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
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
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.