In one of the best and most original TED talks I’ve seen in a while, Alain de Botton presents a compelling – and often humorous – analysis of how our definition of success can drive us to despondency. Some interesting tidbits from this talk:
- Our measures of personal success are typically based on our perception of how we stack up to others like me? I don’t compare myself with the Queen of England (and her wealth, lifestyle) because she’s too different from me.
- We’ve increasingly become a meritocracy in which failure is seen as a direct result of our own shortcomings (rather than accounting for random variables like illness or timing).
- The mainstream media compounds the problem with biographies of individuals like Bill Gates who are seemingly “average Joes” who simply applied themselves. If they can, why can’t I? [Note: Malcolm Galdwell’s recent book “Outliers” makes the opposite case: that many recent stories of outstanding success are having the right idea at the right time with the right opportunities.]
During his concluding remarks, Botton challenges the audience to examine how they measure success to see if their criteria are based on societal expectations and if they agree with those standards.
Does this make you rethink your personal definition of success?