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The Bullshit Myth of Success


“Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.”

― Albert Einstein


What is success? You hear that word all the time, but what does it mean?

If you listen to some people, success is having a lot of money or a fancy job title. Usually both.

If you’re rich, you’re successful. Poor? Not so much.

Are you famous? Well, then you are successful! Unknown? Better work on becoming successful so everyone can know your name!

Success is also often defined by societal beliefs. Society tells us successful people are better than unsuccessful people. We should all strive for success. Success, success, success!!

I read a lot of articles about self-improvement. A good percentage of these articles discuss how you can achieve success or what successful people do every day. They discuss the habits of people who have made millions and who are famous.

These articles share the belief that all you have to do is follow the same routines of these successful people and you will get everything you’ve ever wanted! The money will start rolling in and you will be happy!

You can even read about the habits of unsuccessful people to learn what not to do. 

All these article push an outdated success myth. 

success myth
Photo by Matt Lamers on Unsplash

These articles also use labels like winners and losers, average and mediocre, ordinary and extraordinary.

Winners are the ones who are successful and make lots and lots of money, take epic vacations, have big houses and expensive cars. Winners care about “being somebody” and always push their ideas of success upon losers and unsuccessful people. And unlike ordinary, mediocre losers, they are extraordinary in every aspect!

Losers are people who are the opposite. According to these articles that push the success myth, losers belong to the “mediocre majority.” These “mediocre majority” apparently do not value learning and fight for “sub-par prizes” with the rest of the losers. They are average.

Losers will also never be “truly successful.” According to some, losers dress bad, have no self-confidence, and even play the lottery. They do mediocre work and stay in mediocrity. They are unsuccessful and will drag you into their loser club if you’re not careful.

But what does mediocre work and remaining in mediocrity mean? Where is the line that catapults you from being mediocre to great? Great to excellent? Are there other adjectives we need to experience in between?

Who defines mediocrity?

I’m guessing the same people who decide whether you are successful or not also decide mediocrity. Seems like a bunch of fun people.

success myth
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

“I can’t give you a sure-fire formula for success, but I can give you a formula for failure: try to please everybody all the time.” 

― Herbert Bayard Swope


Unfortunately, this type of thinking is a large problem within our society. Many believe if others don’t fit the typical definition of success, they are not worthy of our time or respect. This type of thinking pushes the success myth.

While I appreciate the purpose of some of these articles, which, in my belief, is to motivate the reader, the tone is demeaning and derisive. These articles also perpetuate the success myth which teaches that others define what it means to be successful instead of it being defined by each individual.  

We are taught from a young age that being successful equals money, fame, material items, and a fancy job title. We have this one size fits all mentality of success and happiness. One brings the other. Happiness does not come without success! Whatever successful means by their standard anyway.

Let’s be honest though, all these articles are bullshit myths designed to label people. It allows people to look down on others and prop themselves up on a pedestal. By calling someone a loser or mediocre, you become someone who feels they are better than everyone else.

Your idea of success defines everyone else’s, and your success myth is pushed everywhere. 

But nothing could be further from the truth.

success myth
Photo by Josh Felise on Unsplash

Because success is not defined by another person or by society. 

It is not defined by how much money you have or make, how big your house is, your job title or by how many social media followers you have. It is not defined by mediocrity or any other adjective.

The meaning of success is different for each person and can only be defined by that person. It is an individual concept. I cannot define it for someone else. I define it for ME and no one else.

I’m not rich, I don’t have a fancy job title, and am nowhere close to being famous. Yet, I don’t care. No one but me defines my success.

I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time. I’m in better shape in my mid 40’s than I’ve ever been. I have two wonderful kids and I am finally pursuing what I want career-wise. I am in a great relationship and am trying to become a better person every day. 

Those are successes for me and only me. I don’t fit other people’s definition of success and I am completely happy with it.

The good thing about all this is you get to make up the rules of success for yourself. You get to define what that looks like. No one but you can decide your worth or status.

Am I successful by other people’s definition? Probably not.

Is this article mediocre according to others? Probably.

That’s fine with me. I’ll stay being unsuccessful, mediocre, and be content with my sub-par prizes.

Because I’m happy where I’m at.


Originally published on Medium on 01/21/18 and on this blog in 2017.

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2 Comments

  1. regrets of life regrets of life

    Hello Jeff,
    I strongly agree with you. According to me, success is the achievement of the goals and dreams that satisfy your inner self.
    As I see yourself satisfied with your life that’s your success; so I think you’re successful.
    And as I have read other’s stories of successful people like Lewis Howes, Tony Robbins, Les Brown, Stephen Covey, no one is believing in money anymore.
    They only talk about mental satisfaction. That’s the real accomplishment as you have accomplished in your life.

    Regards,
    Junaid Raza

    • jeffthewriter jeffthewriter

      That’s exactly it. I love what you wrote about satisfying your inner self. That is what is most important and I don’t think you can be happy if your inner self is not whole. Thanks for the comment and taking the time to read my article. I really appreciate it.

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