Success, Fulfillment and Failure

We crave for success. Wherever we go, people tell us that the most important goal in their life is being successful. Yet, hardly anybody seems to reach the point of satisfaction. We work hard, from paycheck to paycheck, push-up to push-up, song to song, program to program, promotion to promotion, exam to exam. Yet, even when we reach the goal, it seems to move further away from our desired future.


But what is success? Does reaching an arbitrary goal make me happier, more self-fulfilled and socially honored? Will the next peak make my life easier? Will the next promotion bring me more joy even though I have to give up even more of the time I don’t have for dreams I might never pursue because I can’t afford setting time aside? Even if so, my success might differ from your success. Will I succeed?

I think there is a difference between success and fulfillment. Being successful just means that we are good at a particular activity. Fulfillment, on the other hand, is about living purposeful. What does it matter if we see no purpose in our day-to-day tasks? What does it matter if we don’t add value to other people’s lives? Don’t get me wrong, my vision of fulfillment will probably differ from your vision of fulfillment and that is okay. Society and work was socially constructed to let people thrive in their fields of expertise to benefit the greater good and enable our social environment to grow while we ourselves grow with what we are doing. Purposeful work will help us become a fulfilled person and that in itself is more success than arbitrary goals will help us reach. Even though sometimes we need to go through less meaningful work to get to a point where we can add value to our environment.

Maybe we’re in debt trying to get out of a financial prison we put ourselves into. Maybe we have to go through a hard training to gain experience in a job field we want to enter. Maybe we struggle to come up with that one song that will change peoples lives. Maybe it’s the novel we think of every day but as soon as we sit down and stare at the blank page, nothing comes up.

The fallacy of “success” is that we always think of it as a straight way to the top. But, similarly to mountain-climbing, we might need to go back down a little in order to reach higher grounds. We will fail and it will feel unfulfilling. It will make us suffer a bit. Failure is not something to avoid, but to embrace! If you never make a mistake on your learning-journey, how would you know how to react if you suddenly failed? How would you know how to play a part in a piano piece if you can’t tell right from wrong? How would you tell if something you created is gold? You wouldn’t. Failure is the fuel that drives our engines and we as human beings are destined to fail. Problems exist solely to be solved. Try, fail, repeat until you are happy with what you do. However, it won’t stay this way forever. Growth entails going forward. Yet, the direction has still to be determined.

Thumbnail: Vision Dream Task Success ( (CC BY 2.0)


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