Anita Doron

filmmaker - curator of magic unrealism,


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Wealth and power have been our conventional measures of success. What definition will better sustain us now and how can we move into it?

The other day, my mother mentioned that she hasn't accomplished anything in her life. (She's a forest and machine engineer who hasn't found a suitable job since immigrating from the Soviet Union 20 years ago) It broke my heart to hear this. We live in a world that makes people value themselves more and more singularly by their career highs and financial prowess.

The conventional model of success has proven to be destructive, separating and pitting us against each other in competition.

What would be a better definition of accomplishment for us and how could we collectively shift toward embracing this?

  • Apr 25 2011: To me, success is like happiness.
    To me, happiness is like meditation.
    To me, meditation isn't something that I do.
    It is something that happens. When I am mindful of what I am doing, or, I guess, in the now,
    I find time doesn't exist. There seems to be enough of what I need; space? moments? Not sure.
    There also seems to be less worry and stress but even more awareness. Strange, or maybe it's
    more like magical, surprising, clear, and one other very important piece, for me.
    I'm not important, because when I become important, I become afraid and I don't want to be.
    Then, I become unreal and cover up who I am at that time. But, when I can really let go and let it
    happen, it has many times in my life, happened so effortlessly that I knew I was only enjoying and
    experiencing the magic, watching it unfold as well, while seemingly in it and a part of it.
    And those who happened to see what was going on, told me how impressed they were
    with me and what they had seen me do. But, I couldn't get them to see,
    accept or believe, that it wasn't me doing it. It was just happening because in some way, I had allowed
    the space for it to be, the magic to unfold. I have seen more than once in my life, order just come out
    of chaos. Very small forms of it for sure, but real order, spontaneously poofed right before my eyes. Life, is like
    the last three letters of the word life. It's iffy It seems like a maze and it is. It's ama-zing.

    One of the hardest things for me is to keep my hands open and supple. The natural position of the human
    hand, open to let go and ready to receive.

    I don't know what success is on any level that humans have used or use today in the world. When I feel joy, I cry and when I do, I know that somewhere, sometime, I must have been successful in some way. I can't take that to the bank. I can't buy anything with it. I can't even give it away. Oh, and I can't seem to keep it either. I can only let it happen, when it does and it does, when I'm not important
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    Apr 19 2011: Hi Anita,
    It is sad that we live in a world that is increasingly measuring success by the amount of pay that one takes home and is most obscenely played out in the bloated CEO salaries that are eclipsing previous records on Wall Street and elsewhere. The frightening downward spiral of the American middle and working class has accelerated to the point that the everyday people who make our society work and prosper - teachers, factory workers, fire fighters, etc - are being vilified as the reason that the economy is in trouble when it is the rampant greed of the top 1% who are to blame for the system-wide meltdown we are being told we are on the cusp of every day.
    The psychological impact and unconscious message that is being sent is that we are worth nothing more than the bonus we take home and that our CEOs are valued hundreds, even thousands of times more than the average worker. The underclass of unemployed, seniors, whomever, have no value and are 'leeches' on the economy. I shake my head when I listen to this rhetoric spouted daily as 'fact' on cable news networks and by conservative politicians who serve their corporate benefactors.
    What has happened to democracy in the west, especially American democracy, is sickening.
    I believe that no one, be they Hollywood actor, CEO or star athlete, is worth tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation while teachers are losing their collective bargaining rights and having their modest salaries rolled back. Is this the great decline of the west and a return to something dark and repulsive, in the vein of the Czars? Some days it sure seems that way but we are all frogs in the proverbial pan of water and day in and day out it is hard to see the larger picture when the average person is two paychecks from living on the street -- and many families already are, thanks to the mortgage meltdown.
    We need to start valuing our fellow citizens in ways other than what they drive or how many square feet they inhabit.
    • Apr 20 2011: Good post. I absolutely agree with you.

      Ironically, I am currently unemployed and, as an arguably non-productive and useless member of society, I struggle on a daily basis with reconciling the need for a income with the inevitable consequences of buying into the capitalistic circus. Saying "no" to a job makes one appear lazy, but should one really say "yes" to being underpaid and mistreated just to be able to fuel a society based on exorbitantly wasteful and self-indulgent consumption habits? In preparation for a job interview I recently found out that the CEO makes $6M/year (not counting the plethora of other gratuitous perks). Through friends and various online reviews I also found out about a number of ethically questionable practices that, while technically legal, clearly are in place simply to increase profit at the expense of wages, health benefits and job satisfaction. In addition to that, the company recently agreed to a $130k out-of-court settlement for pollution violations. This was just one settlement in a long line of similar settlements (a.k.a. business calculations) where it is "cheaper to pollute than progress" and where the environment is considered to be an expendable variable in the relentless pursuit of corporate profit. It has simply become "the cost of doing business."

      Yet, in light of all this, I am the one considered to be leeching on society.

      It's not that I don't want to work. I actually like working and work quite hard when employed. But I hate working for the simple end of generating a profit. Nor will I settle for working for a company that creates more problems than it solves. I believe we have to reclaim our value systems, which currently have been completely hijacked by industry and corporate interests. Few are willing to accept that capitalism, the economic system responsible for our immense wealth, simultaneously also is responsible for the majority of our global problems including war, famine, pollution, and corruption.
  • Apr 29 2011: As a student graduating from high school this year and about to pursue a degree in something, this question couldn't have been more relevant. Throughout the application process it seems to me that the definition of success is still focused around ones wealth, power, material possessions and because of this their social status. I have felt influenced to study something that would make me more "successful" by todays standards, but perhaps something that I don't enjoy. For instance, I could go to medical school, become wealthy, gain social status, own fancy cars, have a large house, etc, etc... Or, I could study what I am passionate about, perhaps have less wealth, less social status, maybe own a used car, rent an apartment, yet I would consider myself to be successful.

    It seems like this view of success is influencing myself, and other students like myself to choose a career path that may not bring them the most happiness or they may not be completely interested in, but will bring them the most wealth.

    To me, this is the complete opposite of what I view success to be. To be successful, I think what really matters is for one to be happy with their decisions and actions in their life. This could be different for everyone. One person could consider themselves to be successful if they complete a 5km run, some may consider themselves to be successful if they quit their job and travel the world. It could be as simple as teaching oneself to cook something new. Success should NOT, be measured in ones material possessions, job hierarchy, wealth, and social status. Sure, they may be "successful", defined by the current culture, but in the end are actually satisfied with what they are doing?

    Pardon my poor eloquence; this is my first post here on TED and I'm trying to keep up with the amazing linguistic skills that other posters have.
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      May 18 2011: You are oh-so-right, Mr. De Paoli. I myself went to college and studied something I loved, history. And then, to placate my father, I went to law school and became a lawyer. I hated it all. Some ten years after law school I had an opportunity to become a family mediator, which I took. For the following 35 years, until I retired, that's how I made a living for myself and my family. I devoted my life to helping other people towards mutual understanding and respect, a thing I loved to do. I earned far less money than I would have as a practising lawyer, but I did something that made me feel good about myself and all those around me. To tell you the truth, I don't know that studying a "practical" subject in college would do you any harm. It will perhaps make it a little easier for you to start out in the world of work. It frequently takes people quite a while to feel themselves out and discover what they "really" want to do. I've known many people who have changed not only jobs, but entire careers and specialities within their first fifteen years out of high school. English majors and accountants turning into doctors or nurses. Architects becoming lawyers. Lawyers becoming novelists. Doctors becoming financial advisers. But it's quite true, things were easier for younger job hunters in my time. These days it may well (I do not know this for sure) be best to study something practical in college, something that might even slightly improve your ability to get that critical first job afterwards. You will always, but always, have the opportunity to change in the future. In fact, if you're really meant for something other than what you're then doing for a living, I think it's quite doubtful that you'll be able to resist the change.
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        May 31 2011: Bravo unto you Senor Jaffe. Bravo that you have the courage to follow your own truth and path of what has been right for you.
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    Apr 10 2011: Your premise that wealth and power are flawed measures of success is powerful and an idea that I have championed for years. Although it can be applied to a myriad of ideas that have been conceived, born, and flourished since the industrial revolution, there is one that seems to be particularly relevant to your introduction. Feminism, while in essence is the struggle for equality between the sexes, is doomed to partial failure because of this uncompromising criterion. In its original paradigms feminism sought to give females equal opportunity for wealth and power in stead of changing the measure of success to include lateral relationships and interpersonal influence. Though given the terrible unbalance of power in this male dominated world it was probably the only way to start the process of rebalancing, we might just be at the point in history to re-examine the questions of criteria of success to include characteristics that modern psychology, neuroscience, and other fields have now found to be more gendered than previously thought.
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    Jun 26 2011: 'To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.'
    Ralph Waldo Emerson
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    May 22 2011: I would think of success as the weather of the mind, maybe even the soul. And just like you wake up different every day, the weather is different every day. What is a perfect day for some, maybe lacking some fine funny clouds for the other. Success maybe as simple as enjoying your walk inside you even if it rains or snows. Just find those tiny bits that are different from yesterday and love them or learn from them. Until you can enjoy and learn from all your weathers, you have success in you. Until you have your mindset-boots or flipflops to walk in any weather in you, you have success. It maybe just that you glimpse a balancing raindrop on a railing on a lousy weather day in you. Success is that you took notice, that you could see the beauty of it. I think. Ejoying being you, no matter what.
    • May 23 2011: Yes, I truly agree that Success or Freedom can be truly defined as "Enjoying being you, no matter what.". but I am confused when beeing you can hurt some people around you. Its difficult being you all the time. You have to consider your family and loved ones too and at times Success is defined for you by these people.
  • Apr 22 2011: When I was 16 years old I measured success and happiness by friends and school. Then I met the girl of my dreams and my measure of happiness and success was our life together and then my job because it directly affected the comfort of our life together. By age 35 it was our sons, our life together and then my job. And then at fifty+ I lost my job. I still had my life (wife, sons, friends) but a big part of my life for 30+ years was gone.

