I must confess that I agree completely with this affirmation.
I’ve always had questions about success, about the purpose of the word, or, to be more precise, the concept and the role that it plays in our lives. Although I have defined it in 25 words – which we’ll see later in my next post – I think that my definition has no validity at all for most people, since it certainly has nothing to do with what many believe it to be.
Really, what is success? To be honest and here I include us all, we usually relate this little word to money. What singer would you consider to be successful who isn’t famous or hasn’t sold many albums? What writer could be considered successful that hasn’t written a bestseller? Money is, in the end, the motive driving many authors, singers, and politicians to develop their careers. Success makes noise, moves the masses, generates marketing, sparks merchandising, and is sold on the shelves of Barnes & Noble and Amazon Books At ticket master of U2 concerts, and in Tony Robbin’s seminars.
The misunderstanding is set in motion when a discrepancy appears between the person as an individual and the masses, understood as general public opinion, and then it expands when we really don’t know if what we need is success, or an attitude of success. Let’s face it; most of the time we don’t know the difference between the two.
Another confusing point is the difference that exists between success and happiness, between being successful and being happy. The general population, that is all of us as a group, must label as success everything that is related to fame and money; this is, at least, the concept that the media and the economic and social systems in which we live have taught us. That’s how we’re programmed. As a group, we’re the target market, and if the marketing is good and convinces us to label someone with the word “success,” then the news spreads; investments on an advertising campaign are made; new products are developed, and we become the chief customers of this successful “person” until a new campaign leads us to buy another product, with a new success model who’s become the hot new item.
In that way we pass from Kennedy to Obama, from Pelé to James, or from Julio Iglesias to Enrique or Pitbull. We’re talking here about people who are still living. As for those who no longer belong to our world, you can be sure that someone will take charge of the publicity, which many times has more impact and which, in turn, will lead to fruits of fame and money that the dearly departed will never enjoy. Take Princess Diana, Elvis, John Lennon, Selena the Queen of Tex-Mex or the super post mortem success of Michael Jackson.
So, where is the confusion?
First of all, I think that, being ordinary people, most of us don’t have a clear definition of these concepts. The heart of the subject is the great difference that exists between our popular perception of what success is and the feeling of success that an individual can feel with respect to a work he did, to a goal he achieved, or even to his life. Most of the people I know who are at peace with their lives and who live in fullness and balance never speak or worry about success. I think I’m safe in saying that the vocabularies of the Inuit or Guarani tribal people don’t include the word “success.” This leads me to believe that it’s a relatively new concept and that it only exists in societies with a high level of competitiveness, anxiety, and stress, those eager to adopt models that allow them to justify their own existence while sustaining the very system that made them stressed in the first place.
On the other hand, most who are considered successful by the crowd claim that they don’t think of themselves as successful. I’m not sure if this is due to a rare burst of humility, the recommendation of their “image” advisors, or because they truly feel that way. Besides, the majority of people considered to be successful by the masses carry on their shoulders a burden of experience, work, mistakes, and pressure (not to mention the paparazzi) generated by their own “title,” which I don’t believe allows them to experience the peace enjoyed by those who live completely incognito. The system will try to convince these “successful” people that they’re different from the rest of humanity, that they’re superior to the general population, and because they’re role models, they have a responsibility to their admirers and followers. This allows for their maximum exploitation during a process of “deification,” until the tree has no more fruit to give.
But, the show must go on, at least as long as it keeps producing money or until the famous person explodes. Consequently, success as we know it is most likely the result of the advertising efforts of a system with only one goal: to produce, create, and sell products, and that, throughout history, has taken advantage of the creativity, initiative, desire of expression, art, patriotism, and naivety of a group of individuals.
No one can deny that we have crowned useless people, deified mentally ill people, and applauded fools who in their day were provided with a well-run advertising campaign. At the same time, many distinctly talented individuals have gone unnoticed, enjoying the kind of personal and intimate success that you and I will never see on Cable TV and MTV or on Nike or Pepsi TV commercials.
How can you explain the disproportionate salaries of professional sports players? How can you explain why it is that people follow or admire personalities who have contributed nothing of value to the world? How can we explain to our children that Mike Tyson made 50 million dollars in a 50-second fight, while a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, who has devoted all of his or her life to the study and development of a better world for all humanity, makes only 1 million, despite this lifelong devotion?
After considering these questions, next, ask yourself: What is success for me? And where can I find it? If you don’t have the time to ask yourself these questions, no problem. These days, millions and millions of people don’t have time to think about or to design their lives according to their own standards of success. These people only need to buy some of the success models that the market offers for sale, in the form of books, audio books, or seminars, in order to build a model based on the formula, beliefs, and opinions of someone else. Of course, there’s a cost, which can range from $15 for a ebook to $8,000 for a seminar. There are models of all types, flavors, and colors.
Have we managed to turn the concept of success into a product that you can buy the same way you buy a app or a pound of tomatoes?