Success. A word that is truly difficult to define. Don’t believe me? Ask around. Everyone has their own unique interpretation of what the word means to them.
Why The Difference?
Do bear with me, feathers might get ruffled here. I am going to pull up some instances of people chasing stereotypical ‘success’ to present my opinion. No identification with actual persons (living or deceased), places, buildings, and products is intended or should be inferred 🙂
- Hipsters trawling through thrift shops, searching for used gems that will afford them their unparalleled uniqueness
- Inner city youth yearning for pimped out rides with spinners shinier than mirrors
- 1.3 billion Chinese building up a country that resembles what suburban Americans save money to fly away from
- Singaporeans paying ransoms for a German VW golf hatchback while well-to-do Germans find ways to ride on the overpriced Deutsche Bahn
I could name more examples, but perhaps your own minds are swimming with similar examples of your own.
When we see distinct patterns of definitions of success that span geographies, cultures or even history, we have to assume that environments are partly responsible for shaping our ideals. Every zeitgeist is unique, but holds true for a people of a particular time and place.
Uniqueness that is not random. Uniqueness that gets replicated. Houston we have a problem.
Pursuing What We Had No Right To Possess
I wonder if our images of success are implanted deep within us based on the lacks and wants we endured in our pasts. I grew up in the bustle of a tropical metropolis, and now long for a cabin in the woods with a nothing but a fireplace and view of the forest without.
If we look back at the various ‘success’ stereotypes I brought forward, we could hazard some guesses on what might have been their inceptions:
- African americans in the 50’s and 60’s watching rich white neighbours roll past in their shiny cadillacs
- Millennials growing up in cookie cutter homes with busy unavailable parents working at cookie cutter jobs
- Starving East-Asians coming out of poverty looking eastward at the bursting middle class of 美国🇺🇸 (literally the ‘beautiful nation’ in mandarin)
- Singaporeans grappling with extreme resource scarcity with an overarching savings culture that has transcended generations
It seems that absense truly does make the heart grow fonder.
Why The Pursuit Of Change?
With few exceptions, change on the whole brings with it associated discomfort. Adapting isn’t easy, and due to this, people loathe change. We as a species hate decisions and live on autopilot for a majority of our time. Relationships, jobs, places of residence, even consumer brands are things we struggle to displace or replace.
Yet we constantly strive for what we never had, and want lives we have never lived.
We seek change on the macro, but avoid it at all costs on the micro. The dissonance is breathtaking.
This yearning to have what was never experienced seems to be buried deep within us. Look around us and you will see it at work constantly and consistently. It is strong and unyielding, and is impressive in its ability to shape cultural landscapes. What is this invisible hand that drives us and guides us? Could we be seeing evolution’s muse working within us, fine-tuning our compasses over the generations?
As the tides of time ceaselessly shift, we can only look on as history reveals this gravity that is pulling us to ever loftier heights.