Photo: Unsplash/Mitchel Lensink

The Success Trap: How You Can Fail Yourself by Losing Your Individuality

The concept of failure is a much talked about subject, so much so that affirmations harkening it as a necessary evil have become poster art cliché. Failure leads to success as they say, right? All this diverts our attention back to success.

My thought is: if success is always on your mind, then you are living the life of a failure.

A successful person never tries to achieve what they already are. Yet so many people strive to become successful by definitions and standards that distance themselves from their true nature. For example, we don’t try to become successful mothers, successful daughters, successful siblings or successful friends. We are who we really are: outside of success stories. We should strive to be our best selves.

Although I don’t feel like a failure, society will continue to set the bar. In particular, if you’re in the entertainment business or live in Los Angeles as I do, you practically exist as a failure because success is measured by the exterior of what you possess, such as your net worth, where you live, who you know, your position and what you look like from head to toe. I don’t conform to those standards, so I guess I qualify as a “failure.” But I don’t feel like one.

Success Defined by Social Media?

The game of success also includes your other life. Yes, you have two lives. Your real life and the one you have online. Now you get to be judged and defined by your metrics on social networks.

I frankly enjoy the freedom of not depending on these metrics to determine my success, I simply choose to use it as a platform to express myself and show off my work. I thrive on the quantum effect that success occurs when just one person resonates with you: not millions who believe in you because they’re following a herd. If you plan to be a public figure, no one will like you unless everybody likes you. That’s the jacked up reality.

This “liking” trend can reduce the most intelligent and successful person into a needy individual that questions their self-worth.

I once read an article where the editor of a popular magazine used the opportunity in his editorial to whine about losing Facebook friends. He is “successful,” but he was perturbed about his perceived failure on social media. It’s as if he chose to forego discussing the more important highlights of the issue to instead focus on his own narcissism.

Yet, this is apparently okay because he still maintains some form of authority. This is the type of authority I question. People like this are not using their situation to lead by example or positively influence others. Is that success? I think you could reasonably assert that he is actually failing regardless of his reputation or position.

Success Through Popularity?

I come from the punk rock days where success isn’t measured by popularity but how well you carry or retain your individuality.

What is popular today will be unknown in either fifteen minutes or years from now. Likes and dislikes change like the weather. That idol that you were obsessed with is dead. The girls who used to scream their heads off over The Beatles are now replaced with a generation that associates the word with a bug.

Some people may like you but are afraid to. They wait until everyone agrees that you’re cool to make sure they don’t look like a fool or dissident. If you’re not “liked” and no one hits that heart button, the resounding message is that you’re a loser and failure. Isn’t this why we left high school to begin with? I was glad to get away from that, thinking the adult world would free me from the pressures of defining success by popularity. Not so.

The “liking’ business of social media is virtual peer-pressure on steroids. Now you are connected to strangers deciding if you’re cool. At worst, this logic strips cool people of their coolness, leaders from their capacity to influence, and hands this over to the lowest common denominator to “vote” on your worthiness and define your success.

We need true leaders, we always will. Not just ones who are preoccupied with personal success and attainment.

Real leadership comes from staying true to yourself and your convictions, not selling out to popular demand to try and achieve success.

Success: Follow the Masses So You’re Not a Failure?

If everyone is following, who’s leading? The “follow” concept is so ingrained in our language on Facebook, Twitter, and countless social media networks that we don’t even question it.

From a cynical standpoint, we can say this is designed to silence true leaders and viewpoints by creating a follower mentality and popularity game based on the fear of failure for going against the crowd. With poor leadership, the blind leads the blind, which creates a whirlpool of madness designed to keep us crazed.

Throughout history, a precursor to genocide from regimes that have successfully seized power is an attempt to silence all the non-conformists (artists, scientists, thinkers, etc.). It’s a purge of individuality and freedom in order to lead the masses in the right or “successful” way of thinking, and it can been seen in events such as the Armenian Genocide or Holocaust.

But does acceptance from the majority define success?

Today, it’s easy enough to do by making everyone followers. So if someone says jump, we say “how high?” – it doesn’t necessarily matter how ludicrous the request because people don’t want to miss out. Now there are more powerful ways to incite the masses to make irrational decisions based on fear and emotion. This is the danger of the follower mentality.

If society really wanted you to succeed, it would focus on encouraging individuality and authenticity: individuality defined by self-worth and integrity, not narcissism or personal gain.

The expression “Punk is Dead” holds true. It is the death of being successful in your own right – despite everyone treating you like a failure.

