What Defines Success?

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Reply Fri 17 Jul, 2009 01:50 pm
What defines success in one's life? Is it money, is it materialistic things, is it happiness? One definition of success is the attainment of money, wealth, position, honors, or the like. For a person to be successful do they have to have a lot of money? or is it that we think that having a lot of money means that you are successful? In the definition that I described it says the attainment of money yet it is not precise as to the amount. This also leaves me to thinking; if one goes through life to a ripe old age; does that constitute as having a successful life?

It appears to me that we tend to use success as a measuring tool based on one's social status. When we see a person driving a nice car, living in a nice house, or having a large sum of money; we are quick to conclude that this person is successful; but is this the fact? Could success be measured in such a form. My measurement of success may be totally different from the next man's/woman's measurement of success; so what do we use as a tool to measure this abstract form? Success has no shape. Does the social status of the individual define's one's success and can it be used as a measuring tool?
 
VideCorSpoon
 
Reply Fri 17 Jul, 2009 04:38 pm
@MrEnigma,
I remember a little bit my grandpa used to tell me, which was (replacing the s-word with "crud"); Classic stuff, and I remember that to this day. But I definitely don't think that money is a defining factor in having a successful life. For instance, a drug dealer could have as much money as a doctor and if the same thing is asked, I wonder if the drug dealer would consider his/her life as successful compared to the other. But that's the rub though, isn't it? There are relative positions of what makes a person's life seem successful. Money is something I think is a byproduct of different successes though, not of a successful life. Gauging a successful life seems more abstract than business practice and so on. A successful life has to be something that, if you were stripped of everything you had in the manner of possessions and so on, you would still have a claim to a successful life.

To a point, I also think that a successful life is a liberal life. Liberal in the sense that in every aspect of a person life, or even just in a specific area of their choosing, they choose to enrich themselves to the highest degree. For example, you could be a waiter for the worst restaurant in town, but if you devote yourself to your particular craft in such a way where you personally excel at it, that is a successful life. Everybody has their own calling and everyone is also entitled to owning to the fact that they had a successful life. If you compare a common soldier to the grandest general of an army, the fact that the general has higher station, higher privileges, higher pay, etc. does not negate the fact that the contribution of the soldier and the potential sacrifice that soldier makes to his craft less important or his service (and subsequently his life) unsuccessful. Simply, the top of the chain and the bottom both have reason to claim they had a successful life. But there has to be a line drawn somewhere. People that waste away their lives may not have so successful a life as others that try to make the most of it. Whatever people do in order make their lives as enriching as possible (as long as it is positive) have a successful life. That is a huge factor in modern philosophy, that is, having an active compared to a passive life. A liberal life is an active life.

But on the matter of social status, that is one of those things that is still a matter of contention. At least for most of us, we all probably subscribe to the notion of a meritocracy. Simply, if you work hard for it, you are entitled to it. This to me seems like the "American dream" and the fundamental basis for a free society (yay for democracy!). But this in turn also creates what some refer to as a "natural aristocracy." It essentially states that unlike a normal aristocratic system in which your station was inherited without qualification, the "natural aristocrat" is one who assumes a higher station within society based off of education and so on for the benefit of that society. A medical doctor, an internet technology person, a lawyer, librarian, or anyone whose knowledge exceeds the norm for the benefit of others would be considered a natural aristocrat. I think many people operate under this notion of natural aristocracy. We consider (and compare to others) the levels of the schools we went to, the profession we have, how much money we make, and how we rank in the working world (and social) without much notice because we consider it normal. Natural aristocracy exists, and we consider it a good thing to boot. I do not want to believe that a natural aristocrat has as much a successful life as someone else, but I would think on some levels that they have managed to obtain some level of enrichment other may not have. They have managed to obtain a level of success other have or cannot based on their own liberal merits. But on the whole, I have mixed feelings about natural aristocracy. Certainly, someone would prefer the most qualified over the less qualified, the best and the brightest over the slightly dimmer. But when this translates into the social sphere, it makes these awful hierarchical structures that are difficult to look at without sneering at the disparities it creates.

So basically, money does not make a persons life successful because a successful life is an intrinsic quality that, stripped of everything, you would still possess. A liberal life which expounds and enriches you own life is what lends to the notion of a successful, active life. The status of a person should not translate into a successful life, however, natural aristocracy essentially underlines the goals of a successful life (although it in turn creates a framework of its own that may be just as bad).
 
MrEnigma
 
Reply Fri 17 Jul, 2009 06:28 pm
@VideCorSpoon,
Friend thank you for your interpretation. You explained yourself eloquently. What stood out to me and I quote: "A successful life has to be something that, if you were stripped of everything you had in the manner of possessions and so on, you would still have a claim to a successful life." I have to say that this brings up an interesting point. If one is stripped of all of their possessions and they are content could they say they had a successful life? I guess it would depend on the situation and the persons position. What could that "something" be that you mentioned? Could the emotions of individual determine their outcome?

