The True Meaning of Success


Written by Steve Rose

Steve Rose, PhD, is an addiction counsellor and former academic researcher, committed to conveying complex topics in simple language.

On the go? Listen to the audio version of the article here:

What does success really mean?

The media bombards us with messages that success means having money, power, privilege, or beauty.

Our parents have another idea of what success means, pushing for job security, financial stability, and raising well-adjusted children.

Success means something different for everyone, so what is the true meaning of success?

It means living in alignment with your personal definition of success by staying true to your values and taking meaningful actions toward your own valued goals.

In this article, I dive into the science and philosophy of what success really means and how it affects your level of satisfaction in life.

The Meaning of Success in Modern Society 

“I want the money, money and the cars, cars and the clothes… I just wanna be successful.

Trey Songz – Successful

When it comes down to it, “the good life” actually means a life of happiness. But where does happiness come from?

Media definition of success tells us it can be found in material possessions, status, and a life filled with luxury. But as many of us already know, these things can bring pleasure, but this version of happiness is like a bottomless pit, needing to be fueled by ever more stimulus to sustain it, eventually making us miserable.

A report by the Association for Psychological Science confirms this, finding:

“Simply having a bunch of things is not the key to happiness…[.] Our data show that you also need to appreciate those things you have. It’s also important to keep your desire for things you don’t own in check.”

But why do we continue to desire the infinite? Can we ever fill the void?

The answer is no.

Just like someone self-medicating with drugs or addictive behaviors, there is never enough.

Part of the desire for material possessions is the desire for acceptance from others. When the need for acceptance is unmet and we do not accept ourselves, we give up our own version of success for society’s definition.

Chuck Palahniuk says it best in Fight Club:

“The things you own end up owning you.”

Even though you may still feel like you’re in the driver seat of your life, you know deep down that you’re driving down the wrong road.

As the sense of resentment grows, the morphine drip of material comforts, social status, and security numbs this nagging feeling. As stated in Fight Club:

“We buy things we don’t need, to impress people we don’t like.”

Affluent society masks its hypocrisy with a veneer of politeness and good manners. Symbols of material success become symbols of moral success, disguising the state of moral lack. As William James said:

“The moral flabbiness born of the exclusive worship of the bitch-goddess SUCCESS. That – with the squalid cash interpretation put on the word ‘success’ – is our national disease.”

This false image of success keeps us always looking for more.

Bigger, better, smarter, faster, stronger, more attention, more stuff! The more we get, the more we want.

Émile Durkheim characterizes this state of moral flabbiness in the following way:

“Unlimited desires are insatiable by definition and insatiability is rightly considered a sign of morbidity. Being unlimited, they constantly and infinitely surpass the means at their command; they cannot be quenched. Inextinguishable thirst is constantly renewed torture.”

Drinking from the seductive cup of material success will only make you thirstier.

This classic sociological wisdom is backed by contemporary science. In a 2016 article on income and happiness, the author’s state find that happiness does increase as income rises, but gains diminish after a household income of  $80,000 a year. These gains reach zero at $200,000 a year.

Therefore, having a reasonable level of financial security reduces negative emotions, but the pursuit of infinite wealth does not contribute to happiness.

This finding has also been replicated on a broader level, looking at the correlation between a countries wealth and the happiness of its citizens. In this 2010 article, the authors state:

“…over the long-term, usually a period of 10 years or more, happiness does not increase as a country’s income rises.”

Similar to the previous study, happiness does decline in a state of economic contraction, likely due to a sense of financial insecurity. But in the long term, the pursuit of infinite wealth does not increase a countries happiness.

Let’s now turn to lessons from classic literature.

In The Death of Ivan Ilych, Leo Tolstoy gives a tragic account of a man who wasted his whole life conforming to an empty social norm. On his deathbed, Ivan Illych comes to question the whole of his life. Had he been merely going through the prescribed motions? In the society depicted, success comes at the cost of meaningful human relations.

