Unknown pretty much beat me to the punch on most of my answers,. For me there's a simple answer and a complex answer.And is that what success is? Running a bar that your dad bought? Or what.. success is making more than X dollars?
The simple answer for me is also freedom. Just to be untethered.
The thing is that freedom can be difficult, or easy to attain, dependent on what it is you wish to be free to do.
I never cared about money, throughout life people saw me amass a lot of it, (until recently, lol) (nuke sound plays here), and many of them thought it was what I was all about. But that was not true. I wanted to build. I wanted to contribute amazing things to the world around me. It could be a movie that meant a lot to millions of people, or a technology that changed lives, but I grew up inspired by people that used life to accomplish something amazing, and that was the goal. Lucas directing Star Wars, Leo Fender designing the Stratocaster, Jonas Salk curing polio, I just wanted to do something that mattered. And for a while, it looked like I was going to make it. Somewhere along the line there was this incredibly beautiful girl, and my life changed for 20 years, and then exploded. I don't know how to write that part any shorter. Looking back I remember Lawrence of Arabia, fighting across countries, defying incredible odds, and then dying in a simple bike crash.
The world changed a lot between the times where my heroes of old lived and the time when my life started. Becoming rich is now a prerequisite for almost any major accomplishment. I think writing a great book or song might be the exception, but even then, if a tree falls in the forest and there is no one around to hear it? The world got so much bigger, and the goal got so much farther away during my lifetime alone. You could once redefine the world around you with a key and a kite, and now scientists die unnoticed in billion dollar particle accelerator facilities. When I was in high school, a great guitarist could burn through the stratosphere, leaving a comet trail so bright that everyone on earth saw it. Now a person can play 3 times as well as those people did, and die penniless and alone.
During my life, corporations and digital marketing escalated to a level that made it difficult for individuals to matter. That's a semantics thing, but what I mean is that Jonas Salk doesn't make it anymore, now a middle management drone at Pfizer shares partial credit with his boss for a development that an unnamed underling that signed an NDA came up with. Who wrote Lord of the Rings? Jeff Bezos. RR Martin presents GOT? No HBO presents GOT. That freedom is now conditional on some extremely powerful entity deciding whether or not you matter. Both Tolkien and Martin still lived in a time where they did get some credit, but from my worldview, which is basically mathematical in nature, their accomplishments will be rebranded, resold, repackaged until only the super rich end up getting credit for anything.
Ultimately, all those goals, all those achievements were just supposed to do two things for me, one was to provide the sense that I hadn't wasted the gift of life, of intellect, of possibilities. The other was to pave the way for untethered movement within the simple parts of life. Wife, family, friendships, and the realization of my small personal goals. For a while I did accomplish that. I even hit some apex moments, where the sky was bright and clear. But that first goal line keeps getting farther and farther away, as I get older, and the world gets bigger, and more congested.
Today, trying to build a rather humble entertainment project compared to the standards I once imagined, I'm just trying to reset, and achieve a goal I would have been proud of when I was young and saw the world with new eyes. Ruling the world in some sphere doesn't seem nearly as possible, or even desirable, as it once did. I got a lot of monkeys paw goals fulfilled along the way. I used to read dystopian sci fi novels, and think, this is amazing. I woke up one day inside one. I suppose the lesson I've learned over and over is to be careful what you wish for.
I think, in the clarity of retrospect, that my goal in life is to live in 1984, right before the beginning of the end. When Steven King could write some books and be more influential than "Virgin Records presents Justin Bieber". When Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon was making more money than Old Town Road. When every person that was bright or creative could have their day, instead of being trapped in the carnival mirror maze of social media, every right move cloned by a million cascading reflections until it became meaningless.