Uncertain Success

Wikipedia defines success here:


Success may mean, but is not limited to:


This definition seems like the entry level version of success and is pretty easy to cheat.  Since there’s no definition of maximum possible success, then I’m going to interpret one of my own.  

Consider this Maximum Possible Success:

  • A lifetime achievement of objective/goal
  • Achieving highest social status
  • Exceeding all other personal successes
  • Exceeding unparalleled successes of objective/goal by others with the same objective/goals

How does a person achieve Maximum Possible Success?  

What are the prerequisites to this epic achievement?  

I’ve become convinced that there are some vital ingredients (based from Gladwell and lesswrong.com):

  1. Passion / Confidence
    • You must be willing to drop everything else in life besides obtaining this goal.  
    • You must be among the best possible persons for the task.  
    • You must persevere in the face of all adversity
  2. Time (Youth) – You must start as early as possible. 
  3. Health – You must have enough energy to accomplish your goals
  4. Luck (External factors beyond your control) – You had better be luckier than everyone else.

Why do I define success in this way?  Why does society reinforce this image of success?

In some sense, there is a sadness and lonliness that comes with achieving this great success.  The lonliness comes, perhaps, as a byproduct of the labors involved and from being mentally unable to identify with the norm.  If a person’s greatest accomplishment in personal and societal life is to have his whole being serve a singluar purpose, does that not make him a tool?  Why does society value the dehumanization of “great” persons?

There seems to be a inevitable slant, perhaps a psychological inclination, to glamorize success and ignore failure.  In a single human mind, doing so is a defensive mechanism.  The media, the hive mind, society, some collective of many human minds, are all just human minds and they react no differently than any other “unqualified” individual.  I see our definition of success has been refined and reinforced in an infinite loop between the individual and the collective.

Confucious said:

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.


The Collective dictates:

A job you love may not provide you with an adequate income.


Why is the collective given so much power to dictate inevitable unhappiness?

Contemplating Taxes

While I am a taxpayer, it appears perfectly reasonable that my contribution back to society deserves in return my choice on where the money goes.  However, if every taxpayer were to choose where their money goes, can it be assumed that the choices would sum up to benefit the greater good?  Let’s assume that there is a pure democracy where every individual is equal and receives a single vote.  Let’s also assume that the intelligence and number of the population is like that of the current United States.  If I subscribe to the assumption that individuals are selfish by nature, then the largest group of a selfish type will win the biggest rewards.  Since we live in something far removed from a pure democracy, something that is more like a bureaucracy and business influenced by many factors beyond its constituents, an individual is not freely empowered to determine where his contribution goes. 

It appears that empowerment to voice an opinion, or specifically where tax money flows in this case, is not determined by the number of votes and is certainly not free.  Luckily, a very wealthy individual, group of individuals, or a faceless entity like the corporation, can spend money to voice their opinion.  Anyone who benefits from this lobbying, whether by working for a corporation or being part of a union, becomes unwittingly complicit in a scheme that creates a disadvantage for everyone else. 

As an individual who benefits from a system that allows lobbying, and therefore already gives me an unfair advantage, do I have a legitimate moral high ground to criticize where my money flows? 

Is there such a thing as moral high ground?


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