As stated by Psychologist Mark Freeman in his 1997 publication in Cambridge Journal’s Ageing & Society:

“Tolstoy’s book is about many things: the tyranny of bourgeois niceties, the terrible weak spots of the human heart, the primacy and elision of death. But more than anything, I would offer, it is about the consequences of living without meaning, that is, without a true and abiding connection to one’s life.

A true and abiding connection to one’s life means living beyond the superficial success game.

Psychological science also backs this up.

In The Harvard Grant Study, the researchers studied the same group of men for nearly 80 years, trying to uncover what leads to a happier life, finding:

“Close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives, the study revealed. Those ties protect people from life’s discontents, help to delay mental and physical decline, and are better predictors of long and happy lives than social class, IQ, or even genes.”

Veterans returning from deployment know this better than anyone else.

Upon returning from a world where every decision means the difference between life and death, they are quick to diagnose our society’s individualism.

As one Canadian veteran I interviewed states:

“It’s hard to care about things you should care about in civilian life.”

Another states:

“There was just an overwhelming sense that nothing mattered”

Bryan Wood, a U.S veteran, mirrors this sentiment in his memoir, Unspoken Abandonment. After witnessing the profound tragedy of war, his sense of what mattered in life was uprooted. Referring to the conversations of co-workers he states:

“I couldn’t believe the kind of silly bullshit these people thought mattered in life. I couldn’t believe I once thought these same things were important.”

Another states:

“You’re used to doing things that mattered, and suddenly your life is simply digesting bullshit and consuming instead”

Consumer culture leads us away from the true and abiding connection to one’s life that comes with following our own definition of success.

To learn more about how my research on veterans informs my understanding of success in civilian life, you can check out my article, 6 Things Veterans Can Teach Us About Life.

A Deeper Understanding of Success

Ambition makes you look pretty ugly


Imagine you are at a funeral.

A close friend of the deceased steps up to the pulpit and proceeds with the following eulogy:

He was a hard worker… highly organized and independent, a skilled communicator who could work well with others, detail-oriented, and was able to work efficiently in a fast-paced environment.

He was a wise man, never received a grade lower than an A-, balanced a full course-load with extracurricular activities, and maintained a full scholarship throughout college.

He was a loving man. He loved the sweet taste of victory every time he closed a deal.

He was a committed man. He was always committed to the bottom line and he could consistently increase profits by 30% each quarter.

You would be startled by this friend who completely neglected the things that actually matter.

Rather than a eulogy, it would look as if the friend were speaking on behalf of the deceased for a postmortem job interview.

But if these things don’t actually matter, why do we spend the majority of our time focused on building these resume virtues while neglecting the eulogy virtues?

In The Road to Character, David Brooks illustrates how we are living in an age increasingly dominated by the resume virtues. He argues that our increased focus on building our resumes has distracted us from deeper virtues.

These deeper virtues include a deep and abiding philosophy of life, the ability to love compassionately, and the ability to commit oneself to the discipline of service to a larger moral cause.

So what’s wrong with ambition and the desire to get ahead?

Nothing is wrong with having ambitions; the problem is having an unbalanced level of ambition associated with the resume virtues, while completely neglecting the eulogy virtues.

Consider a person who goes to professional conferences for the sole purpose of building their resume and promoting their personal brand.

They pass from person to person, handing out their business card, trying to weasel into conversions with prestigious figures. They operate on an autopilot “what can I get” mentality, spamming everyone who is deemed useful.

A thin veneer of self-importance masks their inner-fragility, but no one is fooled. Like Radiohead said in Paranoid Android, Ambition makes you look pretty ugly.

As a lecturer in sociology at Eastern Michigan University, I have seen this resume-focused culture among students who feel crushed by the pressure to constantly perform to the point where anything lower than an A seems like a failing grade.

Many students have come to view their education as an obstacle to overcome so they can look impressive on paper in order to attain high paying jobs. But this is not necessarily their fault. The impersonal bureaucratized education system uses GPAs and standardized tests to sort through a large number of applicants.

This system produces grade-obsession, overshadowing self-cultivation, and character development. Simply memorizing a set of factual bullet-points for the exam has become the main goal for many students. This type of ambition is neither in the best interest of students or the broader society.