    Now, several years later, I still have my wife, our sons, and many good friends (even more than before). It took several bad jobs before I found a good one and now the financial aspects of our lives are back on track.

    Sorry for this long winded rambling, but I guess I am just trying to say (in my opinion) that true happiness and success require perspective. And that only comes from living your life in the best way possible. In that way you earn your perspective and can adequately judge your success in life.

    So, my suggestion to everyone reading, is that they live each day to the fullest and take at least a few minutes each and everyday to put that day into prespective (family? friends? learning? good deeds? accomplishments?). Take care.
    • Apr 22 2011: John: One of the worst days of my life was when I had to lay off a man who was just under 50. I knew exactly what he was going to go through and I am sure his experience paralleled yours. I don't think I slept for three nights, even though I had to do what I did -- and he knew it as well as I did.

      I bumped into him a few months ago. Like you, he had once again found his way into a good job. He told me that he hated me for laying him off but had always appreciated the way I did it without making him feel worthless. Backhanded praise, maybe, but now I think we both feel better!
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      Apr 23 2011: It sure sound like you are a successful man to me, John. I bet your wife and kids would agree.
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    Feb 17 2011: I love the question, Anita, because it is aspirational at it's core. I read it a couple times yesterday and came up blank. Then, late yesterday I learned that a childhood friend had passed away - what I saw from others crystallized (for me) the answer: Success is measured by the number of lives you touched while on this Earth. As for how we can move into it; we could start by being present in every interaction and letting our hearts lead.
  • Jun 1 2011: There is no us, and there is no big picture. There is the individual (meaning oneself) and the details in the day to day, work on changing those and you will have your wealth and power. Many things of great value are often overlooked in an attempt to look for the "greater good" that we cannot prove we will find or achieve. In this search for big results the details are overlooked and sometimes the greater good just becomes the less obvious evil. Value life. All life.
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      Jun 2 2011: Excellent post Gabriel.
      I actually can't comment on your post, just wholeheartedly agree.
      We need to seek ways to crate a Value exchange (Wealth?) that reduces friction for personal trade.
      Wealth seems as good as any so far, for getting folks to easily trade with each other, and the more efficient we become (better factory, innovated process, something that someone really value) the more wealth the individual can accumulate. Seems a pretty good system to get individuals to collaborate and innovate, making us all (not that there is an "us") better off.
  • May 17 2011: earl nightingale (an early pioneer of personal development) defined success as the progressive realisation of a worthy goal. If we take this as being an acceptable definition of success, then this leads to the question of what constitutes a worthy goal. Well i think this depends on whether a person allows their goals to be defined by society, or has the courage to decide their own. Therefore success will only be defined to be money & power if an individual believes this to be the case. So each individual should define success.
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    May 17 2011: Someone once said that I was the "richest poor person" that they knew. It was the biggest compliment I've ever received in my life. The idea of success is all in one's attitude - about life. Success is a concept. It's definition is what ever idea you buy into. Each individual defines their own success. Success has nothing to do with money and everything to do with how one lives their life. The way to recognize this and change this thought pattern in society is to consciously and constantly start conversations like the one you did by asking your question.

    When I was really young, I thought that by the age I am now my life would be so completely different than it is. By that metric, I am completely unsuccessful and an utter failure. Instead, my life has been full of experiences that I could not have imagined. And in that I have been successful.
  • Apr 30 2011: Hey! I'm really sorry to hear what your mother said to you. It's truly the saddest thing to hear. I think your mother has achieved quite a lot and isn't seeing her achievements. For example yourself! Aren't you one of your mothers achievements? How can she say something like that to you? It's so selfish.

    To me achievement is only measured by the quality of the relationship you share with your loved ones and close ones. All the rest is just a lie.
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      May 18 2011: Absolutely agree. On all points save one. I wouldn't characterize Ms. Doron's mother's comment as "selfish." It just seems to me to be misguided and overly harsh on herself. I'm sure that if Ms. Doron and her mother talked this over at length (as they may well have done - later), her mother would be able to recognize the worth and value of her contribution to other people's happiness and the general good of society. One can be a clerk in a convenience store and be a good and valuable person and member of society. As the French say: "il n'ya pas de sot metier." Having the "right" job, or having an enormous amount of money will by no means guarantee you happiness or fulfillment. Just in this past year there was a study, blazoned across all the major news outlets, which found that at and above an income of sixty thousand dollars (U.S.) a year, the rate of personal happiness is the same for all.
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    Apr 29 2011: Many of my family members say they're "filthy rich with love." Personal connections are so easily forgotten in this cyber-existence of ours, but at the end of the day (or life), people seem to most value the connections they've made with others.
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    Apr 25 2011: Dear Anita,

    Wealth and power are merely short lived, external ways of defining sucess. Our whole attitude about life is money-oriented. And money is one of the most uncreative things one can become interested in. Our whole approach is power-oriented and power is destructive, not creative. At the end of the day, we entered this world with nothing and will leave this world with nothing. In my view, there is only one true sucess and that is conquering yourself. If we cannot simply be and enjoy the moment, we have not lived or accomplished much at all. Society moulds us into thinking a rich, powerful life is a happy one, infact, I have found the ones who have the least are the most content (succesful). Tell your mum she has more sucess than most of forbes rich list.
  • Apr 21 2011: Perhaps we could redefine the common ideas of what wealth and power are. If wealth refers to spiritual wealth, wealth of experience and the connected range and depth of emotion (therefore not just happiness but all emotional experience)... generally the 'richness' in life.... and then look at power more as a martial artist might look at power, in terms of flexibility and flow, self discipline (therefore self knowledge, to not be ruled by one's unchallenged beliefs but to have power over ones attitude) self mastery rather than the mastery of others....then do wealth and power become more useful concepts? I think so.
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      Apr 23 2011: Yes I agree - true wealth is good health, integrity and an optimistic spirit that focusses on what you can do for the world, rather than what it can do for you. By living that life you have power because you respect your self and others and this attribute makes you strong and unable to be reached by people with selfish intentions
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    Apr 19 2011: how cool would it be if everybody woke up tomorrow and realized money means nothing and the major commodity were emotions - love being the most worth-ful. just a thought. peace and love to you from me :)
  • Apr 19 2011: Hi Anita.. This is so sad on many levels: it illustrates the values that society places on position, authority and wealth-creation and it tells us that your mother measures herself against these values, while at the same time disregarding the skills she takes for granted and devalues - parenting skills, the ability to move to a different country, to speak a new language and to enable you to be a well-adjusted and thoughtful person. I believe that the old models of business that you describe are being rightfully challenged by the inter-connectedness brought about by social media where honesty, openness, sharing and helping one another without expectation of self-gain are the new values. Please go to Linkedin if you would like to read more about my views.
    • Apr 20 2011: "I believe that the old models of business that you describe are being rightfully challenged by the inter-connectedness brought about by social media where honesty, openness, sharing and helping one another without expectation of self-gain are the new values"

      well said!
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    Apr 15 2011: When we look at the measures of success, another conundrum arises beside it. What is success anyway? Is it merely the opposite of failure, a condition of being "done" as opposed to "not done" ? Because of the subjective way in which success is defined, its measurement is equally as subjective. The traditional standards of wealth and power have been so long ingrained in society that a change in paradigm would be difficult. Even so, I believe a change in paradigm is still possible. From wealth and power, I think we should shift to the standards of personal development, character and individual happiness. Still, due to the highly subjective nature of what it means to become "developed" or what it means to have "happiness", we find ourselves asking whether there is even one unified concept with regard to the emotions we associate with the act of succeeding. Despite this subjectivity, the universality of concepts such as kindness, compassion and fellowship may be used to measure the degree of personal development one has achieved, on basis of the plurality of these positive emotions and states, as they exist within the individual. Therefore, pronouncing the verdict that one is "developed" can then open up a discussion on happiness. Once a certain degree of personal development is felt, perhaps happiness can then be quantified. Quantifying happiness and personal development can then allow the individual to measure his or her own success, depending on a subjective self-evaluation.

