The Absurdity of Success

success is not

When I spoke to my 16-year-old nephew about success, I was reminded of the fact that society’s opinions and beliefs about success impact even our own children. These opinions and beliefs are what we all are seeing, and therefore believing.

Our topic was, “What is a successful business person?”

My nephew's definition was “Someone who turned one million dollars into a billion dollars,” as he was talking about someone in particular. I asked, “What if that billionaire lied, cheated, stole, and hurt a lot of people to acquire their billions?” He responded, “Makes no difference how the money is acquired, the ability to transform so little into so much makes this person a success.”

This mentality is not surprising with our no-holds-barred capitalistic culture that glamorizes wealth and fame everywhere we look. Not only do we glamorize the monetary result of success, but we glamourize the type of person who acquires the profits at all costs - as opposed to glamorizing the process of how the “success” was achieved.

I Googled the word “success." The first definition was obvious: “acquiring one’s aim or purpose."  The second definition was “the attainment of popularity or profit.” To me, the second definition is the most important. The first definition is a given, as it is the literal definition; however, the second one shows how success is viewed or conceptualized, especially in our careers and lives. This is why we see success as the attainment of superficial adornments like popularity, profit, and power, as opposed to ethics, morality, and contentment.

You know the psychological law, “the more you see something the more you believe it"? Well, this is what the children are seeing. For our society, success is not defined in correlation with character. If character is not in the equation, then success, as it relates to character, will not be important. One of the many ingredients of our society’s prosperity is “the rule of law.” The rule of law is supposed to even the playing field, as well as keep us safe. If the people who abide and flourish within these laws are not admired and promoted as “successful” to the same degree as the “rich and famous at all costs” folks, we create a mentality adverse to our health. Not only is it adverse to our personal health, but to the health of our culture and planet. We create laws for protection and safety. It’s not always easy to abide by laws. It’s very easy to lie, cheat, steal or treat others unfairly when you are fearful of an outcome that’s not aligned with your culture’s template of “success.” It’s way more difficult to develop the courage that subdues and conquers fear than it is to build your biceps and glutes. Why do we not emphasize these muscles of character? Why do we seem to care less about morality, ethics, personal responsibility, and cognitive ability? Why don't we put those people who have those qualities on the magazine covers more often? Why is this not the theme of more dramas, television shows and news stories as often as scandal, crime, wealth, power, and violence?

Does it make us feel better about succumbing to our fear, when we see how others have succumbed to their fear? Fear is a strong emotion and can easily trump logic. It would take a lot of strength and moral character to overcome what fear can do to us. Our society does not put that type of strength and moral character up on the pedestal of media nearly as often as it puts money, fame, violence, and sexual beauty. This is a tremendous cultural flaw. This absurdity is what prevents us from taking our next steps toward an enlightened and benevolent society. This keeps us groveling in and catering to our tribalism, violence, and fear.

So I pondered how I would define a successful businessman or woman. This is how I would define my own career success and the example of success I’d like to pass to my kids because as Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Be the change you’d like to see.“ My simple definition is, “Someone who is content in career and able to comfortably care for the people he or she is responsible for, including themselves while providing honestly and ethically a needed service to their community.” Success is not material items or earning the biggest paycheck

Generally speaking, my definition is obviously not what we’ve seen; it may be difficult to actualize, especially without cultural support. As a society, we would need to be more dominated by our wisdom than by our fear and vanity. It might seem like a long shot, but we can start to take baby steps together. One initial step would be to notice our own desires and mentality and witness how our desires may have been impressed upon us by our culture, and begin disempowering them. You can weaken anything by no longer giving it food. In this case, this would mean witnessing the desires and tendencies implanted within you by the culture program you have seen. Once witnessed, decide for yourself whether these desires will give you peace and contentment, and if not, steer your mind away towards benevolent thoughts and desires, and the old ones will become weaker and weaker.

Acknowledge the psychological law of “the more you see something the more you believe it.“ Start noticing what you are seeing. Shift media input (especially for the kids) from entertainment to upliftment. If we are going to allow into our psyche (which is way more impressionable than we may know) any media, be aware that it is emphasizing benevolent qualities. There is so much more we can do, yet this would be some baby steps, and this is what our Power Yoga classroom supports, as this is some real powerful stuff.  Peace out, people!

Sincerely,

Bryan Kest