The real world does not want someone who simply knows a lot of facts; we have Google for that. The real world wants people who understand how to use knowledge to solve problems.

In order to solve the world’s problems, we need people who are self-aware, emotionally intelligent, and have a disciplined sense of commitment to serving a larger cause.

These are the characteristics associated with the eulogy virtues. These are the characteristics that will save us from ugliness.

Aristotle gave us a version of the good life that is not only sustainable, but it also promotes true happiness.

His first principle is that all things aim at “the good”. Like archers directing an arrow toward a target, “the good” is the ultimate target of our actions. The problem is that this ultimate aim is often interrupted.

As Jean Vanier states in Made for Happiness: Discovering the Meaning of Life with Aristotle:

Today, as always, many people are not interested in the target, that is to say, the ultimate end of their actions. They are prompted by what everyone wants — as if their family, society, and the media were determining their development. Of course they want success, pleasure, recognition, but without really knowing why. They are caught up in short-term projects that prevent them from thinking about the purpose and meaning of human life.

Aristotle tells us that the key to redirecting our life toward “the good” is to use our reason to direct our passions and chaotic desires toward virtue. Jean Vanier gives the following metaphor of reason taking the reins of the passions:

Like runaway, riderless horses, they await direction. Man’s proper task is to take hold of the reins and guide them, to orient these desires, with all their fulminating energy, towards the sought-after end.

The problem is that this is far easier said than done.

How to Build a Better Version of Success

If you are addicted to the socially construed definition of success, it is not easy to simply suppress your deep emotional attachments to this way of life.

Our minds are driven by our emotions.

Contemporary moral psychologist, Jonathan Haidt, empirically demonstrates that David Hume’s passion-driven conception of human reason is more in line with reality.

Rather than a rider taking the reigns of a horse, Haidt says reason is more like a rider on an elephant.

Although reason can nudge us in a specific direction, the emotions, represented by the elephant, overwhelmingly drive our behavior. Since reason is not sovereign, this idea flips Aristotle’s method of virtuous self-development on his head, forcing us to train our emotions rather than our reason.

How does one go about training their emotions?

In the case of psychological disorders, emotion-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy or present-centered breathing techniques may be beneficial.

But beyond the case of psychological disorders, a morally virtuous character is not built from within. Rather, the virtuous character is built between the individual and society.

In The Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt gives two possible methods of facilitating this type of interaction:

What is the meaning of life? The question is unanswerable in that form, but with a slight rephrasing we can answer it. Part of the answer is to tie yourself down, commit yourself to people and projects, and enter a state of “vital engagement” with them. The other part is to attain a state of “cross-level coherence” within yourself, and within your life. Religion is an evolved mechanism for satisfying these needs. We can find meaning and happiness without religion, but we must understand our evolved religious nature before we can find effective substitutes.

So to recap, the archer whose target is “the good life” is not merely distracted by emotions, but driven by them.

Training the emotional elephant can take the form of individual therapy, but must take the form of vital social engagement to build a virtuous character.

Developing this character is its own reward, producing happiness throughout the process. Therefore, happiness is not to be confused with”the good life”.

If “the good life” is the target, happiness is the vehicle by which one works toward it. Happiness is facilitated by social forces that promote moral commitment such as work and community life.

Johnathen Haidt also raises the important question of how a diverse society can promote a common morality:

Is virtue its own reward? Yes, but in the modern West we’ve lost the ability to grow most virtues in good soil, and we’ve reduced virtue to just being nice. Where did we go wrong, and how can we forge a common morality in a diverse society?

Fundamentally, man’s desire toward “the good life” is the desire to have a common purpose found in community.

Individualistic social contexts have a tendency to leave this desire unfulfilled. This results in the pursuit of status, encouraged by the success ideolog, as highlighted at the beginning of this post.

Luxurious lifestyles and status symbols can give us the thrill of temporary pleasure, but it is ultimately a bottomless pit, always demanding more.

True happiness comes from a life of virtue, nourished by a moral social context that provides purpose and direction, promoting our lives together.