I also agree that having an active life rather than a passive life would contribute to a person determining whether or not they had a successful life in the end. I wonder could the way that person is raised determine their success? You mentioned the natural aristrocrat. Maybe this is the defining factor or maybe it isn't. Someone that has a desire for "higher learning"; are they considered to be more successful then the person who is working in a lower wage position? Are they more aware of their surrounding and have the necessary resources such as "money" to be more active in life. I also believe that money is a byproduct but I also think that it does fit in the equation in some way.
 
Labyrinth
 
Reply Fri 17 Jul, 2009 10:43 pm
@MrEnigma,
The comment ironically points out the obvious...we will very well be stripped of all possessions. People do love money for the very good reason in that it is an abstraction for goods.

Generally (and I mean very generally), people divide into two groups after their realization that death will end all of this. One group attempts to maximize the pleasures of life while it still lasts (how they determine a successful life is obvious). The other group refusing to accept this makes a dash after immortality. Because of the mystery behind consciousness after death, one can be rather creative and flexible with how he considers himself immortal. For some, it is through religious belief. For others, it is vicarious life through those who will outlast him. For others still, a lasting memory of them will do. To be known and to be spoken of after one is gone is a great consolation. While the majority are naturally disqualified from being known as a "great," a more modest goal satisfies the minimum requirements of what is considered a successful attainment of immortality, such as publishing a book. This allows for a wide range of types of a successful life. This is why rich and poor alike may recline on their deathbed regretful or content.
 
Zetetic11235
 
Reply Sat 18 Jul, 2009 01:08 am
@Labyrinth,
Labyrinth;78067 wrote:
The comment ironically points out the obvious...we will very well be stripped of all possessions. People do love money for the very good reason in that it is an abstraction for goods.

Generally (and I mean very generally), people divide into two groups after their realization that death will end all of this. One group attempts to maximize the pleasures of life while it still lasts (how they determine a successful life is obvious). The other group refusing to accept this makes a dash after immortality. Because of the mystery behind consciousness after death, one can be rather creative and flexible with how he considers himself immortal. For some, it is through religious belief. For others, it is vicarious life through those who will outlast him. For others still, a lasting memory of them will do. To be known and to be spoken of after one is gone is a great consolation. While the majority are naturally disqualified from being known as a "great," a more modest goal satisfies the minimum requirements of what is considered a successful attainment of immortality, such as publishing a book. This allows for a wide range of types of a successful life. This is why rich and poor alike may recline on their deathbed regretful or content.


It seems like the truth of the matter is that everyone bounces between those two extremes, hitting on one but being pulled back by the call of the other. A few go for one or the other, most can't decide with any finality.:sarcastic:

I think that ultimately what it comes down to is being able to feel satisfied when you consider the idea of death. Having a sense of being ready to hang up your coat and let it go, but still happy with where you are. To me, living in a way I feel will achieve this is what makes the most sense, and it just so happens to sit on both sides of the dichotomy you presented.
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Sat 18 Jul, 2009 09:16 am
@Zetetic11235,
How many times have you heard someone say
If I had money, I would do things my way
But little they know that it's so hard to find
One rich man in ten with a satisfied mind

Money can't buy back your youth when you're old
A friend when you're lonely, or keys to your soul
The wealthiest person is a pauper at times
Compared to the man with a satisfied mind

When my life is over and my time has run out
My friends and my loved ones, I'll leave them no doubt
One thing's for certain, when it comes my time
I'll leave this old world with a satisfied mind

YouTube - Jeff Buckley - Satisfied Mind (Live @ Knitting Factory 1992)
 
VideCorSpoon
 
Reply Sat 18 Jul, 2009 09:35 am
@Didymos Thomas,
MrEnigma,hasLabyrinth,

Death may be one of the most interesting aspects of all of this. Laying claim to a successful life entails that that life will eventually come to an end. I could buy into your interpretation though. But that would mean that we all have in the back of our heads this nagging existential dilemma that keeps telling us "time is running out." Not to say that we all don't do this on some level or another, but we don't really think about it as the forefront of our thoughts.

All I could say is that, on this subject, I would consider that my life would be successful if I were dirt bored come my time to pass. Seriously. I hope in my wish of wishes that I will die of boredom. That would mean that I did and learned everything that I wanted to do plus some to the point where the experiences I had were so engrained that nothing is really that novel anymore. That would somewhat be my idea of a successful life. May I be so fortunate.


