I think to be successful you need to lead a meaningful, purposeful life – that is, a life that provides you with a powerful and meaningful raison d’etre for what you do. As part of designing your life you will be thinking a lot about this. You don’t want to get into late middle age and wonder what the hell you have done with your life!
Life is short and needs to be lived with passion and intent. Having the goal of making money, or winning design awards, as your life’s purpose is a good recipe for a mid-life crisis. You have to make money to succeed, and winning design awards will probably help you succeed, but they should be understood as a means to an end.
And that end is something you need think very carefully about. Some purposes that serve people well include increasing the wellbeing of your community; providing your clients with consulting that makes a real difference to their success; designing projects that reduce environmental harm; and designing projects that increase the quality of life for the people who will use the project.
As designers, we have a wonderful opportunity and responsibility to create things that improve the lives of others, and this provides wonderful opportunities for practitioners to find very rich and meaningful careers.