Neil on Success Envy

Satya Nadella wishes he had Tim Cook’s hardware business; Tim Cook wishes he had Mark Zuckerberg’s social network; Mark Zuckerberg wishes he had Satya Nadella’s enterprise clients. When the wealthiest people running the most valuable companies in the world are not satisfied with the success they have, what message do they send the rest of the tech industry? Their message is simple, unavoidable, and explicit: you can never have enough success.

When stated as, “No matter how much success you achieve, it will never be enough,” most reasonable people would agree that this must be incorrect. There must surely be a level of success that is “enough,” but why then does it seem that nothing we achieve is ever good enough? One theory is that we are hard-wired to envy the success of others and compare our accomplishments with theirs. When we feel that someone has something better than us, what we have seems to lose value. The tragedy is that when we achieve whatever it was that we desired, we find someone new who has something even better, and the cycle repeats.

Perhaps the problem is how we define “success.” If wealth is the measure of success, and money is the measure of wealth, and money is a numeric value with no upper-bounds, then you can never have enough success. Having enough money to be successful is the unresolvable equation that most people toil their entire lives to solve. The inescapable truth is that the only way to be satisfied with your level of success is not to equate success with money. Defining what you consider success independent of wealth allows you to be successful right now, no matter how much money you have. With this level of control over your future, how then should you choose to define success? That is up to you, but remember that a definition of success that is realistic and enjoyable will bring you more satisfaction than one that is unattainable and unfulfilling.

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