Do you consider yourself victorious if you can give higher belts a run for their money? Are you a failure if someone with less stripes sweeps or - heaven forbid - submits you? Does your self-worth hinge on how often you win?
More than any other martial art, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a microcosm of life. As in life, there are ups, downs, and plateaus. Sometimes you're on fire, other times you're under water. You can love jiu-jitsu and hate it, all at once.
As with anything you get passionate about, jiu-jitsu can be very emotional. We can get caught up in everyday victories and defeats and allow them to dictate how we feel on and off the mat. Sometimes, it's important to step back and look at things in perspective.
How you do against nervous, spastic, but tough beginners is the first, most important indicator of success.
Or maybe you get wiped out by good, technical purple and brown belts. They always seem three or four moves ahead, psychically reading your thoughts and shutting down everything you do. It sucks and you can't figure it out. Then you slap hands with that new no-neck twenty-two year old - you know, the one wearing an ill-fitting gi top, basketball shorts, and a belt tied vertically. He's wild and unpredictable, but only for the first few minutes. You stay glued, let him burn out a little, sweep him, and choke him. Then you armbar him. Then you shoulder lock him. Now he's confused and panting, shaking your hand, and laying on the floor, thanking god that his football coach wasn't there to see what you just did to him.
Who's reading minds and playing three moves ahead now?
If you are able to handle 95% of the brand new guys walking in, regardless of their youth, strength, or the amount of Spike TV they watch, that's your first indicator of success in BJJ. It's working. Everything after that is just a game.