For a deeper look at the meaning of purpose, you can check out my article, What Does it Mean to Have a Purpose.

How A Company is Redefining Success

“We asked ourselves what we wanted this company to stand for. We didn’t want to just sell shoes. I wasn’t even into shoes – but I was passionate about customer service.”

Tony Hsieh

It is no secret that the key to Zappos’ success is its unique company culture. The turning point occurred when founder Tony Hsieh changed their guiding principle from profits to service.

In Delivering Happiness, Tony outlines his insights into company culture throughout his entrepreneurial career. Taking insights from the field of positive psychology and applying it to his organizational setting, Tony has been able to create a cult-like environment that inspires individuals through service.

Although the concept of service has its roots in the religious-life of ritual, the sociologist Émile Durkheim argued that occupational groups would take over this function in the modern era. But as we have seen in the development of corporate America, this is often not the case.

Decidedly breaking from the culture of greed as a motivator, Zappos has created a cult of service. Inspiring rather than motivating has been Tony’s goal.

But how does service inspire individuals, making them happier? The answer is the meaning and sense of purpose that comes with service to a cause outside of ourselves.

At Zappos, achieving happiness comes from delivering happiness. The culture of service Tony has been able to achieve inspires employees by giving them a sense of purpose outside themselves. This is supported throughout the workplace structure at Zappos.

A prime example of how Zappos is redefining success is the lack of time-restrictions on customer service phone calls and a large amount of staff allotted to this position. This allows employees to focus on serving the customer, rather than call-time efficiency. Tony actually reported that their record call-time was seven and a half hours with a customer!

The foundation of Zappos’ company culture centers on its core values. These are the guiding principals that support a positive environment where individuals gain a sense of comradery rather than a sense of competition.

Unlike most organizations, their core values are actually relevant, meaningful, and drawn upon to determine who is hired and fired. This means that individuals who are highly qualified will not be hired or retained if they are not in line with the core values.

Instead of assuming individuals are motivated by an endless pursuit of wealth, Zappos focuses its resources on building a workplace that fosters positive relations and provides a structure that allows employees to serve.

Check out the Zappos Family Culture Book, for first-hand accounts of the powerful workplace culture at Zappos.


True success means staying true to a deeper sense of purpose, despite deviating from a superficial social norm.

It means finding joy in suffering. It means having the courage to peruse one’s own journey when confronted by the fear of uncertainty.

In a world characterized by rapidly growing uncertainty, we can try to seek solace in the empty promise of conventional success, or we can choose our own path.

Although it is our own path, we need to be aware of how this path connects us to a cause or community beyond ourselves.

Living in aliment with our core values allows us to genuinely connect with others rather than trying to gain a false sense of acceptance through status.

Hopefully, this article has helped clarify the true meaning of success.

If you are interested in learning more about this topic, you can check out my articles on Identity, Purpose, and Belonging.

Fascinated by ideas? Check out my podcast:

Struggling with an addiction?

If you’re struggling with an addiction, it can be difficult to stop. Gaining short-term relief, at a long-term cost, you may start to wonder if it’s even worth it anymore. If you’re looking to make some changes, feel free to reach out. I offer individual addiction counselling to clients in the US and Canada. If you’re interested in learning more, you can send me a message here.

Other Mental Health Resources

If you are struggling with other mental health issues or are looking for a specialist near you, use the Psychology Today therapist directory here to find a practitioner who specializes in your area of concern.

If you require a lower-cost option, you can check out It is one of the most flexible forms of online counseling. Their main benefit is lower costs, high accessibility through their mobile app, and the ability to switch counselors quickly and easily, until you find the right fit.

*As an affiliate partner with Better Help, I receive a referral fee if you purchase products or services through the links provided.

As always, it is important to be critical when seeking help, since the quality of counselors are not consistent. If you are not feeling supported, it may be helpful to seek out another practitioner. I wrote an article on things to consider here.

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  1. taurusingemini

    By giving up our values and giving in, to the demands of what the society want us to be, we would lose sight of who we are, and we’d have to spend a lot more time, trying to establish who we are back, and so, I believe, it would be more important, to figure ourselves out first, before we try and become whichever roles the society expects us to take up, I believe, that the “self” is more important in this case.