    Furthermore, a collective shift in the measures of success, from wealth and power to personal development, might best be achieved by encouraging the self to be honest in its evaluation. A culture of honest evaluation is, I believe, the beginning of a new paradigm in success, one measured by the self and concretized by other people's opinions. Still, subjectivity is present in all forms of emotional evaluation, so I advise careful contemplation before passing judgment on success.
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    Apr 14 2011: Anita, thanks for raising this conversation.

    There are many voices I agree with here. The cultivation of character is a better definition of accomplishment in my opinion. Elsewhere on this thread it has been called adaptability, but it is more than that. In addition to timely reflection and response to the environment, the ways in which we enrich the world must be accounted for. The novel idea of life credits (LCs) is a playful game concept to incentivize such behavior.

    Seriously, though, for this conversation, the Eastern view on "luck" comes to mind. It has been said there are two kinds of luck: one kind is what happens to you; the second is what you do with your experiences. We can't change the first, but we do have control over the second of luck, which is character. And so success becomes relative. My friends who escaped genocide in Sudan, bearing witness to the absolute worst humanity can be and who are the most generous and kind souls, are exemplars of success to me. Ultimately, our ability to perform conflict resolution in beautiful ways is true human success in my opinion.
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    Apr 14 2011: I stumbled across an interesting quote today, and it reminded me of this conversation, so here you go:

    "I don't have a problem with someone using their talents to become successful, I just don't think the highest calling is success. Things like freedom and the expansion of knowledge are beyond success, beyond the personal. Personal success is not wrong, but it is limited in importance, and once you have enough of it it is a shame to keep striving for that, instead of for truth, beauty, or justice." - Richard Stallman

    So maybe it's in the pursuit of a vision or an ideal greater than ourselves that we achieve greatness, and possibly, find meaning and satisfaction as well. And maybe that's real "success."
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    • Apr 14 2011: I agree with you very much, yes it's the pursuit that gives us pleasure
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      Apr 14 2011: I agree also - and would add: it is our responsibility as parents to teach our children the danger of mono-criteria, especially wealth. because: where do you take the power to built wealth out of less, even out of hopelessness after wars, death of dears or catastrophies of nature?
      More out of less: that is in fact the standard situation. building wealth out of wealth is a boring privilege to 1% of the world population.
      I believe the ground for happiness is indeed an inner AND social balance.
  • Apr 11 2011: Hi Anita, I really loved the TED talk and books of Alain de Button.In his talk he eloquently presents an alternative definition of success.
    What i feel is that our society is becoming more of neglecting ends and one that sacrilizes the means. We needed progress for spreading eudomonia but now we are laying more emphasis on progress and less on happiness and contentment. In developed world life quality and life expectancy have risen, but level of happiness has not. I read somewhere that contentment of person in materialistic world can be thought of ratio of "things one posesses" to "things one aspires for". The materialistic world has surely increased the things one posesses but the aspiration level of people has also increased expontential so the ratio is now even smaller than in past. We need to come out of this vicious cycle and find some consolation in philosophy.
    • Apr 21 2011: I agree. Alain de Botton provides a really interesting historical account of happiness, status and the evolution of our Western society in his book Status Anxiety (which also has been made into a documentary film). I encourage everyone to check it out since it, just as in the speech linked above, he delves deeper into the contradictory fundamanent of "the pursuit of happiness" and its governing principles. It opened my mind to the hypocrisy of capitalism and materialism a few years back.
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    Feb 16 2011: There's no static, definite answer to this question. As times change, the demands of the people change as well.

    I think, however, that there IS one general principle (measure) for success in human life, both social and individual. Very simple one, but profound in its implications. It is the achievement of well-being and happiness. It's the message of the Buddhist tradition, and of Dalai Lama's philosophy in particular, that happiness is the basic need of human being. There are other people who claimed this, of course, notably Abraham Maslow, although he talked more of self-actualization and peak experience, it's similar.

    The question is then, what increase our happiness nowadays? Definitely, not financial success; capitalism proved itself to be against human nature. Gross National Happiness (GNH) index is a good move towards a new definition of progress. I'm happy to see how it draws attention of Western countries, such as Canada, Italy, France, etc.
    • Apr 7 2011: Have you checked out
    • Apr 21 2011: I see one huge problem with the endless pursuit of happiness. In order to stay happy, one would be inclined to avoid, ignore, or trivialize matters that are upsetting and disturbing. This may sound like an exception to the rule but I believe it is quite the opposite. This phenomenon - ignoring matters that are uncomfortable - is pervasive, especially in the context of global conflicts and international problems (i.e. famine, human rights violations, etc.). When we see images on TV of the starving childlen in a refugee camp in Sudan we simply switch channels because it makes us uneasy and puts us in a solemn mood or somewhat depressed mind state.

      I truly believe that the relentless pursuit of happiness can lead to a dangerous indifference towards great injustices and wrong-doings in the world. I see it everyday. When people are in willful pursuit of happines they seem reluctant to listen to information that will bring them down from this self-indulgent emotional state. There are an enormous amount of human rights abuses, genocide, oppression, murder, rape, raiding, censoring, unlawful incarcerating, and other forms of deprivation of liberty, life, speech, or property that take place everyday. In fact, many of these are conducted, supported, or condoned by the U.S. (ironically self-titled "defender of democracy") in order to secure the natural resources (primarily oil) necessary to maintain our unsustainable modern Western lifestyles.

      In many cases I actually find the relentless pursuit of happiness to be socially irresponsible. I realize that a large portion of the population is unaware of the actual state of affairs in the world due to a very sophisticated propaganda machine but even given the option to find out the truth, how many would actually be willing to surrender their idea of "comfortable living" for the idea that it all comes at a terrible price?
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        Apr 23 2011: In many Buddhist traditions—like that of the Dalai Lama—happiness is a function of compassion, so the pursuit of happiness is positively correlated to our concern for the suffering, rather than the traditional western materialistic version against which you seem to be arguing.
      • Apr 23 2011: Sustainable happiness. As always, this kinda thing is implied, but worth restating. No one (in the context of these discussions) talks about seeking happiness for just the moment. So to solve for big issues in society, how do we achieve as much happiness for society as possible, while making it last for as long as possible?

        And the answer that emerges from that should be a complex, multi-faceted response which solves for many problems and concerns.

        The pursuit of happiness that you seem to describe sounds more like a strawman hedonistic society than a society that really desires long term, sustainable happiness.

        So how does one achieve long term happiness for a society?

        Engage in action and behaviour that encourages compassion, stability, fairness, understanding, respect for the freedoms and rights, as well as access to opportunity.
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    Jun 6 2011: Broadly speaking people think of success as either about achievement of external goals (extrinsic) or internal satisfactions (intrinsic). So for example - financial success is an extrinsic goal, but love is intrinsic. Beauty, body image, celebrity, fame - values held very dear by our societies these days are all extrinsic - and this is before we get to winning and money ... Generally intrinsic goals are more a more fruitful way to happiness and fulfillment but obviously extrinsic ones bring us status ... this tension between external status and internal happiness (contentment - fulfilment) is surely externally with us - it must have given us genetic advantages over the millenium ...
    BUT it would seem that our public definitions of success are exceptionally biased towards the extrinsic - to the neglect of the intrinsic ... the way our economies are geared - we are all in service of the profit motive - often at a disregard for our own well-being and that of the customers/clients (and indeed supply chains - who are after all just other people) ... there is nothing 'wrong' with extrinsic goals - it is the over-emphasis - the crowding out - the ignoring- of the intrinsic ones that is the problem (in my opinion of course!) ... and this creates other problems - such as huge inequalities (as we collectively lose sight of the 3 billion people living on less than $2.5 a day and the homeless [very often mentally ill] people living on our streets ... as a society - a global society - we are simply not taking care of our less fortunate brothers and sisters ... and this is before we think about other species and climate change (!)
    I think our narrow view of success as being finanical is hugely problematic and is at the root of so many personal and planetary issues ... success should be a balanced scorecard -yes some extrinsic goals but many intrinsic ones ...
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    Jun 4 2011: Thanks Anita for this topic.

