If chasing success means persistently working towards achieving a certain level of accomplishment or recognition in one’s personal or professional life, then almost every normal person chases success. And I assume you have some form of success you are pursuing too, right?
Well, I have some unsettling news about chasing success
#1 Success Requires Losers
Success requires failure to exist – without a last, there can’t be a first, pretty much as we cannot tell cold without knowing hot.
In life, the need to succeed only arises because we feel a discrepancy between where we are and where we want to be.
Most mediocre people think being rich is “success” just as teenage boys think kissing that pimply-faced girl is “success” (and look, she doesn’t even have boobies yet).
Okay, before you think I’m a loser who’s trying to justify his underachievement, let me quickly clarify …
#2 Success Is a Mirage
When I was still in school I decided to learn how to draw. I was super excited about this and would go as far as getting a mentor.
Fast forward 3 years and I’ve made over 200k (cumulatively) from drawing people. But here is the thing, I still feel like a loser – and I’m actually “ashamed” to showcase my works.
Because a quick visit to Instagram and Facebook exposes me to thousands of better artists (people who are at least 10X better than I am). And then there’s the Mona Lisa.
Compared to those artistic wizards on social media I was (and still am), not a success. And that is the problem with success – it’s never enough. This is known as “The Silver Medalist’s Curse” or Counterfactual Thinking.
It’s like making your first 10k and feeling proud of yourself…until you realize some 5-year-old just made 1,000,000 overnight (for looking pretty or flipping NFTs). As long as you live your past successes would keep seeming trivial and the success of others would force you to see your most recent achievements as petty- and so you would perpetually seek more and more.
If you think your next success would be the end, think again.
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#3 Chasing Success Limits Your Happiness
When you decide that you need to achieve a certain “thing” to be happy, you essentially shut-circuit your joy – till you hopefully achieve that thing.
By attaching so much weight to the success, you essentially put yourself in a hedonic thread mill- where you keep chasing something hoping it makes you happy, and all the while proposing the happiness that is within grasp.
And, though I hate to be the bearer of bad news, it is necessary to note that you would fail to achieve some of your dreams. The only way you can avoid this happening is if you don’t even dream at all.
You do not control all the elements or resources in this world. Plus, there are other “big-dreamers” who are also after the “success” that you’re after. In essence, the trophy is not assured to you.
So, tell me, if your success is tied to something precarious – outside of your control – why then do you rely on it for happiness?
#4 Happiness (From Chasing Success) Is Fleeting
Even if you managed to achieve all your wildest dreams, where does that leave you? Perpetual happiness? I highly doubt that.
That’s because the desire to succeed is like hunger. No matter how hungry you get, you can’t eat more than your belly can contain, and, you will get hungry again. So also, the success you’re chasing can not make you perpetually happy.
So, it is wise to keep taking your daily ration of happiness, rather than postponing it in the course of obsessively chasing success.
#5 Success Comes At a High Cost
Success comes at a cost – everything comes at a cost, you should know that by now.
In Economics there is something known as an opportunity cost: it means the thing(s) you had to forgo in other to acquire something else
For example, if you had 1,000 Naira and wanted to use it to pay for a data subscription but also saw the earpiece you’ve always wanted to buy, whatever you finally decide to buy – the data or the earpiece- the one you didn’t buy becomes the opportunity cost.
This is also applicable to success: if you want to succeed there are a lot – I mean, a whole lot – of things you’d have to sacrifice. And, most times, depending on the road taken by you, that sacrifice may end up being regrettable
…and that leads to the final danger with pursuing success – the instrumental goals
#6 Chasing Success Can Cause Harm
Instrumental goals refer to whatever it would cost you to get to your desired “ultimate goal” – aka, success.
For example, every living thing has the ultimate goal of survival – if not in person, but at least via their prodigies. What this means is that mosquitoes suck our blood as means to succeed…
…It means we kill turkeys and cows to survive. It means a lion would attack and eat us to survive as well.
When major goals are declared (when you decide what your success would be) every other thing that is done simply serves as a stepping stone to archiving that objective
For us, this could mean spending more than 20% of our lives schooling (it shoots up to 76% if you’re going for a professorship) assuming you had a life expectancy of 72 years. In countries like Nigeria, the average life expectancy is actually 55 years.
It also comes to play in the terms of jobs. Most people get into jobs that drain the life out of them all for the sake of getting regular paychecks.
People ultimately turn themselves to the instruments for their success – they give up their “life” for success. And this is sad.
But, it’s not always this way – it’s not always the person striving to achieve the success that suffers from being an “instrument” to the success.
Just like the example of the hungry lion, others can easily turn collateral damage for our successes. When we lie, steal, cheat, and even kill to achieve our success we essentially make the suffering of other people our instrumental goal to success – their pain becomes the stepping stone to our “happiness”
And so you can see that not only is success hard to get, it can be gotten wrongly too.
And whilst you might think I’m against success, I’m totally for it. But it has to be achieved using the right approach.
How Do You Chase Success (Without Sacrificing Your Happiness)?
In a previous post, I mentioned that we succeed in a myriad of ways without even appreciating them. But now I think it’s crucial to point out how to succeed and also appreciate it.
The right way to chase happiness is to do things that fill you with a sense of purpose and meaning. That way, you get to be persistent, creative, and happy all at once (despite needing to sacrifice and endure failure sometimes). This is crucial because huge successes take time, and it is only when you’re genuinely passionate about that success that you can endure.
You need to do it because it’s what makes you happy, and fulfilled:
And once you’ve attained this level of peace within, it wouldn’t matter if you got the trophy – your happiness would not be in the hands of time and chance, but rather in yours
All that would matter is that you are alive and doing what is meaningful to you
Like Gary Vee always says “you don’t lack motivation, you just don’t love what you do”
And sure, you might have to put in the effort to see that you hit certain milestones, but then it wouldn’t be your sole motivation, but rather another opportunity to show the world what you have to offer.
In conclusion, you’d start having “good success” – that brings everlasting joy- once you realize that the job isn’t to succeed, but to protect your happiness while trying your best.
Update: Figuring out your IKIGAI is a shortcut to living a successful and happy life.
A Self-Help Writer And Editor Who Keeps It Simple (Yet Elegant)