Jun 13, 2011

Snobs, meritocracy and why tragedy is useful

This wonderful 15 minute talk touches on issues that have been occupying my mind for some time: what is success? Are the goals that motivate us are truly ours? Can we really avoid prior assumptions? Alain De Botton examines ideas of success and failure (via swissmiss and Brain pickings).

De Botton mentions a scenario in which we strive to a certain measure of success only to find out (in some cases) that it is not "our success" but a success measure defined by someone else (by our mother, significant others, trends etc.) This could lead to frustration.

The way I look at it, as we are social creatures, by definition we are affected by others: we learn, improve, and also generate ideas and thoughts as a result of our interactions with other individuals in our environment. However, many times, without noticing it, people simply repeat what they heard by others without necessarily filtering it, or providing an original line of thought. 
In my opinion, the best way for us to make sure the goals/thoughts/ideas we have are really ours and not a repetition of others is to metaphorically melt the ready-made input that we received by others, break it up, look at it in a critical way, and then reconstruct it to fit us - pick and chose the concepts that fit our "truth" and synthesize it with our perspective and original ideas. It will ensure that what we are striving for, the success that we believe in, is ours and not just a reflection of others. It is difficult but crucial to generate an individual voice, needs, desires and beliefs in order to make sure that we really OWN our thoughts. If after the reconstruction we end up with the same idea as the one we started with - it means we actually believe in it!


  1. I agree with your words.
    And I loved the TED talk! Thanks for that.

  2. I love Alain de Botton. His book "The Art of Travel" changed my life as a traveler. Great post, Maya.

  3. You make a good point, but how can we best go about deconstructing and analyzing our ideas around success? Are there certain questions we should be asking ourselves or a sample guide you would personally recommend?