There used to be a cafe in the Lower East Side called El Rey. It was a tiny place, with a row of bar stools at the front that looked out directly at the street.
It was perfect for watching the world go by, and did a really good flat white coffee.
Although (because?) it got some pretty rough reviews by the culinary media, I miss the place.
The first time I went to El Rey was to meet one of the main people at a popular media/tech company.
I can’t remember how I hustled my way into meeting him, nor much of what we talked about it, but there was one thing he said that I’ve carried with me ever since.
As we told our respective origin stories, there were a few commonalities. One was we’d both been in the music industry - except he’d had a different vantage point through largely doing partnerships with various music companies.
When I told him about the companies I’d run, I said I’d had successful exits, but was careful to mention they weren’t ‘exits’ in the way he probably thought. I’d walked away with maybe a year’s salary - at best.
For a second I thought he was going to mock my apparent success.
“You survived in the music industry. That’s success in itself.”
He knew what a tough game it was.
Everyone wants to thrive. To thrive is success.
But he knew survival was success.
A couple of years later, the screenwriter and director Chris Macquarrie made a similar point on The Moment podcast.
When asked about his success and what he was looking to do next in his career, he simply said:
“survival is the new success”
Now, this is a guy who has been behind at least a half dozen enormous global hits. He knew that whatever place he found himself in, being able to survive and do the work was success in itself.
Perhaps it’s worth us celebrating the new success.