Having success in life or being successful at life? The question made me smile when I recently saw it on a Parisian newsstand as an ad for a French magazine.
I smiled because I understand, feel and live on a daily basis the antinomy of the two alternatives of the option.
The two questions are totally different, even though their divergence turns around the same word “success”.
They are sometimes even completely contradictory, because they absolutely do not concern the same areas of life and these can even collide.
Having success in life supposes a strong anchoring in materiality. Having success in life means putting your ambitions in your ego, in the world of money and social posture. The great thing about having success in life is that it offers means to consume things, experiences – in short, to do things, whether they are interesting or not, depending on each person. The downside of having success in life is that you often remain chained to low materiality and the world of appearances.
Being successful at life requires a totally different perspective. Being successful at life presupposes letting go of the ego, going towards the human side of life, fairness, perhaps transcendence, and no longer being chained by materiality and the world of the permanent spectacle. The upside of being successful at life lies in a deep fulfillment most of the time. The downside of being successful at life is that your field of material possibilities may sometimes be reduced, due to a lack of resources.
I may sound judgmental when it is not: having success in life or being successful at life will depend on the starting point and the personal path of each person. For instance, some people will only aspire to peace after a chaotic childhood, and that will be a success in itself. This peace may seem bleak to other people who will have grown up in a stable and loving environment, and they will carry their ambitions elsewhere.
The most important thing is, in my humble opinion, to know who we are, where we come from, and above all, why we do what we do (I can hear my daughter laughing at this and telling me that the ineluctable question “Her question was: why?” will be inscribed on my grave).
The most important thing is to never compare and understand where one is starting from and where one wants to go.
Being successful at life presupposes, I believe, fulfillment, harmony or a sort of music that comes from within and no longer depends on external and material elements.
It’s quite depressing to note that success these days must be a financial success: one will only be successful if his/her/their accomplishments have a financial justification. But what about all these big and small successes that one accomplishes every day with no financial value, no price? Does this mean that they are worthless? I don’t believe so.
Once one understands that the system we all live in is a tad perverted (capitalism, indeed – but I have no better offer at the moment) and assigns a monetary value to the actions of each person, one can take a step back and perhaps, in everyday life, see things and people differently. Of course, a distinction must be made between the situations chosen and those which are endured. But at the end of the day, one may now realize that the prevailing system of values is precisely devoid of values.
These cashiers, these garbage collectors, these truck drivers, these caregivers on whose shoulders a society lived while confined, shouldn’t they be seen differently now? Is their value correlated with their wages? I don’t think so.
These women, who suffer from the mental load and provide an invisible and unpaid work at home, who allow their male partners to develop their careers and see their own work recognized, valued and monetarily rewarded, shouldn’t they be seen differently now? Does their value correlate with their lack of pay? I still don’t think so.
And in a totally different register: myself (because the question has tormented me for several years), whose Instagram page peaks at almost 200,000 followers to date and who refuse to monetize this digital life: does it mean that I have not succeeded? I don’t think so either. Myself again as a business lawyer now, to whom a fee amounting to 2 MEUR were proposed to create a legal structure allowing (without saying so) to launder Russian money – and who refused because it contravened my principles – does it mean that I have not succeeded? I don’t think so.
Being successful at life means being able to look at yourself in the mirror in a lucid way every single day and to say to yourself that you tried the best with your ability and tools and knowledge at that time, in your very truth and integrity.
Being successful at life should never be correlated with a price, but rather with the value of the act considered as such. Ideally, one should be able to achieve success in all aspects of life, both personal and professional, without implying a shady compromise or a price applied by a capitalist society. Accepting to see life or people around us differently, with no concern about their salary or social position, is precisely what would allow our society to emerge from a nauseating capitalism.
(As I am writing this text, I do now remember a creepy moment of my NYC life, in a bar: first question from a man: “What do you do for a living?” – Answer: “Lawyer”. Second question: “How much do you make?” – Answer: so baffled that I remained silent. Third question: “Do you want to fuck?”. – Answer: I walked away thinking “ What the fudge”. How fucked up is that?).
Accepting to see every single person through the lense of humanity (and not the prism of a monetary value or a social position) would allow everyone to feel liberated. And to put efforts in a personal, human journey. In short: in life.
Accepting to say no – because it doesn’t make sense or because it implies heavy compromises – is perhaps the best we can do today as our individual humanity is what makes each of us priceless.
December 3, 2021
Tara Jarmon fur jacket, top and skirt – Pura Lopez flat shoes – François Pinton sunglasses – Vintage gloves – Chloé handbag