Zetetic11235,

Completely agree. That's a great way of putting it.


Didymos,

Exactly. You couldn't ask for more perfect lyrics on this kind of subject.
 
de budding
 
Reply Sat 18 Jul, 2009 11:07 am
@MrEnigma,
What Defines Success?

If other's are jealous of you and what you have - albeit your emotional or material possessions - you are a success and win the game of social existence. Gratz!

Dan.
 
MrEnigma
 
Reply Sat 18 Jul, 2009 06:05 pm
@MrEnigma,
Thank you everyone that responded to the age old question. Each and everyone explained themselves and thoughts very well; and that I totally appreciate it. I thought about this questions as I read the comments and I thought about Maslow's Heirarchy of needs. To be human means that you will have human needs. Correct? What other needs are there? I'm starting to believe that if all of our needs that Maslow talk mention have been meet satisfactorily in our lifetime then at the time of our end we would be able to say that we had a successful life. The needs that Maslow share with us are:

1. Physiological Needs, this of course covers such things as Breathing, Homeostasis, Water, sleep, food, sex, clothing and shelter.
2. Safety Needs such as Personal security, Financial security, and Health and well-being.
3. Social Needs, which include Friendship and Intimacy.
4. Esteem, meaning that the individual has self-respect for him/herself and others respect them also.
5. Aesthetic Needs, realizing that one has maximum potential.

I can personally say that if all of these needs have been met and highly satisfactory to the individual; then one can probably say that they have had pretty much a successful life. We all have a need for intimacy; the need to be loved and to love; the basic needs of life; we all need to breath and shelter and food; respect from our peers, and realizing that we have met our potential. The status of ones life does not have any bearing to how successful one is and thank you for pointing this out to me.

Without these needs we would have been stripped of everything. Wordly possessions do not measure up.
 
manored
 
Reply Sun 19 Jul, 2009 11:21 am
@MrEnigma,
MrEnigma;78222 wrote:
Wordly possessions do not measure up.
Indeed, yet people pursue then. I suppose that while material possessions are irrelevant by thenselves, seeking material possessions is the world's favorite way of seeking success. And I wouldnt say that is foolish since becoming rich in a world where everthing seeks to drain your funds away is quite a feat and a proof of that you are capable... but, then, why we hear so much that rich people arent happy? What they are missing? My bet is that people become so focused in adquiring wealth they forget that wealth is not their purpose, is the means through wich they seek to fulfill their purpose. Sometimes they dont even ever had a purpose they reconized, and have always been focused on pursuing wealth.
 
de budding
 
Reply Mon 20 Jul, 2009 02:41 pm
@MrEnigma,
"why we hear so much that rich people arent happy?"

I would hazard that slave morality has somewhat of a hand in the propagation of this opinion.

Dan.
 
Leviathen249
 
Reply Mon 20 Jul, 2009 03:04 pm
@de budding,
I think that success is like enjoyment or happiness, it's relative. My definition of success is to become a doctor when I grow up, yours may be to sustain your existence for as long as possible while having a fun time. To each his own.
 
William
 
Reply Mon 20 Jul, 2009 04:17 pm
@de budding,
de_budding;78469 wrote:
"why we hear so much that rich people arent happy?"

I would hazard that slave morality has somewhat of a hand in the propagation of this opinion.

Dan.


I can't help but ask what you mean by "slave morality"? As far as your first comment, it's not so much that it is maintain they are "unhappy"; it the illusion that monetary wealth is a necessity in order to be happy, and those who achieve it find that they have been lied to for the price was to great in order to achieve it. (realizing there are exceptions and different definitions of "rich".

William
 
MrEnigma
 
Reply Mon 20 Jul, 2009 04:39 pm
@William,
William;78489 wrote:
the illusion that monetary wealth is a necessity in order to be happy, and those who achieve it find that they have been lied to for the price was to great in order to achieve it. (realizing there are exceptions and different definitions of "rich".
William


Very good point!
 
de budding
 
Reply Tue 21 Jul, 2009 12:55 am
@William,
William;78489 wrote:
I can't help but ask what you mean by "slave morality"? As far as your first comment, it's not so much that it is maintain they are "unhappy"; it the illusion that monetary wealth is a necessity in order to be happy, and those who achieve it find that they have been lied to for the price was to great in order to achieve it. (realizing there are exceptions and different definitions of "rich".

William


Slave morality is a moral frame work where that which is good is that which helps the poor and weak; and that which is bad hinders or halts the elevation of the poor/weak. It is not necessarily a negative thing, but I see it manifest in the modern day as morality of jealousy.

Furthermore, I only think slave morality would be a minor factor in the propagation of the idea that wealth=unhappiness and that it takes some interpretation to reach that conclusion. But, here goes.

