What is success?

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What is success?

Postby TheBeeCeeEmm » Fri Mar 14, 2008 9:51 am UTC

I got to thinking about this when I saw in another topic this part of a post:

If your life reduces to "smell honey, eat honey, nom nom nom", odds are you won't get anywhere.


What exactly is wrong with such a life? Why should anyone have to get anywhere, to matter? I'm a softcore nihilist, so you can guess my views on religion and purpose and such. So, then, what is the point of staying alive if not to enjoy yourself, to make life better for yourself and/or others? If I were to become what society considers "successful", it would only be to be able to "smell honey, eat honey, nom nom nom" while living in a bigger house with a nicer car and more of a comfort zone. I could be just as happy browsing the internet, playing games, etc, in a 1 bedroom house, as I could be in a mansion, it's just that one would be a lot cooler and take a lot longer to get.

So then, what is success? People who want to be successful don't want all the stress it takes getting there, or staying there. They want the fun and luxuries that come with the success. Now, this doesn't mean that people don't want to have fun working in a field they love; that's exactly my point. Success seems to be much more subjective than most people seem to think. If people keep repeating the same thing to you over and over, especially if it's society as a whole telling you it, you start to think it's true, and before long, you never doubted in the first place. But I think it's important to step back and really ask the most important question: why?

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tl;dr: What does success mean to you, and why?
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Re: What is success?

Postby pollywog » Fri Mar 14, 2008 10:14 am UTC

Success for me is achievement of arbitrary goals, ie getting a job, having sex with a particular person, saving enough money to buy [certain object/service], climbing a mountain, going to another country, eating a new food every day, and so on. If I set myself a goal, and then achieve that goal, I have succeeded. My success is only based on what other people think in that other people have similar goals to me.

An example of some of my successes recently: I didn't drink alcohol, even when offered. I paid for something big with my own money. I was polite and talkative at work, towards both customers and coworkers. I had sex with a girl that I like.

My definition of "success" doesn't really involve a reward, except for the good feeling you get once I have succeeded (achieved a goal). Not drinking gave me no reward other than I felt good about myself. Paying for something made me feel independent. Being polite made me feel good because people like me. Having sex had a reward. Perhaps success is feeling good about yourself? I shall have to think.
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Re: What is success?

Postby Freakish » Fri Mar 14, 2008 10:48 am UTC

Some people like do things that you can't afford on a honey eater's salary.
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Re: What is success?

Postby The Skoot » Fri Mar 14, 2008 11:07 am UTC

I have a card on my desk at work that defines success as 'accomplishment of an aim; favourable outcome'. That's entirely subjective. If your aim is to eat honey, and you then get some honey which you can eat. You're successfull. Other people migth say you're not as you don't live up to their standards of being 'successful', but why should you care? You have honey.

Success to me is managing to do something that makes me feel good about myself or betters myself in some way. Meeting a new person, facing up to something that scares the living shit out of me and doing something about it instead of burying it, taking on extra responsibilities at work (all of which I've done recently). I'm not entirely happy with my life right now, but I'm taking positive steps to make it better, and that makes me successful in my eyes. My life may not be perfect by the time I'm done (if I'm done), and other people probably wouldn't be contect with it, but I don't give a rat's ass about them. My standards are the only ones that matter to me.

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Re: What is success?

Postby zenten » Fri Mar 14, 2008 5:18 pm UTC

It's when you get 7 or higher. 10 gives you two successes.

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Re: What is success?

Postby SlyReaper » Fri Mar 14, 2008 5:50 pm UTC

I currently define success to be accumulating as many good memories and experiences possible before I die. Of course, you need money for alot of that, such as travelling, buying exotic goodies, buying food to keep yourself alive long enough to experience more stuff.

But that's my personal definition. I'm sure not everyone shares it, since mine varies from time to time. I once defined it as something vacuous like "be happy all the time".

I later redefined success to mean something more specific: "get married to an insanely rich supermodel whose father owns a brewery and a good long stretch of the river Test." :mrgreen:
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Re: What is success?