    • carolineturriff

      I so agree with this article on the dangers of a consumerist society and the pursuit of conventional success. I think success is doing what you love and getting paid for it, or even not getting paid for it but somehow creating the space to do what you love. Consumerism is like a disease that makes people perpetually dissatisfied with what they have, always wanting something new, seeking change. Whereas the essence of happiness is being content with what you do have.

      • taurusingemini

        You have the right values on what success means to you. and, i agree with you, that the essence of happiness is being content with what you have, but, we’re all, trapped by the pursuit of more materials, that we lose sight of what is really imporant, our inner cores!

  2. Sonny R.

    True success can be achieved through ‘Interdependence’ according to Stephen Covey as I read the book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’. Society is just one aspect of the many things that defines our so-called ‘Success’. When we try to be principle-oriented people, we know that we’re successful and effective at the same time.

  3. pecsbowen

    The other morning I was flying back to Bombay. Once the descent starts to Bombay you can see mountains, the ocean and the top of civilization among the previous two. Two thoughts struck me while I sat thinking in pure sunlight looking at the minuscule existence of mankind. The second thought was – here I am miles away from everything I know – lives, thoughts, norms, clothes, food, friends, stress, depression, happiness, how does any of it matter, one just needs to distance oneself from everything one knows to see the in-consequence of trivialities. And because nothing matters, everything can, you can choose your bigger picture.

  4. Johnathan

    Excellent blog. Thank you.

  5. 1thousandlittlethings

    Love it! All of it! Such great insight. I feel this every day working in Corporate America and feel like no one else sees or feels the same things when I try to talk about it. Thanks for your words.

  6. Stephanie Wilkins

    Although, I do agree with your article that success and the norm of society can be draining, what if individuals in society see their personal view of success as living off of those who do work hard in order to enjoy their life? Because of the depravity of man, there has always been law to convict the heart of evil and without a source of truth to follow,not all men and women will be as thoughtful and concerned with others, in their pursuit, as some are. So, universally we need the structure of society to support the infrastructure that would fall apart without it. Marx societies are full of hurting individuals who wish they had opportunity. I can only speak for Christianity, but you are right, hypocrisy does infilter many places of worship. We do have to remember though that the imperfect state of humanity never goes away under the authority of God. People are still people and will act as humans do…imperfect. Christians are changed by grace, not good works, but as a Christian the law of God is now written the heart and so instead of pursuing righteousness for the sake of being right, christians who truly love Jesus do it out of a love for Him and seek to become like Him. It’s a process of sanctification until the end of life. We don’t get it right all the time, and we are thankful for the grace of God each and every day.
    The truth that Christianity teaches is what sets us apart as a nation, it’s what our laws used to be based on, and it’s what makes us value the freedom that you speak of, but as a Christian, with truth in the
    heart, we know that with freedom comes responsibity. Without truth we are left with no boundaries. Even those who haven’t accepted the truth of Christ live by it in many places in the world because it is the difference between good and evil and we are created to recognize it. Until a person finds acceptance and love through a relationship with his creator, he will search and go his or her own way. Sometimes that’s trying to do good for others and sometimes it’s being selfish. How do we even define what is good and what is selfish without truth.? That’s why a communist society that Marx speaks of has never worked. Without God’s truth, mans heart of evil, defined by God’s truth, destroys everything he or she tries to create.
    I want you to know that I enjoy reading your articles so much. They make you think. Your intelligence is remarkable and it’s refreshing and unlike most of what I come in contact with as a blogger myself. Thank you!

    • egonza2018

      Stephanie, I read your analysis as a result of skimming its length, and I must say I had not thought about the perspective you offered. You have a point in how do we as humans determine our pursuits in ways that do no infringe upon others’ pursuits, happiness, and serenity. Your argument made me think about Nietzche’s works and my understanding of his argument in that there is no truth. Right and wrong and morality and ethics exist on a sliding scale based upon each individual’s perspective, experiences, and many other factors unique to the person. I applaud you for sharing your thoughts to this enlightening article and causing me to think deeper on the subject.

