Perhaps there’s nothing that fascinates post-modern man more than success. Why this is or how it came to be so is not interesting for us this time – I addressed this question in many posts and podcasts and dedicated a good portion of my book to various aspects of this question.
This will be just a short post dealing with the actual phenomenon itself from a non scientific perspective. Pure observation, no more.
Today, success means money, fame, and position. Not client satisfaction and similar. It’s quite well known that many big brands screw their customers or clients – and not only in the business of finance. Those, who have more money, are better known and in higher positions are considered more successful, those who have less of these, are viewed as less successful.
(In antiquity, on the other hand, when success as we understand it today was only beginning to surface, fame and position was the consequence of factors that are often denied by moderns; a prestigious position was the consequence of inner power and corresponding discipline, fame was the consequence of sacrifice. In other words, for emphasis: the aim was to develop inner power and the guiding principle was individual sacrifice. There were a few exceptions and these were still considered to be unjust anomalies.)
In most industries and geographies, there is more supply than demand: many more players than necessary and healthy. In other words, most players should not be in the business they are. Providence helps them scrape by, most make a living, but they should be doing something else. Everybody knows it, they themselves know it if they only reflect on their situation a little bit.
Nobody knows why certain people are successful in a given field.
There’s no lack of trying finding this out, even in the form of academic research. But nobody knows why they and not others. It is clear that the key is not talent; it’s also not about being good. Often, it’s not even about being in the right place at the right time. Some people start a business late, when the market is already saturated, when their targets are tired of vendors like them, and yet, they quickly become far more successful than others. Not by being innovative, either! By doing everything like everybody else – often even worse. Success, for a long time now, doesn’t equal perfection; or more precisely: modern success doesn’t originate from perfection.
Even the stoic philosophers warned about this when they advised: don’t envy men of influence! Think about what they had to do to get there! They didn’t mean hard work (hard work was not considered to be a virtue) or excellence: they meant voluntarily suffering humiliation!
Why is metaphysics in the title? Because it seems that there’s a supra-rational reason for success.
It’s a little bit like the spider and the fly. When the spider puts the web out there, it will unavoidably catch flies. Nothing and nobody can do this, but spiders: it’s their lot in life, so to speak.
Now the interesting part: what to do?
For some, this question doesn’t make sense. For the flake manager whose only concern is not to lose his or her position, to have good PR, and to maximize the upside, no matter what happens to the company, this question is unintelligible.
For the rest:
- View big brands with skepticism and, whenever possible, go for alternatives.
- Consider the person and his/her views, thinking and behavior: not his/her position and career. If deserved, respect the former, but always be indifferent toward the latter. To be able to do this,
- learn greatness from the ancients, not bigness from the moderns: learn wisdom and taste not from the majority or those who adjust to or address the majority, but from the few (in history) who have always spoken only to the few – especially when it comes to various aspects of the truth (justice, fairness, beauty, etc.); strive for self-control, courage and sacrifice.
I believe that by redefining success along these lines, great impact is possible both in existing organizations and in new ones that you may build from scratch.