Postby nsmjohn » Fri Mar 14, 2008 9:01 pm UTC

I'll consider myself a success once I achieve immortality (for those of you who think I am joking I would like to inform you that I am actually being fairly serious, I am also agnostic/athiest so it has nothing to do with the "afterlife").

Other than that I figure if I can keep myself entertained for 75%+ of my waking life, assuming I die at some point, it won't have been a complete failure... perhaps a tie.
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Re: What is success?

Postby Dark Ragnarok » Fri Mar 21, 2008 7:53 am UTC

Success is... something people use to evaluate themselves later in life when things are mostly said and done. If you aimed to accomplish and put everything into it within reason, then you usually would give yourself credit as a success. Success is also a large part of evaluating how satisfied you are with yourself and life.

That's the general thing going through my head. Success only means as much as my happiness.

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Re: What is success?

Postby ++$_ » Fri Mar 21, 2008 7:56 am UTC

nsmjohn wrote:I'll consider myself a success once I achieve immortality (for those of you who think I am joking I would like to inform you that I am actually being fairly serious, I am also agnostic/athiest so it has nothing to do with the "afterlife").

Other than that I figure if I can keep myself entertained for 75%+ of my waking life, assuming I die at some point, it won't have been a complete failure... perhaps a tie.
I have a couple questions. (They are the same ones that I ask to everyone who seeks immortality.)

1. What do you think the probability is that you will achieve your goal? I just want your estimate.
2. What about the 2nd law of thermodynamics? Eventually, everything will just... grind to a halt. Or when you say "immortality," do you really just mean that you want to live for a considerably long time (say, 20,000 or 20,000,000 years)?

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Re: What is success?

Postby tiny » Fri Mar 21, 2008 2:25 pm UTC

My mom says:
"Success is when you achieve what you want; happiness is when you achieve what you need."

Personally I don't think in terms of 'success'. I use the word 'accomplishment'.
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Re: What is success?

Postby Robin S » Fri Mar 21, 2008 2:49 pm UTC

"Happiness is when you achieve what you need" depends on your definition of "need". I would argue that "when you achieve what you want" is a better definition of happiness, though still circular.
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Re: What is success?

Postby nsmjohn » Fri Mar 21, 2008 4:08 pm UTC

++$_ wrote:
nsmjohn wrote:I'll consider myself a success once I achieve immortality (for those of you who think I am joking I would like to inform you that I am actually being fairly serious, I am also agnostic/athiest so it has nothing to do with the "afterlife").

Other than that I figure if I can keep myself entertained for 75%+ of my waking life, assuming I die at some point, it won't have been a complete failure... perhaps a tie.
I have a couple questions. (They are the same ones that I ask to everyone who seeks immortality.)

1. What do you think the probability is that you will achieve your goal? I just want your estimate.
2. What about the 2nd law of thermodynamics? Eventually, everything will just... grind to a halt. Or when you say "immortality," do you really just mean that you want to live for a considerably long time (say, 20,000 or 20,000,000 years)?


Well...

1. I am not sure what the probability I will acheive my goal is. I am really placing a lot of my hopes on some technology that doesn't exist yet but is theoretically possible within the next 40 years or so. In short I feel that if I can live to around 60 or 70 I stand an ok chance of finding a solution to my "problem".
2. When I say immortality I mean a considerably long time. I also think of it in terms that I won't die of natural causes (my body failing on me). I don't expect to be invincible, so murder, suicide, and natural disasters will still pose a concern. I would place the Universe grinding to a halt under natural disasters.
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Re: What is success?

Postby ++$_ » Fri Mar 21, 2008 6:14 pm UTC

I see. I guess I don't really understand why this would be someone's goal -- about 50% of the time the only thought that keeps me going is that I will die soon. That sounds paradoxical, but whatever.

As for "what is success," success is breaking free of the brain-dead goals that society sets for you, and accomplishing something that is truly your own goal.

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Re: What is success?

