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The Dark Side Of Success
deconstructing 'post achievement depression'
It turns out this story is incredibly common.
As a society, we idolize money and glorify the concept of material success - you are now a somebody.
Individually, we tend to idealize material success as our salvation and ticket to happiness.
This is a false hope.
Achieving external success (whatever your definition of that is) - does very little to change your internal state.
When we finally learn this - typically after many years (or decades) of sacrifice - it can turn into the anti-climactic disappointment of a lifetime.
There are countless examples of people who went on to achieve their wildest dreams - from athletes to celebrities, artists, and entrepreneurs - only to spiral into a deep and crippling depression shortly after the initial rush of accomplishment faded away.
Depression doesn’t discriminate.
This study of “successful entrepreneurs” showed that nearly 75% of them suffered from severe mental health issues.
The obsessive focus on success can be a crutch to distract us from deeper issues and insecurities that often get neglected for years or decades.
Like Mushrooms – the more we keep them in the dark, the more they grow.
This can be compounded by the isolation and loneliness felt by a deeply focused entrepreneur on a mission.
It turns out that when you stop being busy – when you slow down, pause, and shift the focus inward – you might not like what you see - it can be painful and uncomfortable to deal with these things.
It’s much easier to distract ourselves with the incessant focus on achieving goals and success (or sex, drugs, and rock and roll) – we’ll do anything but the uncomfortable inner work.
There’s an incredible value to learning how you’re wired – how your childhood and earliest memories can embed themselves in your subconscious and shape your motivations and behaviors as an adult – and how this shows up in your thoughts, impulses, fears, patterns, relationships, finances, and pretty much everything else.
Self awareness is sexy.
For the entirety of my adult life, I believed that achieving “success” would finally set me free and allow me to live life as my “best self”.
It turned out this was a false hope and I had placed entirely too much psychological value on it.
When you achieve success (whatever your definition of it is), you will quickly learn the profound lesson:
It does very little to change your happiness.
Achieving your most ambitious goals will show you that no external accomplishment will change who you are as a person internally.
A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.
- Bob Dylan
So, what is success, anyway?
Is it a loving wife and a happy family? A nine figure net worth? The nicest house on your block?
Fame? An athletic accolade? Receiving the Nobel Prize?
Is it truly success, or is it the ego, overcompensating for childhood insecurities?
Is it a status game — comparing and keeping up with the Joneses?
Is it a cry for help that shouts - “I made it and I’m finally worthy!”?
Or is it the ideals of someone else that you strive to impress - perhaps a parent?
Regardless of how we define it, it turns out that our early wiring is responsible for much of our motivations and behaviors as adults.
The kid who grew up feeling he was never good enough might end up dominating an industry — look dad, look at what I did!
Success is a false idol.
We place all too much weight on external achievements, only to be disappointed when we learn that it hasn’t changed anything for us internally.
Conditional Happiness is the belief that you wont be happy, complete, whole, or even start living, until a certain condition is met.
Until that condition is met – you’re living a partial life – you’re delaying – you’re not ready to start living life just yet...
You’ll start being the person you want to be, when you reach your conditional happiness goals…
Once you reach that elusive goal, THEN life will begin for you.
You will be whole and complete and the stars will align.
You’ll be worthy of love and your ideal partner will fall from the sky.
In the meantime, just delay living your ideal life until the conditions are met, until things are perfect…
And when you hit these conditional goals - often, they will just be replaced with another set of goals.
This is hedonistic adaptation - once you get what you want, you’ll just push the goalpost of desire further out.
The insatiable desire for “more” will sabotage your ability to be present, content, and grateful.
It’s almost like some sort of mechanism that keeps “happiness” as this elusive and unreachable destination.
This is responsible for many billions of dollars worth of industry - profiting off of the unhappiness (and unhealthiness) of the masses - buy this product, drive this car, sign up for this seminar, read these books, and take these drugs — and then you’ll be happy and worthy and whole!
Happiness (and love) is not a goal you strive towards - it’s not a secret you travel the world looking for - and it’s not something that unlocks after you prove yourself worthy of it.
It’s a state of being.
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