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What does it mean that our ideas for success should come from within?

I want to start this conversation by stating that I absolutely agree with this TED talks' overall message of judgement; that in our culture we allow ourselves to judge the value of a human being by one aspect about them; republican, democrat, gay, rich, poor, murderer, priest, job, actions, and that this judgement is always fundamentally wrong.

Human-beings are the sum of two attributes: the biological pre-dispositions that happened to have been combined to create us and the environmental factors that we all happened to experience. These environmental factors are so powerful and so complex, where an experience from one vantage point will be totally different from another, that is absolutely impossible to judge and de-value a person for their actions, their beliefs, their faults, or any other aspect of that person. That is not to say that we should not assign responsibility to people, responsibility is a needed social construct, but to assign contempt, to assign hatred, to not care, is a fundamentally illogical and wrong reaction, always, without exception.

In the face of these environmental factors; I ask this question: if all people have been influenced by an extraordinary amount of environmental factors to the point where it is impossible to differentiate between actions and beliefs rising from the self and actions and beliefs rising from external factors (which I argue dictates almost all actions/beliefs), how is it possible to know that our ideas of success are truly our own? The very idea of an action or idea being solely from one entity, the self, is absolutely false.
My solution to this question, in my mind, is to assess whether or not our ideas of success are what we really want, regardless of why it is that we want it. Because the very reasons why we want certain things are always tied to external forces.

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    Jul 5 2012: It is very important for a human being to know himself or herself.
    We are exposed to a variety of influences such as our social and cultural environments; education and religion does shape our perception.
    But we, as individuals, will always have a choice. The great philosoper says 'an unexamined life is not worth living'
    We have to examine ourselves to differentiate between our dreams,desires, hopes and aspirations; and the strings of popular culture or majority opinion that may masquerade as legitimate directions of our lives.

    We will always be exposed to circumstances and influences; but the choice is always ours.

    Socrates was a philosopher who treasured critical thinking. I believe that we can know ourselves and our ideas of success: by knowing the things we enjoy doing, the things that makes us happy even if people's approval and a fat bank account are not rewards. (the values we will hold on to, even if life and death depends on it; and the things we will do with enthusiasm even if we were living in a desert)
    In this case the number one priority is happiness, passion,service to humanity and personal fufillment.

    We are living in a society where there are laws and shared values. Our choices does have impact on us and on the people around us. So, we are not just trying to be good, we also have to be percieved as good, because we will be judged according to our actions.

    This is why education is very important. Education must have achieved its aim when an individual knows that there is so much more to learn and that he or she does not have the monopoly of knowledge. Then one can know that even the media or popular opinion, and their presentation of success, are not a 'Holy grail'.

    Again, the aforementioned realisation only comes after one has engaged in critical thinking and self-examination.
    • Jul 5 2012: While I agree that examining one's own life is important, I don't necessarily believe that we have a free "choice" as much as society believes we do. In being human we are absolutely unaware of almost all the factors that are affecting us when making decisions, both environmental and biological, which leads to the belief that we have, to some extent, "free will". I'm more on the determinist side myself; meaning that we are only the sum of are physical entities, the neurons in our brain. Environmental and biological factors absolutely make us who we are, affecting how those neurons are fired and coded, but just by simple cause and effect logic I believe it is still all determined. As such, I'm having a hard time with the idea that we have to make sure that our ideas come from "ourselves", it is more that we should make sure that our ideas of success are what we actually want, regardless of the biological/environmental factors that made us the way we are.
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      Jul 21 2012: Dear Feyisayo Anjorin,
      But so many "live lives of quiet desperation."
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        Jul 21 2012: I believe they should seek wisdom if they have been able to identify their state as one of quiet desperation. If one would learn a lot from his or her community(local and global) one should be able to communicate effectively without conflict.
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          Jul 21 2012: Ah, yes, but in my opinion, most who are enduring lives of quiet desperation,(Is Thoreau the sage you referred to above) seldom are that self aware. They normally just get to the end of their rope and explode into new lives.

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