Recently, a friend of mine wished me success in life for my birthday. I appreciated his goodwill and understood what he meant, but it made me think: what is this ‘success’ that we often refer to? Is success really the most important thing in life?
Back in primal times, success came down to two things: survival and reproduction. Everything else, such as social acceptance and status, material wealth, family and children, etc. were mere means to an end to achieve those two biological functions. But as civilization came about and developed, success came to mean more. Success was now associated with wealth and power. But at the same time, faith and moral values acted as counter-balance to bring about a refined and cultured life for the people. Although success was still sought by all, it was not always placed above the great human virtues of art, bravery, and duty.
But now, in today’s world, the idea of success has evolved even further and expanded to include status as defined by wealth and fame, expensive objects that signal status, physical attractiveness, and vanity of all sorts. Success is everything in today’s vapid materialistic world without values; virtue and core human essence have been pushed aside by avariciousness and hedonism. You know how low a society has sunk when even the act of plunging oneself in alcohol-fueled orgy is now considered a status symbol.
In our shallow status-obsessed world, if you don’t seek material success, the assumption is that you are a simpleton and a loser with no zest for life. The very pursuit of wealth and fame has become synonymous with life itself. The society wants you to feel inferior and insignificant on a constant basis so that you will go on spending more money on things you don’t need. The society needs you to be in that never-ending state of anxiety so that you will cover yourself up with more objects and dedicate more time pursuing your insatiable need for ‘success’. To this end, it will actively sow thoughts and ideas about what your life should be like. It will plant false images and desires to occupy your mind and leave you restless. It beckons you to play the game of life on its terms.
I refuse to play such mad game.
To me, success—as defined by our modern society—is irrelevant. The desire for success is but an artificial construct that has perverted what it means to live. I pursue things so that I may learn and grow from it, not because I want an achievement to feed my ego. I don’t endlessly chase goals in vain hopes that I will finally be happy once I achieve them all. If I work hard and put in a constant effort through discipline, I am already content; the final product will come about on its own without me having to obsess over whether I’ll be “successful” or not. In other words: I don’t live to reach my goals, I have goals so that I have a direction in life.
I don’t need to feel that I am successful in anyway because all I have to focus is on doing the best I can every moment of my life. I don’t worry about my status because I don’t care about other people’s shallow judgements—they can think whatever they want. I refuse to live with status anxiety.
Money is a necessity when living in a society, but I don’t think of it as something to pursue—I don’t need success with money. I don’t need some artificial currency to define me when I’m living my life with all my will and might. And just because I don’t care for materialistic pursuits, it doesn’t mean I lack a drive; I have a drive—a drive for life.
When you live for life, your means and ends join to become a fluid flow of your drive. You are no longer hopelessly chasing all the time and you become a man who is outcome independent. And by focusing on the process rather than dreaming about the result, you become better focused, better motivated, and will actually come enjoy your activities instead of seeing them as obstacles to overcome.
When you live for life, you focus on developing yourself as a man. You develop your physical strength and endurance while sharpening your knowledge and skills. And you don’t do any of them so that you can be of certain status. When you live for life, you focus on your core human identity without all the superficial clutter. You come to value your masculine virtue and live as you were meant to live, not how you’ve been told to live. And finally, when you live for life, you are genuinely interested in connecting with others instead of seeing them as stepping stones for your success or as objects to feed with your own vanity.
Forgetting success doesn’t mean you are giving up on anything; you will still go after what you must. But if success is all you are after, then you just might forget about living along the way.