    New definitions are arriving. In the new world of technology, social-networks and self-initiated media platforms, the notion of success is no more bound to wealth and power. The feeling of being successful is now the feeling of how well-received you are in your network and beyond. I think it is more about the reception, love of people and one's overall popularity in the communities they belong to, on the web and in the physical world. These stuffs neither require money nor power, they require knowledge, intelligence, originality, responsiveness, engagement and humility.

    If you count money, I am sure I am one of the poorest men ever attended TED Conferences; so far 5 times, either as a Fellow or a volunteer guest or as a Senior Fellow. I earn more or less 170 USD per month.
    And power? I think I have some LOL! It is the byproduct of my design works, literary works, networking, community and voluntary activities, like there's a big bunch of young folks who love to listen to me, and I got some so-called 'powerful' connections locally and internationally (generally those are of no good). You may call these as 'power', I don't know!

    And I don't count myself among 'successful', but I got some experiences and success stories those are somewhat beyond the imagination of the folks of similar ages in my community.

    None of these are achieved by wealth or power, and none of these literally brought me wealth or power, yet I am well-received, loved by people and I find that love far more valuable than typical success of wealth or power.

    So the new equation of success is ideas+actions+humility. And people are learning to accept that, TED itself is a big example. And I hope these new definitions will sustain and soon they are going take over mere money and power as the measuring scale of success.
  • Jun 1 2011: What is wealth if it is at the expense of others? What is power if it is power over people instead of the power to do things together?
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    May 30 2011: SKILLS You Can Contribute To Society :D
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    May 25 2011: Ive personally struggled with this. I fell into the same trap that most fall into, thinking that money and business success are indicative of what most think is the pinnacle of life. American society, and now sadly other cultures put this at the top of their list. And it is ingrained into our minds by media, and other "successful" people. I became this stereotypical definition of success, and found out real quick that I was almost a complete failure at everything else in my life. Tough pill to swallow, but broke it up into pieces and used lots of water. Funny but Ive found that there is a simple solution to this question. Balance. Balance in life is success. Why? Because its harder to attain than anything else and you never really totally have it. Its easy to become rich, just work harder than the next guy, but be wealthy, socially responsible, a good husband, lover, parent, athlete, happy,sad, etc. all at the same time... That's hard, and a continually challenging thing that makes you a better person by the minute. Only the lazy define success as one tangible thing, such as wealth, or business acumen. They use this definition as an excuse to hide behind the usually large gaping holes in the rest of their life, and never really attain true happiness. Balance is key. Balance is life.
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    May 25 2011: Wealth and Power probably still cut it as the measures of success. But, HOW you achieve your Wealth and your Power is fast changing.

    How Wealth is created and accumulated has changed dramatically from feudal times through the industrial revolution and then through the 20th Century. Let's be simplistic, and say that in the past to become Wealthy, you have to play, er..tough. Well, maybe that's not true in the 21st Century. Doing the right thing, having an amazing idea, having a pitch that being good guys is good business might make you rich now. Wealth rewards Innovation and new ideas that make us all better off. Wealth seems like a pretty good way of judging success.

    How do you achieve Power (must be a TED talk on this!!)? Well, isn't it about getting people to follow you, to do what you want them to, to exert influence? Power of course can come from the accumulation of Wealth, and if we think the folks making our lives better are now those getting Wealthy, than it's great that these folks are now the Powerful. Hey, I'm optimistic. I think the good guys are going to be the Powerful guys!
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      May 25 2011: "Wealth and Power probably still cut it as the measures of success." Maybe for you...
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        Jun 1 2011: Johnny hi there
        What about if I phrased it as Wealth and Power probably still cut it as the Rewards for your successful contribution to the economy?
        Innovation, creativity etc are what have driven progress in Western economies since the industrial revolution. Does Mark Zuckerberg deserve to be as rich as he is because he created something as amazing as Facebook? Or Bills Gates, Microsoft?
        You might think that system of behaviour and rewards is less relevant post-industrial-revolition now in 2011, but I would be intrigued to know your point of view on a. what actions do we want to encourage to make us ALL wealthier, healthier and happier, b. what Rewards system can work (if not money) to promote these behaviours?
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          Jun 1 2011: Our gauge of wealth has to change from money to planetary health. The trouble is that we are big trainable monkeys and our trainers have convinced us that it is all about wealth. I would argue that innovation and creativity have driven progress. In the current monetary based system all this does is create more destructive practices.
          I suggest looking into alternate monetary systems like a demmurage currency. It is a currency that devalues over time and is only valid for a short period (like 5 years). It would not allow hoarding or accumulation by individuals and would become a working currency. Look for a book called "On Human Wealth, Beyond Scarcity and Greed".
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          Jun 5 2011: Quote: "What about if I phrased it as Wealth and Power probably still cut it as the Rewards for your successful contribution to the economy?"

          Not always. The list of people who made significant contributions to the economy and died penniless and powerless is pretty long (Goodyear et al).

          And others exert great power through influence not through commerce. They may have power but not wealth (Gandhi and friends.)

          Aligning "success" with anything external is problematic: we do hold up exceptional accomplishment in any field as a measure of success. We idolize the great in many fields.

          One of my heroes is Alice Owino Oketch from Nairobi, Kenya. She was a baker in a local bakery. This is a truncated version of a few years in her life:

          Her husband died, leaving her with four children. One of her sons died. Another went mad (and died.) A third got a bone infection in his leg that she could not afford to have treated. (When I found out, I paid for an operation.) She lived in a small "flat" that was about four meters by four meters. There was no electricity or running water. She got up at three in the morning so she could walk the 45 minutes it took her to get to the closest bus station so she could take the hour-long bus ride into work. Work she was paid about $30 a month to do ... until she was fired so that her employers would not have to pay her the benefits she had become entitled to. (They rehired her the next day for less money.)

          There's more but you get the idea.

          Do you know what Alice Owino Oketch did in her "spare time?"

          She wrote love songs. Songs of gratitude. Songs of appreciation for her life.

          Who would you count as a "success" some VC who contributes to wealth generation but is miserable or Alice Owino Oketch who, in the face of circumstance that would crush me (and most of the people I know), expresses joy for the life she has?

          Regardless of what else we "do," if we are not feeling what she feels, I doubt we should be called truly successful.
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          Jun 18 2011: Sorry for such a late was up in Hanalei! a. what actions do we want to encourage to make us ALL wealthier, healthier and happier? I believe that your question is the problem. Success is and should be highly personal. There is not (and shouldnt be) a definition for all, just your own personal definition. There are some that define it in similar ways such as monetary wealth, and thats ok....for them. For me personally its balance. b. what Rewards system can work (if not money) to promote these behaviours? Depends on what behaviors you consider good. Again, people are different and value different things. Its what makes humans wonderful. I personally believe in simple values such as balance, integrity, love, etc. And I try to exhibit them everyday. My reward for this is just as simple...happiness. I think if people exhibit behaviors such as hate, deception, etc. They will never be (no matter how much money they make or awards they receive) happy. I feel sad for them.... Great talkin with ya!
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      Jun 1 2011: Mr. Walker,

      I don't agree with you that wealth is a good way to judge success. This presumes non-wealthy people or groups don't qualify for success. But to engage what I think you are trying to say: How one achieves wealth might be a robust way to measure success.

      In, my mind, this goes beyond great ideas and innovation, and includes emotional intelligence. Such relation-based power is most remarkable when it less about about getting people to do what you want them to do, than it is about engaging with people to reach their highest potentials while working with you.

      Think Henry Ford. A "good guy" leader from the brutal Industrial Era. He built his success not by seeking followers, but by engaging them to work with him to build cars (which in turn built his wealth and power). His employees "followed" his lead because he engaged and abetted their abilities in humane ways. For example, he insisted all Ford's employees wages were ample enough that each--from assembly line worker to administrative executive--could afford to buy the cars they built.

      Ford possessed a global view and pioneered "welfare capitalism." He raised wages, which improved the welfare and productivity of his employees. To compete, Ford's competitors were forced to raise wages, too. He wasn't frivolous, he was pragmatic. To balance out the costs of his progressive policies, Ford simply didn't offer as many different colors of cars.

      I agree there are similar good girls and guys out there these days. And, like you, I'm an optimist. But I think they a silent majority, at best. To convince our cultures they are making our lives better, the wealthy have a lot more work to do.

      They might start by following Ford's model for success a bit more while decreasing their fancy-car fleets to a bit fewer. Especially, perhaps, the negative-impact big muscle models. Which don't imply kind, common-cause sincerity.

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        Jun 1 2011: Andrea, Bravo!
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        Jun 1 2011: Yes! Ford wanted not only the wealthy, but everybody in the city to be able to drive in the weekend to the countryside! And Mr 'Glassfactory' (forgot his name) wanted the average person be able to drink from a glass, rather than an iron cup. And Steve Jobs wants to put a ding in the universe!

