In response to the inspirational TED talk by Alain de Botton:
There is a constant pressure to amount to something worthwhile in the Western world. The language of that very sentence is full of value statements heavy with subjectivity. Amount to… what? Something worthwhile… such as? Worthwhile according to whom? We live in a continuous, repeating if-then statement. “If I accomplish said task, then I will obtain said status.” We are inundated by a constant deluge of “succeed, succeed, succeed…” It is initially an encouraging statement, but it quickly becomes cumbersome.
After the initial surge of optimistic inspiration fades from the message, it begins to be riddled with self-doubt and envy of others. Without knowing how it really began, we become obsessed, even subconsciously, with status and prestige. We insist on attempting to make a name for ourselves, rooting our value as individuals in what we have accomplished.
We don’t just apply this to ourselves. We also look upon others, and whether we mean to or not, cast judgment upon them. We assume that the position they’re in, high or low, is entirely they’re own doing. In short, we live by the principle that everyone gets what they deserve. We have created a ridiculous societal structure known as a meritocracy, outlined poignantly by Alain de Botton.
A cynical and bleak outlook to be sure. However, with every problem, there is a solution to be found. He makes a simple, yet very important, statement in this regard: “You can’t be successful at everything.” There is an element of loss in every success story. Furthermore, your vision of success is often not even from your own ideas, but rather it is gleaned from others and what you perceive their opinions to be. He brings this point home with the following conclusion:
“What I want to argue for is not that we should give up on our ideas of success, but that we should make sure that they are our own… That we are truly the authors of our own ambitions. Because it’s bad enough not getting what you want, but it’s even worse to have an idea of what you want, and find out at the end of the journey that it isn’t in fact what you wanted all along.”