Failure’s enjoyed a great run in the last decade. A group of humans went from basement to billionaire and told everyone they loved failing; that their twenty-fourth business idea succeeded because, you know, they failed faster than the speed of light.
Of course, you don’t question unintelligent assertions like that when they come from someone whose hair-cut costs more money than you make in an entire year. As some of these people began to fail again, everyone got nervous. Those who pretended to love failure stopped pretending and admitted it almost killed them.
Success regained the throne. And we love to talk about it.
There are two camps of success. The camp that defines success based on money, age, fame, power and, inevitably, unknown to them: assolery. Then there’s the camp that believes success is different for every individual and everyone is successful in their own way and that there are no failures, at all.
The first camp thinks the second camp is a collection of giant losers who are compensating for their inability to make money and the second camp thinks people in the first camp will suit-up and swim in horseshit if it means money and fame. Before you take sides, let’s poke around the rabbit hole of success.
What does it mean to succeed? In its most basic form, success means getting what you want. Success begins at adulation and ends with going after whatever you want next. As you begin to get what you want, you begin to feel more and more successful. Along the way, money, fame, and power show up, become by-products of your success. So far, so good.
Somewhere along the way, the wants turn into a menacing pursuit. Here’s where success takes an ugly turn and the rabbit hole becomes a psychedelic free fall into the abyss of hopelessness — an emptiness within an emptiness. Because the answer to what you want has now become, I want More.
It’s still somewhat all right until the more changes from a hungry pursuit to an unquenchable thirst. More becomes More than.
Time to bring back the good ol’ romantic: Failure.
However supreme a ruler success may be, it always trembles and pees itself in the presence of failure. Some of the most successful people feel doomed because they feel they have failed themselves, their lives. Nothing matters anymore. Their inner failure consumes their outer success. It’s why the regrets of the dying all involve a failure of some sort.
The camps, after all, are not divided by success. They are divided by failure.
What one camp thinks is a success is the very thing the other camp thinks is a failure. One camp thinks contentment is a failure to try harder while the other thinks wanting more is a failure to be content. In a sad way, they both let failure define their criteria for success which begs the question: isn’t that a failure in itself?
If you think there’s a magical point at which you are going to be content with your level of success, doesn’t that mean every success that came before that point was a failure of some sort? And if, in fact, you become content at some point, isn’t calling that contentment a success, a failure to find contentment much earlier? If you fail to succeed, does that mean you have successfully failed?
We created success because we needed a way to measure our lives. We needed validation; a big bowl of attention dopamine to wet our egos. Success is a fairy tale we tell ourselves because the reality that we are going to become dust and oblivion is scary. Success is but an attempt to spread the dust. To want the world to stop for a while and catch some dust with your name on it.
Our life is an endless pursuit to reduce oblivion. And what a trivial pursuit that. What a failure, to reduce your one wild and precious life down to this. Success and failure have become inevitables that define our reality. The inevitable reality, however, is this: you will never be successful.
What you can only be is true to yourself. To not be trapped in the societal definitions of success and failure. To get out of the camp and find your truth. Success and Failure dissolve into oblivion in the presence of truth. Because truth is the dust that settles. It doesn’t care about spreading oblivion. Because it has lived, before death.
You will never be successful. Live on.