Recently, George Clooney accepted a lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globe Awards. In an effort to cheer up the nominees who had not won in their categories, he reminded them that no one remembers how many awards an actor collects, what they remember is the iconic role he created or that famous line she uttered. And he’s right. Most of us can’t even recall who won best actor just one year ago.

To be honest, I don’t remember what I said at my first awards ceremony, when Remember Wake won second place. But I will never forget what happened after the ceremony. This lady came running up to me. “I was one of the judges,” she said. “And I lobbied hard for your book. I’ll never forget your story, and to my way of thinking, it was the best of the bunch.”

It sounds cliché, but in that moment, I did feel like a winner, and I left with a new understanding that changed me forever. An award is subjective. It’s totally up to the whims, the prejudices, even the qualifications of the judges.

What means far more to me than the trophies and plaques I’ve been lucky to earn are the compliments I receive. The person who tells me she stayed up all night reading my novel. The one who says she gave Dancing in Combat Boots to her mother to prompt her to tell her own wartime stories. The father who e-mailed me that he could hardly get his son to read, until he gave him V for Victory. “I had to pry away my Kindle,” the dad wrote.

Have you ever been standing in a grocery store line and had someone say to you, “I saw your performance last weekend. You made me cry.”  Or, “I bought one of your paintings. It’s the first thing everyone comments on when they enter my house.”  Or, “I played your song over and over after my boyfriend and I broke up. You got me through it.”

If you have, then trust me . . . you are a winner!  And if you haven’t, set your sights on that goal. In the end, those sentiments will bring you far more comfort and encouragement than any winning certificate ever could.