        And coca cola wants 'a bottle of coke within everybody's arms reach. And is a self-proclaimed development worker to introduce economics in poor regions with their loyalty systems. Don't know if it is good to have a coke everywhere, though I sure feel good and fresh after a bottle ;)

        So we need more of this for the common good. If more people have a non-financial mission embedded in their material wealth goals, we might get somewhere.
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        Jun 2 2011: Andrea, er..... Hang on, are you seriously saying that we in 2011 would be better off if Henry Ford had not invented mass production on industrial lines; had not transformed manufacturing in the United Sates?
        Thomas Edison is famous for his inventions, but he was a brutal businessman - one of the reasons the movie industry fled from New York to LA was to escape Edison's thugs operating a protection racket over what equipment was used. But hey, he invented the lightbulb.
        I don't approve of many of the modus operandi of Ford or Edison, or for that matter Jobs or Gates... but that is Irrelevance. They transformed our lives, and they were rewarded for that.
        Separate question, were/are they nice people, did they break the law, will they go heaven etc etc? But that is irrelevant to why we have "Wealth" as part of a Rewards Systems to say thank you to what these folks have done for us.
        On the other hand... tell me if you would prefer to live in a World where Edison, Ford, Gates etc had never existed, and we still had horse and carts, gas lamps and abacuses?
        • Jun 2 2011: On the other hand, I am happy to live in a world where Alexander Flemming discovered penicillin - one of the truly world-changing discoveries of the 20th Century, and he generated nothing like the wealth of Ford - does this mean that he was less successful?
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          Jun 2 2011: James,

          I think you misread my comment. First, some background: I co-founded a satellite tracking and wireless communications company in 1993. We used the then-nascent internet to deliver data to customers. It's when I began appreciate the "Henry Ford" way.

          Ford was a pragmatic leader, whose lead is worth following. My larger point was that good leaders of today could learn from Ford's leadership model, by engaging the well-being of their stakeholders. Indeed, as I said, many do.

          The challenge is when their success depletes the success of others. I think it is naive to term "thug" behaviors used in the pursuit of wealth irrelevant to society's measurement of success.

          The leaders' intent behind these is of most salience.

          For example, as Paul notes: Ford wanted all citizens to share the "common" wealth of the countryside. Without vehicles, bottom of the pay scale workers wouldn't be able to commute to work if they lived in the countryside, nor could they visit the countryside for productivity-boosting rest and rejuvenation if they lived in the city.

          Fast forward to today. Ford might see his full vision of happy commutes to work and countryside haven't succeeded. Line employees struggle to pay for fuel to commute. The countryside is ever farther to commute to, in part due to vehicle-abbetted suburban sprawl. Vehicles produce pollution, which has negative impacts on employees' health, which in turn costs employers more in healthcare costs, lost productivity, etc.

          Lost financial wealth, thus likely.

          Could Ford have fully anticipated these unintended consequence? Likely not. Could good guy/girl leaders today anticipate their efforts might have such unintended consequences? Likely much more than Ford could. Because (your point!) of innovations.

          My point is about good girl/guy leaders intentionality engaging the best of, for and with stakeholders -- clearly modeling the power of this method. And avoiding "intent-depleting" behaviors.

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        Jun 2 2011: Mike, haha! excellent point!
        Well, sort of... actually, I'm sorry to say that Alexander Fleming was in fact rather unsuccessful, and he deserved to be. Sure, he stumbled upon Penicillin, but it was never produced, manufactured at scale, or ever commercialised under his purlieu. For that, we have to thank the 2nd Wold War and good friends in Big Pharma (Merck, Pfizer, Squibb) in the United States.
        The issue of Patents in ethical-pharma is a really interesting topic. Ie: are patents good as an incentive to innovation. I think, on balance, we have to say patents are good, and the commercialisation of medicines leads to more investment in R&D and amazing drugs. Fleming might not have made Wealth from Penicillin, but the folks that deserve (those who made it possible to mass produce it at scale, and made it accessible to us all) certainty did. There was a big fight in the 1940s over patent rights for Penicillin, but without commercialisation and scale production, the "discovery of Penicillin, would have been totally irrelevant. So, kinda fair really that Fleming was indeed "unsuccessful"....
        • Jun 2 2011: I suppose we make the same point, but perhaps from different perspectives. I would describe him as successful for making the creative step of the discovery (however inadvertent it may have been). You would describe him as unsuccessful as he did not personally commercialise it - so others built their success on his discovery.

          He was however very highly honoured for his discovery, including a Nobel Prize and a Knighthood - are these not other measures of success?

          Maybe we'll just have to agree to differ ;-)
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        Jun 2 2011: Mike hi
        Don't mean to sound viscous, but my point is he was not successful (by any meaning of our word), and was in fact a failure. We don't have Penicillin because of Fleming (he never actually made the stuff) but thanks to Merck etc. He actually failed to develop a production process. Thus, is was a "failure", and didn't deserve Wealth and Power as his rewards for "success".
        But Yeah, a shared Nobel Prize is certainly one more than I have won!! :)
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        Jun 3 2011: Hey Andrea, I like you!! I've found someone on TED who isn't just ranting!
        Now I see: You're talking more about "externalities" - railroads damage the countryside etc.
        Externalities are a fascinating part of economics, but I think they're more about Rights really. Simply, your freedom "to" versus someone else's freedom "from". Do I have the freedom to drive my noisy and polluting Sportscar through the countryside upsetting the residents, for example. The problem is, that externalities are very nuanced and very hard to adjudicate "freedom to" versus "freedom from". You'd need to have some kind of Externalities Adjudicator, passing judgement. Or, you'd have to have a completely planned economy, where Ford would ask permission to invent the motorcar and then it would go some committee who would figure out that in 100 years cars might be bad for the countryside? I don't care for that kind of "planned economy", and nor do the folks who tired it for a few years in Russia!!!
        Secondly, I think you're making a value statement that is very arbitrary that we make value damage to the county-side more than the freedom that the motorcar gives us. I think I disagree with you actually! Henry Ford made cheap cars so now we all commute to work from spacess villas in the suburbs rather than take the bus from our pokey apartments next to the factory. This is great, no? These evaluations of externalities are always very subjective.
        Final thought on the countryside: I live in the UK, and our countryside is entire fake and manmade. Forests have being cleared, swamps drained. There is nothing left that is original countryside, so building motorways for cars and suburbs for people is just another extension of what's being happening for centuries. Do we wish that Elizabeth 1 had saved the Oak Forests by building fewer warships? Er no, because then I'd be speaking Spanish! So, tough to figure out the long term consequences of anything we do.
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          Jun 3 2011: James,

          Agreed, it's tough forecasting long-term consequences. Still: imagine businesses that didn't do regression analysis or projections? Few (including funders) would perceive hope for their success.

          Ford didn't need an externalities adjudicator. His emotional intelligence and understandings of his interdependence with others was his 'internal adjudicator." This was his "secret sauce" for success -- higher-order humane thinking: what separates the "doers to" from the "engaging with" others model of success. It has to do with empathy--seeing others interests as equally valuable as one's self-interests. Which in turn, requires insight -- the ability to reflect on and question ones own values and behaviors.

          For example: Ford published anti-Semite writings. When Jews shed light on them, Ford apologized. Though the apology was triggered by a defamation lawsuit, the apology was not legally required. Nor were his later efforts to halt international distribution of the publication. Again, there was no government policy or rule that required Ford halt the publishing. In fact, due to copy-write complications, Ford had to fight policy to give Jewish people "freedom from" the effects of his earlier behaviors.

          Which, I would argue, gets at an answer to the conundrum you elucidate. No need for externally enforced values or "permission," (nor even, economic threat) to engage one's big-picture emotional intelligence. And consequences could be quite rich, for self and others.

          World Bank's Vijayendra Rao explains how this lays out in current contexts. Rao addresses the diverse externalities, variables and relativity of cultural nuances you speak of, from an economist's view.

          An aside: related to your gratitude to Elizabeth i for protecting you from speaking Spanish. I suppose it is, as you point out, all relative: Rao, who speaks English, is from India which was colonized by the British (supported by economic interests of East Indian Company.)