The failure button is the biggest trigger that society has to control one another. It is something to overcome.

Success: How Much Is Enough?

We can easily recognize the 1% dominating our world with their technology, goods and mammoth wealth. Society lauds them as successful for what they have achieved, the money that they make and the power they wield.

However, their success is strictly defined by ego, power and gross obsession with glory. If that’s their idea of success, then they’re actually thriving as failures because too much is never enough.

No amount of money, awards, connections or position is ever big enough. The peak always remains a peak, but instead, these people have an almost insatiable desire to find an even higher peak. But there is no such thing as conquering the highest peak, and if you do, you still cannot and will not ever become G*d.

In their heart of hearts, these people know they can never own or attain everything and will always fear that they are perceived as failures. That’s why the boundaries are continually being pushed to find the higher peak – now we have to go to Mars or conquer another planet; it’s just not enough to rule the earth.

For everyone else, our job is to get on board. This is not a model to follow. A truly successful person respects the peak as their benchmark and teacher, not as something simply to conquer.

Our feelings of failure are created by society’s obsession with success. If society didn’t focus so much on success and how it is defined, we would not struggle with self-doubt or the constant need to avoid feeling like a failure.

Yet, the business of selling unhappiness fuels our economy. Without this pressure, it’s possible that we would excel even greater because we would operate from our true source of creative power and inspiration instead of conforming to standards for success.

How Do I Define Success?

What does success mean to me? It is being clear about who I am. Success is that basic. Being clear with yourself helps you find your bliss and identify your goals. It helps you shine more brightly. You can’t do this when you’re clouded by the demands of others.

Most “successful” people out there are murky as mud. Other than the social popularity, achievements and material possessions holding them together, nothing else truly defines them. Stripped of that, what do they really have? Nothing more than the name their parents gave them. And that is all. No identity to speak of. So they keep piling on mud to maintain their stature, to make their true worth unclear: to hide from that awful feeling of failure.

At the end of the day, if you don’t shine brightly enough, no one will ever know who you truly are. How would your soul know what direction to go when you die? Light attracts light – so if you want to go to the stars, start working on it by being true to yourself. You won’t need a billion bucks to crash and burn to get there.

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When she’s not making films, she’s making word-pictures. Ji Strangeway is a director, writer, poet and executant of the ineffable. Made in Laos, former resident of New York, and creating in Los Angeles, she’s on the web at www.jistrangeway.com.

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The Success Trap: How You Can Fail Yourself by Losing Your Individuality

The concept of failure is a much talked about subject, so much so that affirmations harkening it as a necessary evil have become poster art cliché. Failure leads to success as they say, right? All this diverts our attention back to success.

My thought is: if success is always on your mind, then you are living the life of a failure.

A successful person never tries to achieve what they already are. Yet so many people strive to become successful by definitions and standards that distance themselves from their true nature. For example, we don’t try to become successful mothers, successful daughters, successful siblings or successful friends. We are who we really are: outside of success stories. We should strive to be our best selves.

Although I don’t feel like a failure, society will continue to set the bar. In particular, if you’re in the entertainment business or live in Los Angeles as I do, you practically exist as a failure because success is measured by the exterior of what you possess, such as your net worth, where you live, who you know, your position and what you look like from head to toe. I don’t conform to those standards, so I guess I qualify as a “failure.” But I don’t feel like one.

Success Defined by Social Media?

The game of success also includes your other life. Yes, you have two lives. Your real life and the one you have online. Now you get to be judged and defined by your metrics on social networks.

I frankly enjoy the freedom of not depending on these metrics to determine my success, I simply choose to use it as a platform to express myself and show off my work. I thrive on the quantum effect that success occurs when just one person resonates with you: not millions who believe in you because they’re following a herd. If you plan to be a public figure, no one will like you unless everybody likes you. That’s the jacked up reality.

This “liking” trend can reduce the most intelligent and successful person into a needy individual that questions their self-worth.

I once read an article where the editor of a popular magazine used the opportunity in his editorial to whine about losing Facebook friends. He is “successful,” but he was perturbed about his perceived failure on social media. It’s as if he chose to forego discussing the more important highlights of the issue to instead focus on his own narcissism.

Yet, this is apparently okay because he still maintains some form of authority. This is the type of authority I question. People like this are not using their situation to lead by example or positively influence others. Is that success? I think you could reasonably assert that he is actually failing regardless of his reputation or position.

Success Through Popularity?

I come from the punk rock days where success isn’t measured by popularity but how well you carry or retain your individuality.

