Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Deception of Success

I don't consider myself successful. Not in an overtly ambitious, scaling the heights of the steep career wall aggressively, sense anyway. I don't consider myself a failure either. I am content. I am happy with where I am and what I have achieved.  Mostly because I am not gripped by career fever and I have other things in life that drive me. I am also modest and aware.

Many on the other hand are not. Modesty is one thing but awareness is something else altogether.

There is a disease that I have witnessed first hand grip colleagues and friends, and it has to do with success. I could go into the subjective psychological and philosophical layers underlying what success means to you or me or the average person trying to make a mark out there. I won't. The concept is much simpler than that. It is about reaching unprecedented levels of achievement before your very own eyes, that it almost becomes intoxicating. One achievement drives another and another until one loses track of the means and reason. When that happens, there is no control over sinking deeper into a dementia of ambition. The result? Being totally and utterly consumed by one's own success that there is absolutely no awareness of all the compromises made.

It can happen to anyone. Success can give such a feeling of elation, a sense of achievement and a power that one perhaps didn't realise existed. A hunger for more is born. Success becomes a drug that is needed to feed that power within and it grows exponentially. When one is not aware and one is not modest, it turns into a disease. What would it take to taste one more bitter sweet success story? Forego humaneness, good manners or decency. In very mild forms, that's always how it begins. The ends justify the means. It becomes ok to be a little less polite, a little more aggressive, a little less humane, a little more robotic or as the corporate world might describe it more "business-like". Business is business after all, whatever that means. A whirpool that consumes mind and soul because, what after all these successes? It is all temporary. What remains is how you are able to (or unable to) face yourself and those who matter because life is short and we all die.

So stop.

Modesty and awareness are the controllers of success. They pace us. They make us evaluate our approach and get us in tune with our value system. They are the checks and balances of our achievements and they ground us so that we don't end up living in the castles that we build in our minds. Success can be a good thing, just not when we are deceived by it.