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Our Problem With Success

We’re not failures, it’s just that a do-nothing, no-talent celebrity, pouring wine on her ass, is suddenly more significant than our success.

the problem with successThere’s an odd relationship between our culture and success. It seems, especially in these days of immediate information and constant distraction, success has become infinitely more fleeting. Can you, without checking Google or Facebook, tell me who won the 2014 Oscar for best lead actor, or who was awarded the most recent Nobel Peace Prize? No? I bet, dollars to doughnuts, you can picture the latest cat meme or recall something Morgan Freemen didn’t actually say.

Fleeting isn’t even a just description for success today. Success has become insignificant. One day you’re winning the World, and within an internet heartbeat, you’re success is buried, 40 clicks down the page, by a dancing poodle and your friend’s third cousin’s neighbor’s newborn baby who looks like Abraham Lincoln.

The news we catch on television is wrought with failure, scandal, disasters, crime, and senseless celebrity self adulation. Maybe we get a 2-minute story of hope and promise from Steve Hartman at the end of the news cast, but 2-minutes out of 24 hours seems pretty darn insignificant.

I’ve had innumerable friends survive life-threatening circumstances. I’ve seen communities help small businesses grow and give back to support their citizens. I’ve seen progress, promotions, and wins that have garnered the attention of absolutely no one. Zero. Zip…

Why?

Headlines read of disaster, destruction, death and degradation – so much so that I’ve stopped reading. I know of dozens upon dozens of fiends and acquaintances who have dropped their subscriptions to the newspaper – delivered and online. The news we catch on television is wrought with failure, scandal, disasters, crime, and senseless celebrity self adulation. Maybe we get a 2-minute story of hope and promise from Steve Hartman at the end of the news cast, but 2-minutes out of 24 hours seems pretty darn insignificant. The balance of good news and the news that makes our skin crawl has become way out of whack.

But we shouldn’t blame media. They just push out what society demands. They get paid to get stories heard, so who am I to chastise just because they’re trying to do their jobs?

Is that it? IS that how we’re going to devolve? When do the scales tip the other direction? Will they? I don’t have the answer.

Attention spans seem to shorten with the more time we spend looking at other people’s pain and failure. I believe, subconsciously, we jump from sound bite to meme and on to lie after lie, because our brains can’t handle it. Bathing in the pain and degradation of others is no way for a person to ultimately feel good about their lives and is no way for a society to progress.

There’s a problem with success. it makes us feel bad. Accomplishments and accolades shared with the world just remind us that we, individually, aren’t sufficient enough to make a difference. Sally’s 4.0 GPA with honors reminds us we failed Chemistry. Bob’s promotion at work just reminds us we put in 70 hours a week for unappreciative, uncaring, opportunistic tyrants.

One day you’re winning the World, and within an internet heartbeat, you’re insignificant. Rest assured, Bob will get his in the end.

Stop.

How do we, as a society, stop traveling down this horrible path? How do we bring a spirit and support back to our communities? How do we recognize people for their accomplishments and not their failures, crimes or idiocy?

Just stop.

We need to work at becoming a successful people again. I believe we once were, I just think “work” has become a dirty word in our culture. “They work for a living,” used to mean something. Now it’s looked down upon. We’ve gotten lazy. Watching others fail is so much easier than working to succeed in your own right.

The problem with success is it takes work. Yes, it’s fleeting, but if you’re continuously waiting for it, you’re never going to achieve it. Work on your successes, and every time you make positive progress – no matter now small – share it. Then, get back to work. If enough people share and keep sharing in success, maybe the funk and slime we feel today will start to subside.

And for God’s sake, stop perpetuating the ignorance. Finding humor in other people’s failures, or ignorance, or canonizing slothful, self indulgence is a waste of your time and ours. We need to demand more from our society – from the 1%-ers all they way down to you and me. If we can’t share our successes and work to make a life built on them, I fear the alternative.

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