Postby nsmjohn » Fri Mar 21, 2008 6:25 pm UTC

++$_ wrote:I see. I guess I don't really understand why this would be someone's goal -- about 50% of the time the only thought that keeps me going is that I will die soon. That sounds paradoxical, but whatever.

As for "what is success," success is breaking free of the brain-dead goals that society sets for you, and accomplishing something that is truly your own goal.

I keep going just to see what is next. So far I have found out that "what is next" tends to be an awful lot like "what just happened" most of the time.
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Re: What is success?

Postby Robin S » Fri Mar 21, 2008 6:35 pm UTC

nsmjohn wrote:I am really placing a lot of my hopes on some technology that doesn't exist yet but is theoretically possible within the next 40 years or so. In short I feel that if I can live to around 60 or 70 I stand an ok chance of finding a solution to my "problem".
Someone once conducted a study of various people who expected life expectancy to increase significantly in the near future (less than a century or so). It was found that there was a strong negative correlation between the approximate year they predicted this would occur, and their own age: in other words, most of them conveniently predicted that this miracle technology would conveniently be discovered a short while before they themselves could otherwise be expected to die.
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Re: What is success?

Postby nsmjohn » Fri Mar 21, 2008 8:45 pm UTC

Robin S wrote:Someone once conducted a study of various people who expected life expectancy to increase significantly in the near future (less than a century or so). It was found that there was a strong negative correlation between the approximate year they predicted this would occur, and their own age: in other words, most of them conveniently predicted that this miracle technology would conveniently be discovered a short while before they themselves could otherwise be expected to die.

I would believe that. I am going off when they predict that the singularity will occur as well as some reports talking about possible increases in medical technology. It could very well just be wishful thinking on my part, but at least I am setting a goal for myself.
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Re: What is success?

Postby jabberwock33 » Fri Mar 21, 2008 8:54 pm UTC

You define your definition of success yourself. Then your default "success" slowly becomes reinforced, and you forgot you came up with it. Oops.

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Re: What is success?

Postby Robin S » Fri Mar 21, 2008 8:58 pm UTC

nsmjohn wrote:When they predict that the singularity will occur


I wasn't aware there was even consensus that the singularity would occur.
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Re: What is success?

Postby nsmjohn » Fri Mar 21, 2008 9:46 pm UTC

Robin S wrote:
nsmjohn wrote:When they predict that the singularity will occur


I wasn't aware there was even consensus that the singularity would occur.


There isn't, but the people who think it will occur say that it will most likely be before 2050. I am hoping they're right.
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Re: What is success?

Postby Robin S » Fri Mar 21, 2008 10:35 pm UTC

Possibly they are saying that for the reason I gave above, though. Remember, plenty of people 40 years ago thought space travel (among other things) would be commonplace by the turn of the millennium.
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Re: What is success?

Postby bigglesworth » Fri Mar 21, 2008 10:50 pm UTC

zenten wrote:It's when you get 7 or higher. 10 gives you two successes.


Exalted Heretic! It's when you get 8 or higher, and 10 lets you roll another die!
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Re: What is success?

Postby nsmjohn » Fri Mar 21, 2008 10:59 pm UTC

Robin S wrote:Possibly they are saying that for the reason I gave above, though. Remember, plenty of people 40 years ago thought space travel (among other things) would be commonplace by the turn of the millennium.


That is entirely true. It really depends on how the innovation is being driven. Right now most, if not all, computer related innovation is University research programs (e.g. MIT) or private industry. Those private industry guys really want to make a buck so I think they will just keep going at it until the market dries up and I don't see that happening soon. Space travel was primarily driven by Governments in dick waving contests and wasn't destined to go very far unless both sides kept up the pressure.
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Re: What is success?

Postby Ari » Sat Mar 22, 2008 12:40 am UTC

Success is achievement that makes you feel good afterwards, instead of leaving you searching for the next thing instantly, or feeling empty.