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        Jun 4 2011: Funnily enough Andrea, I am an econometrician, and regression analysis is my thing!
        And that's why I think it is a pretty useless forecasting tool - ok for looking back for looking back.
        As I like to say, "using regression to run your business is a bit like driving your car always looking in the rear view mirror. Ok to do that on a straight highway, but less successful on a twisty Swiss mountain pass!"
        I do think this gets to the heart of the matter - it is very hard to see the future consequences of our actions, and so we can't plan for them. We do what we want to do, that's God's gift to man. Yep figuring out consequences is funny!!!
        - Elizabeth 1 chopped down all the trees, but hey, saved me from speaking Spanish and eating paella. But, we probably would have played better soccer ;)
        - We colonised India, and it was a pretty good run. But OMG, now they all speak English, and I'm moving all our IT from Macclesfield to Bangalore and we're created a monster that's going to be an economic powerhouse. (Isn't Rao a Keralan name, so would have been colonised by the Portuguese actually not the Brits? Odd thing, most folks don't know, is that in WW2, Keralla was a Portuguese colony and was freely used by the Germans, a mere matter of metres from the allies).
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          Jun 5 2011: James,

          Your TED profile notes that you fund orphans and self-sustaining farming projects in Third-Wprld countries. Where traversing twisty roads requires forging paths through undeveloped terrain, literally and figuratively. Not for the risk averse. But, good global guys and girls are brave.

          So, some Qs:

          1. Why do you invest in these efforts?
          2. Do you forecast a ROI?
          2. And, how do you measure success?

          Regards Germany: Do you ever wish Churchill would have gone just a hair easier on them during WW2, given their history against Brits in soccer since? :-).

          As for me, I'm glad the U.S. has made peace with England. It helped my soccer-playing, be that (humble by global standards) as it was.

          One of your Macclesfield neighbors, Manchester United's Alan Merrick brought the sport to my state during the mid-70s as founder and player for the Minnesota Kicks. And volunteered his time to coach me (as he has many).

          Of course, we Americans still can't hold a candle to you Brits, our football-forebearers. But it is most definitely not for lack of sports-focused funding. And we kick India's butt in one big, but dubious category: obesity. In fact, we are world-leaders in childhood obesity.

          Which brings me back to our Q regards how to measure success. If economic wealth is how we motivate and measure success, how is it that the more money we spend on health, the less physically fit wealthy nations are?

          Yes, it would be silly (and dang dull!) to correlate fast and fun car rides on quiet country roads to childhood obesity. But stop-light impeded commutes to fast-food outlets on the way to soccer practice have been among the many twisty-turned variables experts accurately predicted during the US suburban sprawl 70s and 80s.

          Notably, economic implications were downplayed due to denial abetted, in part, by profit-driven interests lobbying against them. So here's a Q, to engage your econometrician expertise: were their well-funded efforts a success?

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        Jun 5 2011: It wasn't really "Henry Ford" who introduced the $5 work day although he ultimately had to approve of it. It was "Ford Motor Company."

        I believe it was James J. Couzens who came up with the idea. Ford resisted the idea quite vigourously.

        I'll see if I can confirm whether it was Couzens or someone else and let you know for sure.

        Henry Ford nearly ruined the company. He would have if he hadn't died when he did.

        Being the founder, Ford is often given quite a bit of credit for other people's ideas.

        Edit: That didn't take long: It was Couzens and you can reference it in several of the works by Peter Drucker.
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          Jun 5 2011: Thomas, hi there,
          Just thinking about your comments at the top about Alice.
          Sure. In my personal life as I have travelled, and tried to do 'my bit' I have encountered many amazing people, who have truly awful lives, but have found the time and energy to help others and make a difference to people around them.
          I've known men and women save lives, rescue the godforsaken, and ask for nothing.
          But.... these folk (who I love, and have inspired me) have touched the lives of a few dozen people. They have not has the scale impact of Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates. As we create a rewards system for the World we want, Wealth works pretty well at encouraging Innovation and Creativity: the things that have driven the West forward so that Real GDP doubles every generation. Alice is amazing, but if she'd invented Facebook, her village probably would have been better off. I think we need to ask/answer two questions:
          - What are the behaviours we want to encourage to build the World we want (new technologies, efficiency, innovation, freedom etc etc) to see
          - What is the "Rewards System" that rewards folks for doing these thing?
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          Jun 6 2011: Thomas,

          Many thanks for the information on James J. Couzen. It fills in a larger picture of how Ford was influenced and benefited from others quite different from himself. And how public perceptions of success often miss the larger picture.

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        Jun 5 2011: I like you Andrea, you're funny and you write beautifully :)
        I prefer to keep my personal life away from TED - so don't really want to get drawn on my work, or the social causes, orphanages etc. But, I'll just confess that pretty much everything I do in life I do for deeply instinctive reasons, and my Conscious being (ie: thoughtful) is very different from my Instinctive being (ie: I love that girl; i am hungry; oh my god those kids are dying..).
        At the personal level, let alone for corporations or Governments, it's hard to figure out the unintended consequences or long term effect of our actions and I certainly don't...
        - If I pay for my kids to go to college rather than they take loans, does that dent their self reliance and ambition?
        - If we stop the orphans being left to die in Malawi, does that mean the villagers are locked into a circle of dependency?
        I just think long term outcomes are hard to predict, and short term if the kids are dying in Malawi or shooting each other over drugs in Manchester, then hey I'll help now, and figure out the long term consequences later.
        So to come back to your point, creating a system that valued "externalities" or long term plan that takes account of possible outcomes is hard. I just think it's easier to leave to fair trade, and the markets will clear. Either pay the farmer for the crops we destroy from sparks from the roadroads, or we'll fit fireboxes, whichever is cheaper.
  • May 23 2011: Success is happiness. Happiness is success. Whether physical, emotional, spiritual, or intellectual, I feel that we all need to set achievable goals in life. As we grow in each of the four "states", so should our goals in that respective state. How we determine our own growth and achievement of goals at any moment may be radically different than the way a minority of people, or the majority of people of people view that same topic. Time may change perceptions of the individual, the minority, or the majority. Wealth is physical, power is emotional, but there are many other determining factors for achieving goals in those states as well.

    Chemical imbalances play a huge part in the equation. I not a fan of regulating these imbalances through prescription drugs, but in some instances, I feel this is a viable solution. Both mental and physcal health determines how we see the world and ourselves. This can be a roadblock on the journey to happiness.

    I also believe in the Multiple Intelligence Theory. I feel that the satisfaction we take from life is directly determined by how much we grow our main intelligences. Motzart could not have found happiness in life without not only finding music, but finding it to a level much higher than i could ever hope to realistically achieve. I feel we all must find our passions in life which are determined mostly by the specific set of levels of each intelligence which is unique to us.

    The majority can never see our personal level of happiness. They have no idea of our specific make-up. Usually they can not understand, tolerate, accept, embrace the differences in us. We must discover ourselves, teach ourselves, nourish ourselves, and keep setting achievable goals for ourselves. This may mean that a lot of people will show up at our funeral or maybe just a few, but in the end, the ones who show up will respect us for the right reasons.
  • May 23 2011: at least shes still alive to try to fill this empty void by finding a hobby or doing something she always wanted to do.
  • May 20 2011: Hi Anita. Thank you for your thoughtful post. I agree that the current model for success has been very destructive--to social relationships as well as to the natural world. I do not think that truly new definitions of success can exist in the context of capitalism, which should be thought of as an entire social as well as economic order. Capitalism's overarching concern is for the pursuit of profit, regardless of the many social problems created by this goal. The system orients people towards individualistic rather than collective goals. Talking heads in the media and other social institutions tell us that poverty exists because of people's personal inadequacies and that they are consequently undeserving; indeed, in an amazing twist of reality, they are even cited as the source of economic problems. Conversely, those who are wealthy are held to be successful because of nothing more than their ostensible talents and skill. Rather than requiring a democratic distribution of wealth that could help secure the well being of the entire planet, such claims are quickly regarded as "unpatriotic" or--in the U.S.--"un-American" (whatever that means).

    Capitalism simultaneously creates great wealth and great poverty, but not everyone has an equal opportunity to acquire wealth--and all of the important things that it provides--adequate housing and food, quality healthcare, excellent education, and so on. Wealth has increasing become concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, and those in need have grown significantly in late capitalism.

    In short, we need a completely new social and economic system that places as its principal concern the democratic needs of the people.
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    May 17 2011: I believe one could feel they have accomplished something in their life when they have taken a step, even the smallest one, toward what they are passionate for. Desire and passion are two vital elements of success, or at least of feeling successful. Therefore, I strongly believe that every one of us should journey back to our childhood passions, relive them and bring them back to our life again if we are willing to embrace who we really are. That sounds like a success to me!
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    May 17 2011: Maybe, people can be made to be more aware of the effects of their actions and their being around.

    To each his or her own metric.

    This very need for measure is the core of the issue, for good or bad.

    But then, if you notice some of the topic tags you have, such keywords immediately evoke concepts and principles relating to wealth and power, the accumulation of wealth/power, the consumption of wealth/power, the effective consumption and use of wealth/power, and etc.

    But there are clues like 'social,' 'collaborative,' 'social,' 'civilization,' and etc. These clues relate to the fact that some measure cannot simply be measured individually or in isolation. Some measures can only be understood by indirect effects, other people, and society.