The idea that wealth=unhappiness could result, in the case of some individuals, from the moral that it is wrong to have lots of money... or more specifically: that it is wrong to have more money than me. I think this is true because slave-morality now-a-days manifests itself as a jealous (even gossipy) morality where that which is good is useful to the weak or poor (like charity) and that which is bad is that which hinders the elevation of the weak and poor. I think the latter includes the rich, wealthy and other independent people who (a) make us poor/weak by comparison and (B) set a precedent for success which is hard to reach.

Thus I think slave-morality today can be classified by the tendency to be jealous of those better off than us (in a material sense). We see someone with more money than us and project jealousy because we think it wrong for them to have that money and not us. Thus, I think a manifestation of this kind of jealous morality would be the propagation of the opinion that one will be unhappy if one is rich... call it preventative slave-morality.

Did I explain myself at all?

Regards,
Dan.
 
salima
 
Reply Tue 21 Jul, 2009 01:21 am
@MrEnigma,
the only way i would define success is if a person accomplished what he meant to-even if it was immoral or inconsequential, it was his goal and meeting goals is a measure of success. we can choose small day to day goals and long term goals, and consider ourselves 25% successful, anywhere on the scale that we feel we are, based on our opinion as to what level of success we have achieved.
some people are thought to be successful by the whole world, but unhappy with themselves. it is how we judge our own success that makes the difference.
 
de budding
 
Reply Tue 21 Jul, 2009 01:37 am
@MrEnigma,
Hear, hear.

If any but ourselves is a measure of our success we will be met with jealousy and unhappiness.

Is it that easy though?
 
salima
 
Reply Tue 21 Jul, 2009 02:11 am
@de budding,
de_budding;78553 wrote:
Hear, hear.

If any but ourselves is a measure of our success we will be met with jealousy and unhappiness.

Is it that easy though?


i think it is one of the perks of getting old. old people dont have to compete in fashion or muscle building or anything really. just waking up in the morning you are ahead of the game---ah, success! as a matter of fact, those of us who have the most failures in life are the most successful-we survived them all, didnt we? Laughing
 
Labyrinth
 
Reply Tue 21 Jul, 2009 07:50 am
@Zetetic11235,
Zetetic11235;78076 wrote:
It seems like the truth of the matter is that everyone bounces between those two extremes, hitting on one but being pulled back by the call of the other. A few go for one or the other, most can't decide with any finality.:sarcastic:

I think that ultimately what it comes down to is being able to feel satisfied when you consider the idea of death. Having a sense of being ready to hang up your coat and let it go, but still happy with where you are. To me, living in a way I feel will achieve this is what makes the most sense, and it just so happens to sit on both sides of the dichotomy you presented.


I don't think its an extreme to desire immortality. I believe people desire it unknowingly in a "non-extreme" way, and yes, there are extreme forms a la giant Nero statue. It could be something trivial as a father wanting a son instead of a daughter to secure a sort of nominal immortality. The desire of immortality itself (not an extreme in itself) has its own scale of varying intensity ranging from grade 1:"carving initials into oak tree bark" to grade 10:"I will be the ever-living ideal of the human race for all time."

I like your point about contentedness at the end. It is the ultimate marker and makes us individuals. Two can live the same exact life, and one can be satisfied while the other is bitter.

---------- Post added 07-21-2009 at 10:00 AM ----------

VideCorSpoon;78124 wrote:

Death may be one of the most interesting aspects of all of this. Laying claim to a successful life entails that that life will eventually come to an end. I could buy into your interpretation though. But that would mean that we all have in the back of our heads this nagging existential dilemma that keeps telling us "time is running out." Not to say that we all don't do this on some level or another, but we don't really think about it as the forefront of our thoughts.

All I could say is that, on this subject, I would consider that my life would be successful if I were dirt bored come my time to pass. Seriously. I hope in my wish of wishes that I will die of boredom. That would mean that I did and learned everything that I wanted to do plus some to the point where the experiences I had were so engrained that nothing is really that novel anymore. That would somewhat be my idea of a successful life. May I be so fortunate.


The "time is running out" voice (great point! consciousness of death) is present in all minds, I believe. The first instance in that great myth coincides with the wrenching of man from the carefree Garden of Eden. Rousseau marks this as one of those monumental differences between man and animal. It may not be nagging in all (or most) people depending on the amount of work in one's "inbox" of life.

And best wishes on your achieving a boring passing! Absence of all remaining hunger will be an excellent indication that you're successful.
 
Mr Fight the Power
 
Reply Tue 21 Jul, 2009 09:52 am
@MrEnigma,
The satisfaction of the will. That can be the only gauge.
 
 

 
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