a kinder, gentler philosophy of success

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This morning, I came across an update in a Morning Club update, posted by Georgi L, with this TED talk by Alain de Botton on the topic of a gentler philosophy of success .

I found it really insightful and it touches on a few concepts that I’d like to address myself. I encourage you to watch the video and then read my thoughts below.



Envy in the Workplace


At 3:55, Alain brings up the feeling of envy as it applies to careers. Though he speaks from a work standpoint alone, I think this same phenomenon happens frequently in the blog world.

Because we can connect in age and background with many “successful” bloggers online, it is easy to confuse this relatability with the fact that everyone should be able to achieve the same “successful” outcomes. This is what Alain says leads to disappointment or envy.

But Alain’s entire speech proves the “level playing field” idea is actually impossible. By removing the pressure and strain that comes from the thought that we are all the same, we can allow for a variety of outcomes and focus on our own progress.

I also loved his comments on defining success from a personal perspective, which would help overcome this feeling of envy.


The Evolution of Nature


Alain also says (at 11:55) that nature has become more important in our lives, as society stops worshipping things beyond humanity.

And though I intellectually understand that spirituality and religion have diminished over many eras, I personally don’t agree that nature is only a way to escape the current “worship of humans,” as he said.

My personal opinion is that nature is also one of the best places to connect to the Universe/life/spirit/God/truth. So for me, I don’t see nature as simply an escape from traditional worship. I see it as a potential – spiritual – gateway to that which is eternal and larger than ourselves.

In my own spiritual journey this summer, I have found that looking at Lake Michigan has brought more centeredness and peace than any other place in my life. It is there where I can let go of my ego and connect with my intuition the most.

Therefore, though many people do not pursue nature for spiritual reasons, I believe there is a connection to nature for some people in a spiritual context as well.


We Can’t Have it All


At 12:55, Alain also goes on to share that we cannot have it all. We cannot become successful at everything. And he says that “any definition of success has to admit what it is losing out on.”

This is an absolutely liberating fact.

I also fully believe that living intentionally embraces this notion. Intentionality is about selecting to pursue the things that mean the most to us, accepting that there will always be an opportunity cost.

In my career, since graduating and starting my business full-time, I have always sacrificed a secure paycheck and a retirement account. And though I have made a lot of strides since my early days, I still am not at a place to financially dedicate money towards a retirement account. And my ‘market value’ in a corporate job would still pay more than my current salary. Though these two facts may change in the future, I do think it is important to honestly share them to practice this principle of honesty and success.

In my personal life, I have a wonderful apartment that I love which is decorated exactly as I want. But because we live in such a nice area of Chicago in such a large apartment, we are delaying a condo or home purchase. We also decided to elope to Paris last year – another intentional decision that played to our deepest intentions. We don’t have a house or a traditional wedding. We do have the apartment/home we love in our favorite area with wonderfully intimate wedding memories.

Do I consider myself successful by my own definition? Absolutely. But that doesn’t mean that others would risk the same things, nor should they in order to achieve their personal definition of success.


All in all, I really appreciate the points Alain shares as they relate to seeking intentional success in our own lives.

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Tanea

    This is wonderful! I agree with everything you’ve said. The concepts are so simple, yet it’s so easy to let small things get to me (in relation to envy and having it all). I see how understanding these concepts can greatly improve my chances of success. Thanks so much for this!

  2. I get caught up in comparing myself to other people’s success, but when I look closer, I realize I don’t want the same kind of success they achieved.

  3. Merissa

    TED is always great, and I love your comments about the opportunity cost that comes with following intention. Great post!

    1. Thanks, Merissa! I agree, I think we can all infer a lot of times what the opportunity cost might be for some versions of success we see, but we discount it as not meaningful because we want the ‘shiny’ side of success that they have so badly.

      Or, we might not even know that the sacrifice is there, and we just assume that there is never any trade off someone else may have had to make – especially one that we ourselves might never want to make anyways.

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