Success is measured in many ways and in the creative fields there are perhaps more ways to think of it than in other endeavours.
In my case, for example, I can point to many signs of success. I wanted to work in special effects/animation as a child and make movies. For the personal documentaries I made I wanted to:
- Win some awards
- Get a project shown in a real cinema
- Get something shown on TV
I've done all of these things and even sell my films on Amazon.com, something I wouldn't have imagined starting out. So I can't complain that I haven't achieved my basic goals.
Now the fail part. I also expected with these achievements I hoped I would be able to squeak out a small living, nothing ridiculous, but this has not happened. I've worked on some nice professional projects for PBS and well know documentary film makers, and even though some won Emmys and Peabody Awards, I am cleaning streets part time to make ends meet with almost zero graphic design and truly zero video work is coming in for a couple of years now.
So in the end, I'm a success in how I think of my work and how it's received when I get jobs... but a failure in the "making a living" area which is, truth be told, the only measure of success everyone, including artists can agree on.