The Illusion of Success

Most people in the world think success is about getting something. Maybe this something is losing more weight to look good in front of others. Maybe this something is making more money to be able to buy anything in the world. Maybe this something is working at the top floor of a skyscraper looking out into the city. And until that point happens, they consider themselves either a failure or not successful.

In my opinion, success if often only an illusion that comes from many fake, smiling advertisements that show that if you have this, then you’ll be successful. It has never been farther from the truth.

To me, success has always been about mastering the process towards the result, rather than achieving the result from the process itself.

Do you think people who want to become professional athletes want to become successful because of the millions of dollars they can make? The people who have answered yes are correct, but they will never make multimillion dollars. Most successful athletes are not worrying about the result of money; they are successful because are working on mastering their skill, which is a never ending process.

You can see it from the faces of indifferent NBA players that they don’t care anymore. They have been drafted in the NBA and they most likely at least make 6 figures a year even if they’re not playing. But this attitude is the difference between playing on the court or sitting on the bench, and they are the ones sitting on the bench.

The day we stop growing, is the day we stop becoming successful. This is why I don’t always necessary agree with the “-est” suffix.

  • Best
  • Smartest
  • Fastest
  • Wisest
  • Coolest

These words are illusions of success because people think, “Wow, if I can be the smartest or wisest person on earth, I’ll be a success!” So they go on pursuing a dream that just doesn’t exist. If you think you have all the knowledge in the world, sorry to say but there’s still more to know. If you’re Usaine Bolt and you’re the fastest person on earth, you can be faster. If you think you’re the coolest person in your class, the bad news is that there’s someone across the street that’s probably cooler (sorry to burst your bubble).

Ultimate success is not a result of something, and if we continue to think this way, it’s just going to limit the possibilities of what we can really do as individuals.

If you can master how to make any jump shot with 70% accuracy, you won’t have to worry about money. Larry Bird and other scouts will put you on a team. If you master how to write like Steven King or J.K. Rowling, publishers will fight with each other to get your work out there. If you have master how to win a debate, you won’t have to worry about losing another argument with your spouse again – just kidding.

The point is, it isn’t about being the best. It’s about handling the worst.

Michael Jordan didn’t say, “I’ve made more than 30,000 points in my career. I’ve been MVP 4 times in my life. 6 times, I have achieved the NBA championships, all with the same team. I’ve won over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Although he has achieved all this, he rather focuses on telling the world what the process really looks like when getting there. And it’s not always pretty as he tells the world:

I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 hundred games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.

To get something, you need to focus on the process. Success is more about mastering your process of getting to that something rather than that something in your hands.

You most likely will find the process to a certain result you want frustrating, you may get rejected again and again and again, you may be in financial pressure, or in general, you may find the process mentally and physically difficult.

But it is how you handle the process that will separate you from the crowd. Because as everybody else is obsessing over the results they can have, you are worrying about what you can do a little bit better in the moment.

Success is like a flowing stream. Never stop practicing, never stop learning, never stop growing, and never stop giving back to the world. Do this, and you’ll start to see the illusion of success fade away, as you will already be a success yourself.