    Another way she may feel some sense of accomplishment is for her to realize that you as her daughter is also one of her accomplishment. Her efforts in bringing you to better circumstances allowed you to make something of yourself, benefiting others as well. The work is not done but that is the point. It is an unending story because it didn't end with her efforts, nor yours, nor anybody's.
  • May 16 2011: The way to personal contentment is to stop looking for an external measurement of success. Only we can create our own definitions of success. Conventional models are what individuals extract and incorporate into their own belief systems.

    Maybe what your mother was saying is that she hasn't accomplished what she wanted to...
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    May 13 2011: Instead of changing the meaning of success what of changing the means of obtaining wealth and power?
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    May 12 2011: In the past we worked hard in summer on the field and in winter we had food and time. We invented machines to do our fieldwork, so in theory we have all the time in the world. Though we work all 40-60 hours a week. somewhere something went wrong. (Larry Page, Google)

    As Ken Robinson says, our schools are industrial, the purpose was/is to create workers in the current system.

    So we completely need to rethink our system, otherwise we find new definitions for the same situation.
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    Apr 26 2011: Good question! I have a feeling the answer has to do with defining what "prosperity" is.
  • Apr 22 2011: This does make me feel sad. There are so many other ways to measure - how loved one is? how much joy they create or have? Or perhaps raising an amazing daughter that is asking these questions and leading us in the discussion. But in the end, may be we are already enough by just being who we are. Maybe it should be by how much we are ourselves. After all, who is doing the measuring - ourselves? our neighbors? our competitors? the higher power that we do or don't believe in?

    Best to you both,
  • Apr 21 2011: I think the measure of success should be how many other peoples' lives we influence in a positive way.
    • Apr 23 2011: Successful living is meaningful living. Is what you do in each moment in line with what you value? If so then you are living a successful life. Problem for most of us, myself included, is it is very easy to stop doing from a place of value and start doing from a place of misguided expectation and fear of not having enough, being enough. As well stated by the gentleman who saw his eminent end in a plane crash, being the best parent you can be, leaving nothing that matters undone and choosing happiness over being right are really where success lies. That takes a lot of courage, mindfulness and humility and compassion.
  • Apr 20 2011: This is a great question and very similar to a recent discussion I had about my son - he and his partner don't have regular jobs, they don't own (and probably don't even want to) their own home but they are so happy and so kind to each other. We were talking about them and saying 'you know, maybe they're the ones who have it right' - while we scrimp and scrape to maintain a lifestyle valued by others for what we do and what we have, we are stressed out. These two are not! They have each other, time to spend with each other and they get by, they also have very loving families and I think that counts for such a lot in life.
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    Apr 19 2011: Simple, society as a whole suffers from filter failure. Wealth and power are easily recognizable indicators of successful environmental adaptation. However a diversity of adaptation is not presented efficiently to society as a whole. For example: The majority of people would assign higher status and success to Brad Pit over Clay Shirky. We elevate what we wish to emulate. If people are given a wider spectrum of emulation there will be a more diverse definition of success as a society.

    Cree society had many elevated status that were very diverse and there was an emphasis on finding your gift. A person who had understood their gift and gained a level of mastery was seen as high status. Of course this was naturally tempered by its relevance to the society as a whole.
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    Apr 19 2011: Hello Anita,

    Relationships and wisdom are invaluable barometers of success. We are an interdependent society that needs to have compassion and understanding that is matched by an unconditional attitude of service. When the classifications of people begin to disintegrate and prejudiced behavior ceases, global success will be within reach. The conventional model of success has not been the poison, but rather the implementation of each. Ego is the enemy.
    • Apr 20 2011: relationships are everything. if you believe in a hereafter, people are all that you can take with you....everything else, all the stuff we work so hard for, will be reduced to dust.
  • Apr 19 2011: Hi Anita,

    Whenever I'm asked what defines success, I always remember a poster on the wall of my dentist's clinic...
    “Greatness is not found in possessions, power, position, or prestige. It is discovered in goodness, humility, service, and character.” – William Arthur Ward

    I always loved that quote and still remember it until this day. Unfortunately, what you said is the current reality. My daughter is in pre-school and I've seen parents who pressure their children to be at the top of their class. They are being taught to compete and compare with others at a very young age. For me, that is not how I measure my child's success. My goal for my daughter is to learn and just be the best person that she can possibly be. If she happens to enjoy learning and receive honors in the process, then that would just be a bonus.

    How can we change the current definiton? I don't really know but whatever it is, it will need some drastic improvements on the state of education and mass media.

    Have a great day to you and your mom.
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    Apr 17 2011: We could learn to see and feel success as the starting point, not a future goal. Said in another way - success is not found in the end - it is the beginning. From our innate and fundamental success, then we can share and give and appreciate and build on our mutual success. Our success, given. Our goal, to share.
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    Apr 16 2011: Yes, it is true. We live in a society that connect personnal success with wealth and power, therefore, it cannot be measured personally.I think the people who connec their success with wealth and power value others' opinion important, so that they may consider a lot about others views. Currently, what is universal acknowledged is people view something just use general ideas. I also comment something by this way sometimes. In my country, many people think the most successful students are those who have good marks and go to the famous university. Good grades, good schools, good jobs,and final, wealth and power, they are linked each other. Living in a society, we cannot seperate with others, so common ideals are occupated in people's mind.
    However, people can chieve their own success as happiness. I read an article last year, and i remmenber that the author mentioned an adventurer who had made his plan when he was 18 years old, This adventurer made a list which include his 100 goals. When he died, he already finished 99 of the goals. He satisfied with his life. It impressed me a lot, we shouldnot live in others' ideal life. What we should do is making our own plans and try to achieve these goals.
    In my point of view, the best way to measure the success is made by ourselves.
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    Apr 12 2011: Well, she had you, didn't she? If I had a beautiful daughter who spoke five languages, I would consider that an achievement :)

    We can flip this question on its head and ask, what constitutes failure? Success will be the "opposite" of that :P

    The first answers that popped into my mind when I thought of "what constitutes failure" were George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Karl Rove. All three fairly well-off, powerful, conventionally successful men, yet they are terrible human beings. Although they accomplished many of their goals, those goals were idiotic and wrong-headed, and so we're still suffering the consequences.

    So that's my answer - if you are an excellent human being then you are a success in my book. If you are a terrible human being, you are a failure, no matter how conventionally successful you are.
  • Apr 12 2011: I suggest a happiness and fulfillment index. If peace and contentment comes with the knowledge that you have cared for your children and your life is fulfilled, then so be it. If peace and contentment comes from material acquisitions, and you are fulfilled, then so be it, and so on...
  • Apr 11 2011: I am a teacher. I, and others like me, are beginning to shift the definition of success in school by abandoning grades (or at least diminishing their importance). It is being replaced by a combination of assessment tools surrounding newly prioritized skills...collaboration, problem solving, divergent thinking, creative intelligence, etc. Assessing comes through the development of digital portfolios AND freshly-valued reliance upon thoughtful recommendations from the teacher/mentor...whatever you want to call us now. MY POINT IS: If you change how we assess and evaluate success in schools, it will begin to percolate into adult-hood. MY MANTRA: Education is the key to success of everything in our world. Stop trying to change things from the geezers (like me) down. My 2c's. ;-)
  • Apr 11 2011: How about : view ourselves from a perspective of : Given the inputs - opportunitys , emotional challenges, intelligences, health , serendipity, ... how have we used these to make our world and the world of others - safer, friendlier, happier ?
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    Apr 9 2011: Hard to read what you wrote...
    People that immigrate loose their identity.

    "The conventional model of success has proven to be destructive, separating and pitting us against each other in competition." True.

    We need to find ways to pool our talents and work together...

    People with less education than your Mom have taken the lead and created projects that involve and inspire others.

    I would imagine that when it hurts enough one gets up and does something about it?
  • Apr 8 2011: Surely we each define success our own way. Some want to acquire huge amounts of toys, others want to feel good through helping others. The latter may be more socially admirable than the former, but both are valid paths to success of some type. For that reason I don't think it is desirable tha we "collectively" shift toward anything. Let's each of us live with our own measures and our own consciences.

    It is sad that your mother feels she hasn't accomplished anything, but she is evidently judging herself against standards set by others. I hope you told her the truth!
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    Apr 8 2011: I don't think the model will change. Now question is what you consider as wealth and power? Do you think Socretes, Homer, Da Vinchi. Darwin, Newton, Gandhi, Mandela, Mother Teresa and so on as successful people ?