That can be as simple as "honey om nom nom" or as complex as wormhole physics. It all depends on context. Honey's gonna be a pretty big win if, for example, you've been trapped in a mountain lodge with only cheese and crackers to eat for three days.
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Re: What is success?

Postby DougP » Sat Mar 22, 2008 3:20 am UTC

Define Goal + Achieve Goal = Success.

Its totally subjective and arbitrary.

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Re: What is success?

Postby Robin S » Sat Mar 22, 2008 10:02 am UTC

nsmjohn wrote:That is entirely true. It really depends on how the innovation is being driven. Right now most, if not all, computer related innovation is University research programs (e.g. MIT) or private industry. Those private industry guys really want to make a buck so I think they will just keep going at it until the market dries up and I don't see that happening soon. Space travel was primarily driven by Governments in dick waving contests and wasn't destined to go very far unless both sides kept up the pressure.
For an example more related to academic and private research, consider that half a century ago, people were convinced that the machine translation problem would be solved within a few years.
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Re: What is success?

Postby Malbert » Tue Mar 25, 2008 5:08 am UTC

Here is a quote I find to be quite true:

Doc Ricketts, as portrayed in Steinbecks Cannery Row wrote:The things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second


I would never call myself successful if I was ever greedy, egotistical, or mean to those who did not deserve it. Doc is going off of the modern society driven capitalistic materialistic definition of success. I would define success for myself by whether or not I helped humanity; Did I have kids? Did I contribute to modern science or engineering (kinda my goal later in life)? Did I help people? Even though Doc calls success by the societal standards in the quote, I don't believe that is what he saw as success. By my definition he is a very successful man. Doc is famous in the Monterey community for being a philanthropist. He didn't have much money, but he did help a lot of people who lived there (read Cannery Row to learn about it; Steinbeck says it is fiction in the beginning, but it isn't. There are people alive who remember a lot of the stories he rights about first hand). He and Steinbeck together discovered and documented about fifty species of marine wildlife. The people loved him so much, there is now a statue and a night club in his honor, and his lab is still standing in Cannery row. He is a good definition of a successful man, as is Steinbeck for that matter.
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Re: What is success?

Postby Indon » Thu Mar 27, 2008 3:06 am UTC

bigglesworth wrote:Exalted Heretic! It's when you get 8 or higher, and 10 lets you roll another die!


Personally, the standard task I take requires a 6, and 10 grants another die. But easier tasks can allow success at as low as 3, and difficult tasks as high as 9.

However, 1's detract from my successes, and if I get more 1's than I do successes I screw up real bad.


More seriously, I'm a firm believer in doing what thou wilt and all that stuff. Live for your own reasons, and if you've lived well by them, You Win At Life.
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Success?

Postby Bullislander05 » Wed Jun 04, 2008 1:52 am UTC

Hey guys. I'm a long-time forum crawler new-time poster. This is my first thread (actually, post) in SB, but I'm pretty sure this thread will be serious enough to stay.

Anyways, the real problem/question I'm giving you guys:

How do you define success, and, depending on your definition, how is it attainable? To clarify, I'm talking about long-term success, and even beyond that (post-mortem), but not short-term success. It's easy to say "attaining your goals for the day/month/year/decade/whatever" is success. But it's seemed to be a much harder question for me to answer when I try to look at what people will think of me when I'm dead, or even what I will think of myself when I am much, much older.

I am perfectly fine with religious definitions of success (not sure if everyone is, but as for me, I'm fine if you want to talk about reaching heaven, or really the paradise of your religion, if you have some) as well.

As for me, I'm actually still thinking about what I believe defines true success. I have set down a somewhat confined list of life goals for myself (and of course, since I'm so young, they're liable to change). But I'm not sure if I can gauge how well I've succeeded based on the attainment of those goals, or other concepts. I've already devoted a lot of energy and time to the furthering of my knowledge and (depending on what you guys believe. I've read the Intelligence thread as well) ultimately increasing my intelligence. I would be very happy to die knowing that I spent the vast majority of my life learning new things and experiencing new experiences. Maybe all of these beliefs of mine can be explained away by youthful ignorance, which I will admit I have a lot of (for someone who's only a junior in high school at the moment), but that's really the reason why I'm coming here. I've never seen a community so intelligent before like xkcd, so I'm sure you guys are up to the task.

