Define Success, Baby


Nothing happens in a vacuum. Even if one were a castaway, all alone on a desert island, one would still have in mind the approval of people back in the civilisation.

Imagine the castaway is fishing. Success would be measured in terms of proficiency, skill, manual dexterity, as seen through the eyes of people back in civilisation.

If one became really proficient, one would be proud of how much more ‘real’ one was than the others imagined in one’s mind’s eye.

Tell me it isn’t so.

Except for sociopaths, in our heads we all live in a community of other people.

So now, what is success?

Is it one where each person sees the others as a springboard to success?

Is it one where each person does not care about whether the others are successful – except insofar as a lack of success by others endangers or helps the individual’s chance of success?

Is it one where success means a common success?

A common success means each person feels that success is only success when everyone succeeds. It means each person feels responsible for everyone else. And together they all have each other’s backs, so to speak.

Are we any good at community? Why should we be when the arc of human development over the past centuries has been for all of us to search for and find our individual voice. We may be polite, accommodating, civil, or rapacious and grasping – with all shades in between – but in truth we are all elbowing our way forward in the stream. If we fall behind we think we are failures.

And how has it all being working out?

We tried a big man in the sky and that kept us united under one roof for a while. But then some people invented an authority structure and the churches and the kings and those on top made everyone else feel like they were bound in place rather than enjoying the drumbeat of life. And in truth, how easily could we cope with true equality when each of us would have to expose our feelings and build on that?

How many of us would rather hang on the coat-tails of others with more drive and settle in place for the duration without making too much of a fuss?

Now we, or at least Google and Facebook, have access to big data from which we learn that our precious individuality is in large part a mirage. We are predictable. We give off signals all the time.

Did you hear the story of how one American company sent out coupons for items it thought its customers would be interested in. The company then had to apologise because it knew more accurately when a woman was pregnant than she herself did. Or the company sent out relevant coupons before the wife had told the husband. And this was maybe ten years ago. We leave such a trail of data points that we have become exposed for the predictable creatures we are.

So where is our individuality that we guard so preciously?

When my choice is between pain and pleasure for me, I am like a bull with a ring through its nose sniffing out the good stuff and avoiding the bad. And what does that mean? It means that the choices before me are like a prison that hems me in. I choose between the possible. Follow my trail over the years, and you will know me.

So, success – is my success even mine?

To find the success you want, be among the people who inspire you.