Success: What Is It To You?

Alain De Botton TED TalkIn this TED Talk, Alain de Botton examines our ideas of success and failure — and questions the assumptions underlying these two judgments. Is success always earned? Is failure? He makes an eloquent, witty case to move beyond snobbery to find true pleasure in our work.

How often have you met someone new and in the first few minutes asked (or been asked) “What do you do?”. Your answer (or theirs) is often the factor that decides how long the conversation will last and, if the relationship will flourish.

De Botton believes that we’ve all been sold a lie by the ‘self improvement’ industry, namely that we can all become the next Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs. He says if that were true, the world would be full of such people. If we believe that those who get to the top do so purely on merit, then by definition we also believe that those at the bottom deserve to be there. This doesn’t allow for accident of birth or countless other factors which are beyond an individual’s control.

If we must measure our own success, then let’s make sure that it is our own idea of success, not someone else’s. De Botton says:

“It’s bad enough not getting what you want, but it’s even worse to have an idea of what it is you want and find out at the end of the journey that it isn’t in fact what you wanted all along.’

Alain de Botton: A kinder, gentler philosophy of success

Originally posted on

About jrbsays

Just a regular married father of three type of guy. Writer of Haiku, founder of and other bits and other bobs.
This entry was posted in Philosophy, Ted Talks, Video Post and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to

  1. Gerard says:

    Your way of telling everything in this paragraph is genuinely good, all be capable of simply know it, Thanks a lot.

  2. Priscilla says:

    I constantly spent my half an hour to read this blog’s content daily along with a mug of coffee.

  3. Sainter says:

    Another top post, mate! Sage advice from a master of popular philosphy. What I like about the De Botton method is his ability to reduce complex ideas to simple concepts without diluting the original meaning.

    Unfortunately, in this consumer driven “meritocracy” of ours, I doubt status, competition and ego will ever be transformed into something less socially damaging , though of course we must keep trying to achieve just that. In a way there’s a religiosity to seeking reward from our status, and frankly some religious people I know are rather …”proud” of being saved. Perhaps people with status-friendly jobs feel they’re saved from being a loser? Sad.

    This TED talk seems to be an expansion on his tv series/book: “Status Anxiety”. Here’s a vid of him discussing his thoughts on the subject.

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