What is popular today will be unknown in either fifteen minutes or years from now. Likes and dislikes change like the weather. That idol that you were obsessed with is dead. The girls who used to scream their heads off over The Beatles are now replaced with a generation that associates the word with a bug.

Some people may like you but are afraid to. They wait until everyone agrees that you’re cool to make sure they don’t look like a fool or dissident. If you’re not “liked” and no one hits that heart button, the resounding message is that you’re a loser and failure. Isn’t this why we left high school to begin with? I was glad to get away from that, thinking the adult world would free me from the pressures of defining success by popularity. Not so.

The “liking’ business of social media is virtual peer-pressure on steroids. Now you are connected to strangers deciding if you’re cool. At worst, this logic strips cool people of their coolness, leaders from their capacity to influence, and hands this over to the lowest common denominator to “vote” on your worthiness and define your success.

We need true leaders, we always will. Not just ones who are preoccupied with personal success and attainment.

Real leadership comes from staying true to yourself and your convictions, not selling out to popular demand to try and achieve success.

Success: Follow the Masses So You’re Not a Failure?

If everyone is following, who’s leading? The “follow” concept is so ingrained in our language on Facebook, Twitter, and countless social media networks that we don’t even question it.

From a cynical standpoint, we can say this is designed to silence true leaders and viewpoints by creating a follower mentality and popularity game based on the fear of failure for going against the crowd. With poor leadership, the blind leads the blind, which creates a whirlpool of madness designed to keep us crazed.

Throughout history, a precursor to genocide from regimes that have successfully seized power is an attempt to silence all the non-conformists (artists, scientists, thinkers, etc.). It’s a purge of individuality and freedom in order to lead the masses in the right or “successful” way of thinking, and it can been seen in events such as the Armenian Genocide or Holocaust.

But does acceptance from the majority define success?

Today, it’s easy enough to do by making everyone followers. So if someone says jump, we say “how high?” – it doesn’t necessarily matter how ludicrous the request because people don’t want to miss out. Now there are more powerful ways to incite the masses to make irrational decisions based on fear and emotion. This is the danger of the follower mentality.

If society really wanted you to succeed, it would focus on encouraging individuality and authenticity: individuality defined by self-worth and integrity, not narcissism or personal gain.

The expression “Punk is Dead” holds true. It is the death of being successful in your own right – despite everyone treating you like a failure.

The failure button is the biggest trigger that society has to control one another. It is something to overcome.

Success: How Much Is Enough?

We can easily recognize the 1% dominating our world with their technology, goods and mammoth wealth. Society lauds them as successful for what they have achieved, the money that they make and the power they wield.

However, their success is strictly defined by ego, power and gross obsession with glory. If that’s their idea of success, then they’re actually thriving as failures because too much is never enough.

No amount of money, awards, connections or position is ever big enough. The peak always remains a peak, but instead, these people have an almost insatiable desire to find an even higher peak. But there is no such thing as conquering the highest peak, and if you do, you still cannot and will not ever become G*d.

In their heart of hearts, these people know they can never own or attain everything and will always fear that they are perceived as failures. That’s why the boundaries are continually being pushed to find the higher peak – now we have to go to Mars or conquer another planet; it’s just not enough to rule the earth.

For everyone else, our job is to get on board. This is not a model to follow. A truly successful person respects the peak as their benchmark and teacher, not as something simply to conquer.

Our feelings of failure are created by society’s obsession with success. If society didn’t focus so much on success and how it is defined, we would not struggle with self-doubt or the constant need to avoid feeling like a failure.

Yet, the business of selling unhappiness fuels our economy. Without this pressure, it’s possible that we would excel even greater because we would operate from our true source of creative power and inspiration instead of conforming to standards for success.

How Do I Define Success?

What does success mean to me? It is being clear about who I am. Success is that basic. Being clear with yourself helps you find your bliss and identify your goals. It helps you shine more brightly. You can’t do this when you’re clouded by the demands of others.

Most “successful” people out there are murky as mud. Other than the social popularity, achievements and material possessions holding them together, nothing else truly defines them. Stripped of that, what do they really have? Nothing more than the name their parents gave them. And that is all. No identity to speak of. So they keep piling on mud to maintain their stature, to make their true worth unclear: to hide from that awful feeling of failure.

At the end of the day, if you don’t shine brightly enough, no one will ever know who you truly are. How would your soul know what direction to go when you die? Light attracts light – so if you want to go to the stars, start working on it by being true to yourself. You won’t need a billion bucks to crash and burn to get there.

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