Christian Long

Alain de Botton: A Kinder, Gentler Philosophy of Success

In TED Talks on April 17, 2010 at 11:10 pm

Reflection by JENNA K.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Alain de Botton: A Kinder, Gentler Philosophy of Success

If you didn’t watch all 17 minutes of this video and only watched minutes 12 through 15, you still could gain a total new perspective on success.

Botton spends a lot of time explaining how our society views success, but the thing is we already know this. In the end though, he points out something very useful that I will try to think about every time I make a decision that will effect the “success” of my future.

The main focus of this talk was to discuss how many people go about their lives trying to live “successfully” while “success” is defined, not by themselves, but by society.Botton spent a lot of time in the beginning of his lecture describing the effects that striving for success have on a person, but to me, the important and meaningful part of this video was the end, when he brought about this realization that we should strive for a kind of success that we believe in and not in one that society has created.

Botton said, “You can’t be successful at everything…any vision of success has to admit what its losing out on, where the element of loss is…there is going to be an element where we are not succeeding. And the thing about a successful life, is a lot of the time, our ideas of what it would mean to live successfully are not our own.”

What this means to me is that, we can’t be great at everything and often, we choose to be work hard and be great at something that isn’t even important to us simply because society says that’s the way to be successful. This means that we will always have to choose what we want to work hard at and what we want to be great at, because when we choose, we give up something else. So, if you define “success” based on what society thinks, you might end up giving up on the things that you really want to be successful at. If everyone went about their lives trying to be successful in the eyes of society, everybody would strive for the same thing. But the thing is, everybody doesn’t strive for the same thing because some people are lucky enough to figure out what they want and aren’t afraid to seem like a “failure” to others.

Hopefully, after watching this video, I will be one of those people.

There’s one thing that Botton said that stood out for me more than anything else, “Its bad enough, not getting what you want. Its even worse to have an idea of what it is you want, and find out at the end of a journey, that it isn’t, in fact, what you wanted all along.” This, to me, really stressed the importance of going after what you want, not what everybody else expects from you. If you spend your life going after what everyone else wants for you, and not what you want from yourself, you’ll end up disappointed in the end – “successful” or not.

While all the TED videos I’ve watched have been very interesting and informational, this is the first one that will definitely have an impact on me.

Especially now, as a high school student, when we’re all thinking about colleges and majors and careers – this seems like something very important to keep in mind. I don’t want to end up giving up something I really enjoy, something that makes me happy, just because it doesn’t lead to something that my peers, parents, or community see as “successful.” I think whatBotton said in this video is something more people need to think about. I’ve seen a lot of people give up something they really enjoy because other things are expected of them. I’ve also seen people live they’re lives the way others want them to and then all of a sudden they realize they’re not doing what they want to be doing. All of this is because too many people define “success” according to others, and not by their own values.

Sometimes we all need to take a step back and think about what we really want from ourselves, without thinking about what others want from us.


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