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Re: Success?

Postby Robin S » Wed Jun 04, 2008 2:03 am UTC

Success is realizing why you're having déjà vu.
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Re: Success?

Postby ++$_ » Wed Jun 04, 2008 2:09 am UTC

The problem with defining success is that if I tell you that "success is A, B, C, ..., Z," and then you do A, B, C, ..., Z, and still don't feel satisfied with your life (quite probable), then there seems to be something wrong with the definition. On the other hand, if I say "success is whatever you want it to be," then that suggests that doing the things you want will make you satisfied with your life, which isn't true either.

A religious definition only passes the buck. If success is going to heaven, then we need to know what it takes to get to heaven. And I sure don't know that.

One definition that might work is the Nietzschean test of eternal recurrence. Suppose that a supernatural messenger appears and informs you that after death, you will repeat your life, forever and ever, without any change possible. Nietzsche believes that only the "übermensch" (lit. "over-man", Nietzsche's idea of what a perfect human being is) can face the prospect of eternal recurrence without crushing despair. My thesis is that if you feel that eternal recurrence would be horrible, then you are probably not being successful (or you are just depressed at the moment), and if you feel it would be okay (or even good), then you are successful.

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Re: Success?

Postby Bullislander05 » Wed Jun 04, 2008 2:15 am UTC

@Robin S:

Terribly sorry about that. I did a quick search for Success and after wading through 10 of the 20 or so pages that showed up I figured nobody had made the thread before. I should have been more thorough.

@++$_:

Wow. I have never heard of the Nietzchean test of of eternal recurrence. That's such a cool way of looking at things! I think that might actually come into my mind a lot now when I think about whether or not I'm making good decisions. Of course, it might induce some sort of paranoia about making bad decisions, but it's still a good way to go about things, or at least seems to be.

Also, since this is really an old topic revived in the form of a new topic, I wouldn't be mad if the mods locked/deleted/whatevered it. Sorry again.

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Re: Success?

Postby ++$_ » Wed Jun 04, 2008 2:19 am UTC

Nietzsche didn't think of it as a test. He was pretty categorical in stating that no one could deal with that idea -- in particular, not people who ascribed to the "ascetic ideal" (that is, Christians, Buddhists, etc.) However, my unscientific poll of people I know shows that only about 10% of people are willing to admit that they find eternal recurrence to be an unbearable idea. Even if people lie (whether to others or to themselves) about this, it still seems like eternal recurrence isn't as bad as Nietzsche would have it.

But it's still a nice way to think about this sort of thing, IMO.

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Re: What is success?

Postby TheBeeCeeEmm » Wed Jun 04, 2008 3:27 am UTC

Yeah I mean I certainly don't feel successful yet, but eternal recurrence doesn't sound bad to me at all.
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Re: What is success?

Postby 4=5 » Wed Jun 04, 2008 3:42 am UTC

success is satisfaction

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Re: Success?

Postby Greyarcher » Wed Jun 04, 2008 4:17 am UTC

++$_ wrote:One definition that might work is the Nietzschean test of eternal recurrence. Suppose that a supernatural messenger appears and informs you that after death, you will repeat your life, forever and ever, without any change possible. Nietzsche believes that only the "übermensch" (lit. "over-man", Nietzsche's idea of what a perfect human being is) can face the prospect of eternal recurrence without crushing despair. My thesis is that if you feel that eternal recurrence would be horrible, then you are probably not being successful (or you are just depressed at the moment), and if you feel it would be okay (or even good), then you are successful.
I think there's an problem here that revolves around the issue of memory. Namely, if you have no memory of recurrences, then there's no reason to be in despair about eternal recurrence, because without memory there's no continuous identity between recurrences. The present "you" doesn't have to despair about going through everything a second time, because the lack of a continuous identity means it won't feel like you're going through things a second time. In fact, it'll be much more like someone else living your life, rather than you living your life again--no recurrence at all.

