Almost every normal person I know wants to succeed and is chasing success in some way, and I assume you have some form of success you are pursuing too, right?
Well, I have some unsettling news about chasing success
If you had a normal childhood, then you must have played some form of game: maybe it was a singleplayer game where you simply had to beat a “high score”, or a multiplayer game where you had to compete with some other kid…whichever the case, you needed someone (or something) to conquer in other to feel successful, and that is one of the troubles with chasing success
SUCCESS REQUIRES LOSERS
And that’s the thing about success. 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 …
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 later and I’ve reached “professional level” in art and have made over 200k (cumulatively) from drawing. But here is the thing, I still feel like a loser – and I’m actually “ashamed” to showcase my works.
Because here’s the thing: a quick visit to Instagram and Facebook exposes me to thousands of better artists (people who are at least 10X better than I). And then there’s the Mona Lisa.
Compared to those artistic wizard’s on social media I was (and still am) a complete failure – but to you, I might be damn good. And that is the problem with success – it’s never enough
It’s like making your first 10k and feeling proud of yourself…until you realized some 5-years-old just made 1,000,000 overnight (for looking pretty). 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
CHASING SUCCESS LIMITS YOUR HAPPINESS
That being said, 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 “sweating and gasping for air”.
And, though I hate to be the bearer of bad news or prophecies of doom, 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 that is precarious – outside of your control – why then do you rely on it for happiness?
PURSUING SUCCESS IS SHORT-TERM
Even if you managed to achieve all your wildest dreams, where does that leave you? In purposeless? In emptiness? In nihilism?
If you decide to make a million, what happens when you hit the goal? If you decide to mow your lawn, what happens when you complete the task? I’ll tell you, your money starts reducing and the grasses start to grow again
It is not sufficient to have big dreams because they are stationary. You could win a lottery or inherit a lot of wealth from a dead uncle, but without the right mindset the wealth would quickly fade away
You could get lucky and have a horny next-door neighbor who offers you sex for free, but until you learn to go out and talk to exactly the kind of people you dream of dating (and ultimately having sex with) you would still feel like crap – despite your obvious success in getting laid
Sometimes success destroys people – it could be the perfect rope for hanging oneself
You prolly know one rich jerk who overdoses on drugs and always has one too many unprotected sexes – which ultimately lands them in the hospital, court, or ultimately the grave.
Like, literally there is this guy who won a lottery of $1,500,000,000 (1.5B) and decided to party like a wild animal, but unfortunately died like a roadkill
And this isn’t even a one-time occurrence, it is normal – or should I say an abnormal? – occurrence amongst lottery winners
THE OPPORTUNITY COST
And while at it, it is essential to realize that 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
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. It’s all about the goal – it’s all instrumental goals.
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 professorship) assuming you had a life expectancy of 72 years. In countries like Nigeria, the average life expectancy is actually 55 years (so it’s no surprise many never succeed in becoming Professors)
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 in order to achieve our success we essentially make the suffering of other people our instrumental goals 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…
HOW TO BE SUCCESSFUL AND HAPPY
In a previous post, I made mention that we can succeed in a myriad of ways without even appreciating them. But now I think it’s crucial to point out how to succeed and appreciate also appreciate it.
But before I proceed, I’ll love to make clear my precious points with bulletins:
- Success requires failure (of others in other to mean anything)
- Success is a mirage (it keeps moving further and further the faster you go)
- Success limits your happiness (to a precarious time in the future)
- Success is short term (it happens only once)
- Success comes with opportunity costs (you’d have to give up something to gain it)
- Success demands instrumental goals (you can call it collateral damages)
With all these in mind, it is only sensible to rethink everything we thought about success
In fact, the obvious conclusion from this is that it is unsatisfying to chase success, and chasing success often times broods more pain than it dissolves
The solution thus become to become happy now. To find peace right now. To seek satisfaction and joy immediately. But not by indulging in drinking and promiscuity, but in doing what you love – what you find meaning in, and what you’re willing to give up everything for.
You need to do it because it’s what makes you happy, and fulfilled:
- Run daily – sacrifice the time and leisure- because running is what makes you happy, and you’d ultimately earn the medal
- Write daily – dedicate the time and focus – because writing is what makes you feel fulfilled, and you’d get that best seller
- Read daily – because it’s what makes you feel smarter and better about yourself, and you’d gain that first class
- Work hard on your dreams daily, because it’s what adds purpose to your life – it is what you believe in – and you’d make that million
You’d gain that success and be happy about it if only you learn to see the opportunity to be alive and try as success on its own
And once you’ve attained this level of peace within, it wouldn’t matter if you got the trophy – your happiness would not be on 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 your job isn’t to take or achieve success, but rather to share and to give it.
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I’m an artist, writer, and thinker. I also love reading and playing chess.