  7. Rosaliene Bacchus

    “Consumer culture leads us away from the true and abiding connection to one’s life that comes with following our own path toward fulfillment.”
    ~ Excellent article! Thanks for sharing your insights.
    ~ In the face of America’s consumer culture of success, I have had to embrace humility in being viewed as a failure in order to follow my own path toward fulfillment.

  8. Steve Diamond

    Two thoughts on this great article:
    1) So-called success can be the smallest amount of progress toward the smallest goal that has nothing to do with a tangible “thing,” i.e., treating one’s child more openly and kindlly ;
    2) I love drawing the distinction between ‘success’ and ‘fulfillment.’ While the two are hopefully not mutually exclusive, if forced to choose I will take fulfillment any day, thank you very much.

  9. Advanced Research Technology

    Interestingly, I rarely ever comment on a post unless I feel passionate about the subject matter. In this case I wholeheartedly agree. Success bears emptiness if it is emptiness. Then by extension, success must hang on the deeper elements of the soul in order to be truly achieved.

  10. Megan

    Love this post! I have said many times that I’d rather be rich in time than rich in money. I guess that’s my deviation from the social norm. I don’t want to work 60 hours a week for big wealth. I’d rather have the time to actually LIVE my life.

  11. benmorais

    There are nuggets of wisdom here Steve. Congrats on articulating those ideas so brilliantly.
    It does take courage to really think out of the box.

  12. theworldaccordingtocurran

    Definitely more accessible than Baudrillard, and not quite as bleak, but… realistic? I ask, because western ideals of “success” – according to Baudrillard, have been carefully constructed so that our closest references to the fulfillment you posit, will only point us toward another material symbol of that fulfillment until we buy in or die. Do you think that our perceptions of “success” are our own, or are they inherited from our “closest references” to the past (ancestors?) If our definition of “success” is, as I believe, inherited, the task of perceiving “true” fulfillment would be like listening to an echo of an echo of an echo of, yet another echo, of a secret, whispered in the ear of an ancestor that lived five hundred years ago, far far away from western shores. Would we even know what fulfillment is supposed to look or feel like- let alone, how to attain it? Maybe we’re all just thinking too hard, and should stop; and devote all of our remaining energy to saving enough money to take our families to Disneyland! Seriously…great article, I look forward to reading the next!

  13. nice2beme

    Interesting to read, thank you for sharing! Sometimes we have to point on the smaller things which are important for us.

  14. katharineotto

    Get older. You’ll feel better. You will have the success of having outlived most of the naysayers who didn’t travel when they were younger. I have always gone my own way, much to the chagrin of those who would manipulate me with conditional approval. However, I’m the only person I have to sleep with, and I sleep very well.

  15. miriam2265

    I think that when success is guided by the person’s true path it can be profound but when success is merely a blast of what society expects or wants us to do then it is cold, artificial and unrewarding. I believe that success should be the path to enlightenment.

  16. brianbalke

    Steve, you do such a wonderful job here of connecting lessons from the veteran’s struggle to re-assimilate with the broader problem of self-fulfilment. I hope that those that you serve read this and understand that they are still fighting a very important battle for us – the battle of being witness to our own disconnection.

  17. Alison

    “He who is developed far beyond the level possible to the bourgeois, he who knows the bliss of meditation no less than the gloomy joys of hatred and self-hatred, he who despises law, virtue and common sense, is nevertheless captive to the bourgeoisie and cannot escape it.” (Hesse) Kind of a pretentious one, but the Freeman quote reminded me of this book.
    How does one escape the world of the bourgeoisie? It feels like more than the “fear of uncertainty” to me- society won’t allow us to exist unless we pander to its rules & ideals. The more time we are devoting to mindless/unimportant work (that some people have to do in order to survive, of no choice of their own), the less time we have to think about things that would allow us to find meaning/choose our own paths. Even the stress and worry of going through college, working, & etc leaves me feeling like i am unable to devote my time to any of the things I think matter.