Now, if there is memory and a continuous identity between recurrences...I think everyone would eventually be crushed by boredom. It depends on one's capacity for recall, but if one has a fairly good memory I imagine it would become incredibly dull--no matter what the particulars of one's life is--if one had to live the same life over and over and over. It would be like watching a really long television program an infinite number of times, except your own life is the spectacle; it can only be watched so many times before it become the same tedious jumble of images, sound, etc..

So...I'm not sure whether eternal recurrence, as summed up here, really works as a measure for success.
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Re: What is success?

Postby ++$_ » Wed Jun 04, 2008 4:33 am UTC

Nietzsche didn't envision a mnemonic connection between recurrences, at least as far as I can tell.

But the real crux of the situation is the time in the recurrent life when you learn about the eternal recurrence thing, and suddenly realize your connection to an infinite number of "identities" all existing in the same horrible existence forever because of YOUR choice to <bad things>. Nietzsche would have filled the gap with "adhere to a slave morality," among other things.

Or at least that's how he felt about it. Personally, I think it's Nietzsche's own problem if he hates his life so much that the idea of reliving it, even without memories connecting the two, is that horrible.

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Re: Success?

Postby Nemiro » Wed Jun 04, 2008 2:52 pm UTC

Robin S wrote:Success is realizing why you're having déjà vu.

Bullislander05 wrote:@Robin S:

Terribly sorry about that. I did a quick search for Success and after wading through 10 of the 20 or so pages that showed up I figured nobody had made the thread before. I should have been more thorough.
...
Also, since this is really an old topic revived in the form of a new topic, I wouldn't be mad if the mods locked/deleted/whatevered it. Sorry again.

-Bull


Success@Robin S. Oh man oh man....
Joshua wrote:GREETINGS, PROFESSOR FALKEN.

Spam here please

CogDissident
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Re: What is success?

Postby CogDissident » Wed Jun 04, 2008 3:44 pm UTC

Success for me is leaving the world a little better than it would have been without me, and leaving a genetic line of descendants that will do the same.

There are a long line of ancestors behind us saying "enjoy the world we have made for you"
And a long line of progeny ahead of us saying "make the world a better place for us"
-unknown

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tehmikey
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Re: What is success?

Postby tehmikey » Wed Jun 04, 2008 4:06 pm UTC

CogDissident wrote:Success for me is leaving the world a little better than it would have been without me, and leaving a genetic line of descendants that will do the same.

There are a long line of ancestors behind us saying "enjoy the world we have made for you"
And a long line of progeny ahead of us saying "make the world a better place for us"
-unknown


You have an interesting point, but I want to play a bit of devil's advocate. I flipflop between your stance and the idea that more people seek honey (nom nom nom). If all people are self-serving and seek only to accomplish immediate goals and pleasure, I think a large number of people would not be a success using the large scale that you propose. The future does not have as much of an affect on our current happiness as the present. If the universe "grinds to a halt" (Hooray for stealing quotes) shortly after you die, your life success and happiness would not have changed.

Society often considers making a decent salary and supporting yourself/family without actively performing evil acts to be a success. This concept is rather small minded in that it only conscerns the individual and his immediate offspring. My main point is that people are conceited by nature O_o

In the end, I will measure success by the improvements I have made to the world.

CogDissident
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Re: What is success?

Postby CogDissident » Wed Jun 04, 2008 4:40 pm UTC

True, but if "everyone" does the same, and everyone's individual offspring is better off, then the world is better off as a whole, even for those who did not participate. Because those who can, do tend to spend at least a little amount on those who do not have it as good as them.

It is self serving, because the imperative of life is to progress one's self and one's offspring. I will never know if the universe is going to grind to a halt after I die, so I make the effort now and hope that it does not.

So yes, in the simplest terms, I define success as how good someone is at being selfish in a way that improves their own lives and the lives of their children.


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