Modern society is driven by success. Accounts of presumably successful individuals tell about the fortunes they amassed (J.P.Morgan, Rockefeller), the qualifications they were best in (Pele, Michael Jordan), thriving businesses created (Steve Jobs, Walt Disney) and sometimes the number of people they were able to influence (Beatles, M.L.King).
One is considered to be successful if one fulfils specific criteria. The criteria are mostly tied to measurable milestones like the amount of money in your bank account, level of hierarchical position in a corporate world, the luxuriousness of lifestyle and the grade of fame.
From a young age, one is expected to strive to be successful. One must achieve goals and qualifications and obtain possessions and degrees to succeed.
Funnily enough, achieving specific goals and obtaining particular possessions is called accomplishment. What makes accomplishment a success is that society validates these specific accomplishments as success.
Why does this external validation of specific characteristics play a significant role?
Every human being uses measurement and comparisons to understand the world around us. Measurement permeates every aspect of our life. The origins of the necessity to measure and compare go back to when we were roaming the planes searching for food and shelter. Being able to determine distance and discern eatable fruits from poisonous ones is probably the most basic use of measurement and comparison in history.
Today, we use success to compare ourselves with others – it seems an easy way to find our place in life.
Another funny thought: everything that is not directly objective, like the distance between two hills or the size of two apples, cannot be compared. It lacks a frame of reference. Whenever looking at the success or failure of the other person, one has to keep in mind that the road that led this person to this success or this failure is as different from the road you’ve trodden as it can be.
Evolution from hunter-gatherers to modern humans has left us with this outdated tool. Now that we see this, we no longer have to use it. We can choose our reference framework, internalise and apply it to all our endeavours.
Success is individual. You choose what your success is.