Saturday, 30 January 2010

Who's got more?

Why are we so keen on "success" and what does it mean anyway? Does it mean anything other than simply having more of everything?

If all it says is that someone has more money, more houses, more friends, more awards, more businesses, or more admirers - so what?

Is having more of something really the most important thing in life? Does that make us happier or smarter or a nicer person? Does that improve our relationships or our well-being? If not, why do we place so much value on it?

More to the point, does it mean that those of us who have less of all those things are therefore "failures" and we've seriously screwed up our life and squandered our potential?

If so, then everyone who isn't super-rich and perpetually jetting around the world from one luxury mansion to another is a failure. Practically everyone in places like Africa or India or Mongolia must be a failure. What kind of disparaging nonsense is that?

Having more of everything also means spending more, which is good news for big business though not such good news for those who are already struggling financially but feel under pressure to push the boat out a bit farther.

Shouldn't success simply mean that you're doing something positive with your life, that you're giving it meaning and substance, that you wake up feeling that your day is going to be fulfilling and interesting?

I've known quite a few people who've been "successful" in the conventional sense - highly-paid jobs, moving in prestigious social circles, exuding luxury and privilege - but not so successful in terms of their personal poise and self-esteem.

Perhaps we should look a bit more closely before we label someone a "failure" or a "loser". They might have something the much-applauded successes have lost sight of.


  1. I do object to those of us who have fewer material assets or money as failures. I don't feel like a failure but I do sometimes feel that I've failed myself by not making the most of what I have been given. I do want to 'experience' life in all it's manifestations, I want to be liked and appreciated. I do want my children to be happy and well adjusted. I guess in some of these areas, I'm successful .. and reasonably content. I know a lot of people with apparent wealth, fast cars, fine holidays, lovely homes but they are not necessarily happy. Mind you wouldn't mind winning the lottery and if I didn't like being stinking rich at least I could always give it away and regain the status quo. Sadly the materially successful people I know, I care little for. Their moral values are generally shallow.

    I know this is something close to your heart Nick. You've posted it before. Today went to a wedding registry to choose a gift for the son of my best friend who is getting married in March. Among a very unassuming list of household items, most well under $50, were Reidel glasses. Two of these cost $100 or more. To the wine buff, these are fine blown glass, very plain but designed to make the most of a fine wine by enhancing the 'nose' and letting it breathe but I'm sorry, I'm not buying a 24 year old hardly-out-of-nappies wine snob a pair of drinking glasses that costs $100 and are likely to break in a heartbeat. He can drink with a straw out of the bottle like the rest of us!

    Your word capture is "Tryin" yeah . .that's me.

  2. Baino - I think most people would say that a little more money would make life easier, even if they don't want wads of the stuff. It would certainly be gratifying to get a massive windfall and then give most away to people in need.

    Paying $100 for wine glasses is absurd, even if they do enhance the 'nose'. And who is to say they do, apart from a few wine connoisseurs with an extremely sensitive sense of smell?

    Kylie - Glad you agree!

    Wordcheck: unsockme!

  3. What a brilliant post. There have been a couple of times in my life where I have lost everything of monetary value due to my integrity. I could have chosen to make more money while deceiving other people, but instead I quit those jobs because I didn't feel it was right lying to people who were unaware of what was going on.

    The only thing I could have done differently would have been to not to have become so bitter.

    Realistically though, I would have not done one other thing differently.

    To better oneself by making money off of the blood, sweat, and tears of another person is wrong.

    If you ask me, my heart remains golden even though I have no money right now.

    Prosperity means nothing if someone manipulates another to gain it.

    What lifts an evil man up will always destroy the good.

    An what makes an honest man overcome will destroy evil.

    I used to think what lifts one person up lifts another up.

    Unfortunately though, this is not the way it actually works.

    There are two paths a person can choose.

    Manipulation and evil or integrity and the good.

    There is no grey area when it comes to this sort of black and white.

  4. However, a good man can inspire others who are good.

    And an evil man can corrupt more people to become evil.

    Because like attracts like.

  5. success = family and friends.

    That's pretty much the end of the story for me. Money is nice, but massive amounts of it are NOT required to be successful.

  6. Shelly - That's good that you put integrity above gain. If only more people thought the same way. Personally I've always taken modestly-paid but worthwhile jobs rather than highly-paid jobs that depended on unethical and unscrupulous behaviour. I've had a very enjoyable life and don't regret those decisions for a moment.

    Meno - Absolutely, family and friends are worth more than any amount of wordly "success" however much adulation it brings.

  7. A few more quid to pay for the heating oil I just ordered might help, but having 'loads a money' would only bring other headaches. I am happy in my skin and if others don't like that then let them move on!

  8. Grannymar - I feel your pain re the heating oil! Research shows that once your income/wealth reaches a certain level, getting more doesn't make you any happier.

  9. Success is both entirely relative and subjective. I do feel more successful relative to the financial security I've achieved, but do I feel more successful achieving that than one of my dogs do when they get to a dropped crumb before the other dog does? I doubt it. Not judging from the amount of gloating they do I don't.

  10. Tattytiara - Getting a highly-paid but precarious job might only seem like a success temporarily, but surely the feeling of financial security is a fairly solid one? Or maybe I've misunderstood you....

  11. "(S)he who dies with the most toys wins" seems to be the philosphy of many.

    We need a brand new definition of success.

    It is not about the 'stuff'.


  12. www - Very true. A lot of what people buy are indeed flashy toys rather than anything essential to their well-being.

  13. Aim for contentment and self acceptance.
    I have the odd flashy toy though, because they make me smile.

  14. Scarlet - But maybe the flashy toys are essential to your well-being, lol. Contentment and self acceptance are good goals. Easier said than done though.

  15. ...the Smeg fridge freezer is essential to keeping my food fresh!
    I have a shallow side that needs to be pandered to [self-acceptance!].

  16. Scarlet - Ah, the Smeg, obviously one of the hubs of the SB lifestyle. We all have a shallow side, even if we try to hide it. A pizza and a glass of wine, what better?

  17. One of the words, very casually thrown around now a days is "loser". What you call here the "failure". For exactly the same reasons enumerated by you, I dislike using either term. Very often when you dig deep, you will find more than what meets the eye about people who are called either winners or losers or successes or failures.

  18. Another fab blog topic, Nick! I'm in the camp believing that affluenza does not equal success. It only makes one a slave to stuff, and we should all work for what is sustainable and humane.

  19. Ramana - They are incredibly abusive terms that people fling around quite thoughtlessly. One person's failure might be another person's fount of wisdom.

    e - Impulse buying of things we don't really need is the curse of the age. Some houses are stuffed from top to bottom with utterly pointless knick-knacks.