me to change my perception of success and failure? Four years ago I decided to take the plunge and do my very first 100 Day Project. My creative process has been totally redefined since then, and the lessons I learnt have carried me further than I ever expected. I have learnt that sometimes it’s about quantity and not quality. It’s about having the courage to show up each day and simply create. It’s about being embracing my own imperfection. It’s about being ok when I can’t finish the 100 day project. When I finish 2 months too late I can know that it’s still a success.
Fast forward to the summer of 2018, and I’m on my fourth 100 day project. I can tell you what keeps me going: it’s the pure joy of creating for the sake of creating. I really believe that if I just keep following that joy, true success will come. It’ll come organically and powerfully because there is power to consistency. The integrity and dedication that comes with it is so much more valuable than anything else. Because I’m first of all investing in my own sense of self value. Once I feel full from the inside, I can receive whatever loves comes from the outside.
Rukmini Poddar is an artist, designer and illustrator living in NYC. When she's not working as a designer in the day, she spends her nights drawing other people's emotions. She wrote a book about her own in 2016 entitled "100 Obscure Emotions" and since then she started a web blog called Dear Ruksi and encourages everyone to anonymously submit their emotions to her so she can draw them. She believes we are all going through one big, similar Human Experience. The sooner we realize how alike we are, the more we can create a culture of empathy and and personalism. She is currently drawing 100 days of the enneagram and posts daily on her instagram: @rockinruksi