  18. romanho

    Powerful words to think about!
    well done.

  19. Nicole Martin

    ‘The more you have, the more you want.’ -and so it continues- this self-fulfilling prophecy. Is this the way of the Western World? Is it a Western disease, or a global one? My husband AND mother were raised in Africa. Both of them are avid ‘non-consumers’ . My husband’s favourite saying is “Why do I need a new one when this one still works?”-Are we victims of Western Societal ideals?
    Informative post once again. Certainly provided food for thought,

  20. A Peek Within

    But isn’t the choice between what we want, what we need and what we get for free from society, the fun part of living. Sometimes we make do and sometimes we get to bask in the glory of our achievements! 😀

  21. pamelascanepa

    Quite an enjoyable and striking read. It is all too true. I appreciate the references you used, and now I am interested in reading Unspoken Abandonment, which I had never heard of until now!

  22. Ameeta Davis

    Success is not related directly to others it is measure of how closely you live your life to your own core desire. Your self’s desire. For instance you felt passionately about your subject, researched it well and then out it out there. That was your success – the fact that we are applauding you is nether here or there. You are a success because you are true. Monetary terms and praise do not make success.

    • musinglyme

      Agree completely with your comment. If we allow our ‘success’ to be dependent upon others validation, then it is no longer ours. Yes, it is important and satisfying to have ‘it’ be acknowledged, but it can also breed a sense of insecurity within us if it does not come from a place of ‘truth’ and authenticity.

      • Ameeta Davis

        Exactly – sometimes your audience claps early before you get to your punchline, thus throwing you off your real success.

  23. Ameeta Davis

    Sorry sent it out there not out it out there,

  24. Anonymous

    Wow from the responses you hit a nerve with this topic of defining success! I love a couple of things here that ring true or with me
    The idea of working jobs in neat places with adequate pay to experience new or unknown undiscovered place . I would really enjoy that
    I love the reference to what is important as is seen thru the eyes of veterans Unspoken Abandonment
    This is a phrase I will use in the future bc I think it is relevant in more than one context
    In this context what could be more relevant than someone who has lost the ability to compete or fit in as one of the status quo. You are so right tangible things give pleasure but it is fleeting
    Sometimes I think I would like to not fit in and not care.
    The whole of this message resounds with me hugely!

  25. D'Dream

    No wonder the righteous master said: seek ye the kingdom of God and all other things will be added. Aside the spiritual benefit I think it create a sense of serenity of soul to really focus on things that matter to us and thus we could define what success means to us as a person.

  26. egonza2018

    Absolutely brilliant! Your analysis flows seamlessly, and I thank you for writing it wholeheartedly. There is much to take away and much to discuss. I will limit my comments to the following in that I thoroughly enjoyed your use of outside and diverse references such as the sociologist Durkheim, the author Tolstoy, and direct statements from veterans to relay a succinct message. I believe in that your sense of justice, protest, and compassion comes through in your writing. A change must occur in order to reach our fullest potential as individuals and members of society. I agree in that at the end of the day choice and free will are in every person’s hands. To choose meaning, purpose, and significance as championing notions on how to live a good life- a fulfilled life is where we must trail blaze.

    • steveroseblog

      Thank you for this wonderful comment! I’m glad you enjoyed this post.

  27. Yonason Goldson

    Your observations about consumerism and success are spot on. (I’ve written a book built on much the same premise.)
    But don’t paint with too broad a brush. As Stephanie said above, religions have been distorted to justify great evil in the name of God, but that does not discredit the institution of religion, which ultimately is the source of all meaningful definitions of morality, and which provides the structure that gives us the guidelines and the strength to live moral lives. The convergence of atheistic society with amoral self-indulgence is evident everywhere you look.
    BTW, “the more you have, the more you want” is from the Talmud.

  28. ultragoldenlove

    hey steve–i just wanted to thank you for following my blog. i really like reading your posts–what classes do you teach at EMU?

    • steveroseblog

      Thank you! Glad you have been enjoying the posts. I currently teach Intro to Sociology and Sociology of Religion.



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