One of the defining factors of my blog’s focus towards self-improvement and motivation was Alain de Botton’s TED talk on “A kinder, gentler philosophy of success.” In it, he makes a comment about how in today’s world, the biggest type of snobbery we encounter is job snobbery. He says we encounter it most with the iconic question “What do you do?”… which I can definitely and wholeheartedly relate to as I meet at least one new person a week, and get asked that question numerous times in just one night.
When I get asked the question “What do you do?” I answer by saying I’m a student, but when I mention that I’m in my final year, they tend to continue the conversation by asking what I want to do “afterwards”… that’s where I tell them, “I don’t know.” I already know what they’re thinking about too – they wonder about the possible achievements or the possible purpose this person has, after listening to her express how she doesn’t know what she’s doing with her life. It leads me to wonder about the question, “What is your definition of success?” Is it scoring a high-paying, high-status job? Is it living in a luxury house with a large pool? Is it inventing something life-changing?
What’s my theory of success?
Alain de Botton and I have the same theory of success – we really want to be successful and we’re always thinking about how we could be more successful. But we also both think about what the word success might mean. That’s the thing, success itself cannot mean that you are successful at everything. He’s right about how every vision of success, has to admit there are things you are losing out on. It’s important that we stay grounded; we need to understand that we as human beings are highly influenced by advertising, marketing, and that the media itself defines how we view ourselves and craft our idea of what success is.
So how would I craft my own idea of success?
So what the basis of de Botton’s talk is, is that he wants us not to give up on our ideas of success, but make sure that they are our own, and make sure that we are the authors and dictators of our own ambitions. That is what I often keep at the back of my mind in every day life, that the divergence in what people want in this world is both extremely similar, and vastly different. We all want to “make it” in some way, whether we define success as raising a child to be an honest human being, or climbing to the top of the corporate ladder, we all merely want to achieve that success. When I have a conversation with a friend about being stuck in a rut, this is what I like to remind them: that it’s bad enough not getting what you want, but it’s surely worse to create this wonderful idea of what you want, and find out afterwards that it isn’t what you wanted all along.