You Succ

I hate success.

I hate the way the letters curl in and bend over so many times

trying to twist themselves into something presentable.

I hate that the word itself starts with the word ‘suck.’ 

I think that success sucks.

I think it sucks the life out of each and every one of us.


Okay, let’s take a step back. 

Maybe I don’t actually hate success.

I mean, I cheered just as loud when the Raps won the NBA champs

Or when Perseverance made its grand touchdown on Mars.

Those are measures of success, right?

Accomplishments of human passion, of pure ingenuity —

Cold, hard evidence, one might say, of where a “success-oriented” mindset has brought us?


I think… I think I hate the way success has been redefined.

I hate that it’s about worldly pleasure

growing figures

and scalable impact.

I hate that the path to success

sucks away the parts that make us whole

turns us into cookie-cutter cogs on an assembly line

manufacturing a world that can never stay satisfied.

I hate that success makes us leave people behind.

I hate that it fuels us to pull our friends down

yank their hair and snatch their ears 

break their legs if they’re climbing too fast

so they don’t snatch away our shot

to crawl to the throne at the top

to be crowned with that college acceptance

to reveal the chest of pearls and rusted gold,

full of riches but also full of hot air.


I hate it. 

I hate that even though I hate it,

I can’t stop fighting for it.

I can’t pause for a second

to tear my eyes away from the illusion 

and figure out what it is that makes me smile. 


I hate that I watch

as those who’ve achieved it 

fight tooth-and-nail to keep it

I want to scream to those people:

Don’t do it! Don’t trade trust

for that promotion

don’t give up your sanity

for those few seconds of glory.


You’ll end up

           blind to friendship

           broken from feeling

           starving for love—


you won’t recognize yourself in the mirror.


I hate that success is stamped with a great big E for Everyone:

Hey! Do you have no freaking idea what to do with your life?

Sign up for my 20-day free course,

And I will teach you the FIVE simple steps to success

So you, too, can find the answers to all your problems.


But what if fighting for that fat paycheck

           or getting thrown into management

           or staying in school for an eighth of my life

           or having a billion cameras shoved in my face

           or scaling that teetering corporate ladder — higher, higher! — just isn’t for me?


What if I really just don’t give a damn?


Can’t success be

           the effort you make to get up in the morning

           despite everything dragging you back to bed?


Can’t it be

           the art you’ve made

           that no one else may have seen or admired

           but make you smile to yourself each time you look?



           the joy you feel

           in getting your friend to giggle

           after a day they insisted was their worst day ever?


Can’t it be 

           the sigh of relief

           from a classmate who finally understands the binomial theorem

           after you patiently took the time to walk them through it?



           the gasp of wonder from your parents

           as you bring them breakfast in bed…?


How are these any less meaningful

any less important to the fabric of our world?

How are they any less deserving of the stamp of success?


Because some of us may go on to cure cancer

Start a business

Earn six-figures

Get to Hollywood

Build a rocket ship

End world hunger

Win a Nobel prize

And feel the hands of the world at our backs.


But most of us will not.

Most of us will only get one or two feeble claps.


And that doesn’t make our lives any less beautiful.

Why I Wrote This Piece

This submission is part of the “Write to Discover” program. I wrote this piece to cope with my anxiety about failing to reach our society’s definition of success and to tell other young people out there who are so focused on getting perfect scores, college acceptances, and high-paying jobs to remember what really matters.


  • Sherry Shu

    Hedgehog lover, psych nerd, off-tune singer. In high school, with no idea where the future will take her...

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