    Ones wealth need not to be materialistic property , power need not to be power of position or power of strength or arms. Knowledge is considered to be power. Love of people can be wealth. So only thing matters which one you want to achieve. What's your definition of success. It's actually at your hand.......
  • Apr 7 2011: John Wooden suggested that success should be defined as doing the best you can with the opportunities available to you (see his TED talk for more). In fact, he says it was the foundation of his strategy as a coach. Ironically, he and "winning" are thought of synonymously even by corporate kings and queens who apparently haven't lived by his definition. If you listen to the whole talk, you realize that when he says "doing your best" he means conducting yourself with integrity and working hard but not being a uni-dimensional workaholic

    My personal belief is that if you want to "win" you need to focus on something else. My bias is that the best strategy for having a "successful life" is to focus on developing your own integrity and not abandoning you values even when you will suffer short-term losses if you stick to the values that define who you want to be, not who others want you to be. If you help others in their attempts to do the same, you can be a great leader.

    If your mom made the best of her opportunities, using John Wooden's definition, and used her time to contribute somehow, and lived with integrity, financial success and titles are not required. She could only do so much to affect what opportunities life gave her so why blame herself for what was beyond her control?
    • Apr 7 2011: "success should be defined as doing the best you can with the opportunities available to you"...I completely agree.

      You should read "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell. Basically, he says attitude+effort+results+OPPORTUNITY=success. I think it is about 2/6 attitude, 2/6 effort, 1/6 results and 1/6 opportunity.
      • Apr 21 2011: Interestingly, there is no accounting for luck or circumstance, unless somewhat miscategorized under opportunity. Alain de Botton argues in his book "Status Anxiety" that this meritocratic approach to success may lead to feelings of failure and under-achievement. He explains that if we "deserve" success based on our efforts and achievements (which often is the common belief - here in the U.S. especially) then, by necessity, failure and misery is also "deserved" whenever it occurs; the rich deserve to be rich and the poor deserve to be poor.

        If you ask people on the street if they believe that rich people have rightfully earned their wealth/success in accordance with the "pursuit of happiness" doctrine, I believe that quite a significant number would say no based on the fact that some are just "lucky" or have been born into fortunate circumstances. Yet, when asked how to achieve success I believe many would answer something similar to Gladwell's formula above. Quite an interesting disconnect, wouldn't you say? The same extrapolation can be made for "the simply unfortunate", of course.
  • Apr 5 2011: Funny, I had a similar conversation with my dad not too long ago and he thought the same thing.. I don't think I could answer it any better than Alan Watts did in this short video, check it out:

    "What would be a better definition of accomplishment for us and how could we collectively shift toward embracing this?"

    That seems to be the golden question, doesn't it! Although its subjective nature makes it tricky.. Accomplishment is relative to each individual, and I believe you must find yourself before you decide what it is in life you wish to accomplish. I can't speak for everyone, but in my experience learning who you are and what makes you happy in life is the path to true happiness. A system focused the mass production of happiness instead of material objects would be much more accomodating to the individual, although the way that would go about is beyond me.

    Without doubt, our system has many negative aspects: the overproduction/overcomsumption of goods, material fetishes, classism, growing economic inequality - it's not a pretty picture. Everyone should know that life isn't a race to aquire as many material goods as possible before death, and in reality, hoarding your wealth only hurts those who don't have enough to make it by. If we want a serious change, I don't think much (or any) of our current system can be salvaged. This corporate-consumermania headache we have in place isn't making our lives any better while destroying the environment in the meantime.
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    Mar 3 2011: Adaptability
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    Mar 3 2011: Let me quarrel with your premise for a second. Bill McKibben and Robert F.Kennedy Jr are two of my heros. But it has nothing do to with wealth or power, but more to do with their moral stands and social justice. The rich and powerful, like the Koch Bros. for example are universally scorned. George Soros, by comparison, has not sold his soul to the devil. Neither has Warren Buffet, who thinks he should pay more taxes, not less. So wealth and power are not the measure of success, it's the "content of their character", to quote Martin Luther King.
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    Feb 16 2011: My own mother was an extremely talented student (she was "Dux" i.e. valedictorian, etc.), but she got married after school and devoted her life to her family (my Dad and us five kids). I heard her say with tears in her eyes and a wavering voice one day -- and this is the only time that I ever heard her even bring it up -- that "I really believe I could have been somebody in this world, but I gave it all up so that five people could be somebody." In my opinion, *that* is the definition of greatness. Thank you for your love and sacrifice, Mum.

    Out of all the movers and shakers in the world, I bet you can guess who is the top of my list of positive influences.

    (Addendum: after we all moved out of home, Mum went back and got her PhD in pediatrics and spent several years doing research -- then she retired from academics because, as she said, "I just want to be a grandmother" :) )

    I wish too that we valued every contribution to humanity, not just the high-profile ones.
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    Feb 16 2011: I think Quality! (After watching this )

    Our social value systems will need some kind of an overhaul though. I think we need to start accepting good quality work as more valuable than work that brings in higher monetary returns. And not just in our own life, but with the people around us too. For instance, I like think that the professionals working in the marketing department of apple are less successfully than those working for Wikipedia or Wikeleaks.

    I guess economics and education are very important to achieve this.
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    Jul 2 2011: I preety agree with you. Sure
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    Jul 2 2011: I think the problem starts when we try to measure the value of anyone's life in terms of success. There's no prize when we get to the end, there's only the way itself. Maybe it would be richer to reflect about what accomplishment means for each one, and I guess there are many different answers for this.
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    Jun 28 2011: once we success to find out our true nature of mind or Human being through doing deep meditation.
  • Jun 10 2011: Simply put, Success is a measurement of satisfaction and happiness in your life. Its very much about the journey, alot of the conventional measures of success aspire to an ending, that doesn't exist.
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    Jun 7 2011: Long before on an olden day, an ancient scholar was sitting alone, near a walk way on a rock .he was naked and was in deep thought. A well dressed man was passing over him; he looked at this naked man and asked...
    Why aren’t you wearing any clothes?
    The naked man replied with a question...
    Why are you wearing clothes?
    If we analyze this conversation, we could find out how the world fashion is evolving.
    It will explain how humanity is percept with perceptions.
    How silly is human mind which will absorb feedback from all the senses to make both the side of a coin statement.
    This will also support Shakespeare, who wrote,
    There is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it.
    We need to assign a time allotment for every thought that flip up through our mind.
    Whenever a thought pops up,
    Ask how much time I need to invest in this thought.
    5 minutes, 50 minutes, 100 minutes, 24 days or life long?
    Life time can be divided with equal time slots,
    When a particular time slot meets with an opportunity, the mind will attract it by forcing us to work with the opportunity given.
    It will manifest our hidden symbolisms of success in the outside world.
    Just imagine,
    This miracle can happen at any time.
    What miracle we are expecting is according to our perceptions.
    Our perception is what we see, smell, touch heard...In the life time...
    So it’s deferent according to everyone.
    Success is hard work without fear on your bestowed arena.
    Say thanks to all the men in the past who have done hard work to make our life better for us in the past and present.
    They all were never so rich and successful according to our present standards.
    So, time plays a huge role, on defining success
    We can either spend time by thinking about success or can work hard and keep us successful.
    Again it’s a personal choice...
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    Jun 6 2011: Helping others is a good thing but I think it is a mistake to use that as a definition for success.

    What if it is me who is in need?

    Does that mean I am not successful?

    What if we were so collectively successful there was no one else to "help?" (Think about that! What would we do it there were no problems to solve? What would TED do?)

    This discussion reminds me of a quote by W.H. Auden: "We are all here on earth to help others; what on earth the others are here for I don't know."
  • Jun 6 2011: My personal definition of whether or not I have been successful in a day is to think about whether or not I have impacted someone's life in a positive way. Every evening I think about this and if I have not I try to think of ways to change what I did that day so I don't make the same mistake.

    From another source though, Chris Rock said "Being rich is not about having money; it's about having options." This could just as easily be about success rather than riches.
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    Jun 6 2011: Hi James,

    You say:

    I think we need to ask/answer two questions:
    - What are the behaviours we want to encourage to build the World we want (new technologies, efficiency, innovation, freedom etc etc) to see
    - What is the "Rewards System" that rewards folks for doing these thing?

    I am familiar with the framework within which these questions make sense, I teach "soft skills" to Chinese businesspeople but I do not think answering them will lead us to the outcomes we actually want.

    If we look at the "BIG PROBLEMS" we are trying to solve, most, if not all of them are the result of us "solving problems" in the first place.

    I do not think we can think our way out of problems we thought ourselves into. (How's that for a statement with some pretty fundamental internal flaws!?)

    I am not suggesting we throw our hands up in despair. Nor I am I suggesting we give up trying to solve the problems we have created. What I am suggesting is we answer your question at a much deeper level than we usually do.

    For one thing, the concept of a "reward system" is, on its face, a good idea but when we look a little deeper it can have a less than attractive side: Who sets up the system and for whom?

    Gotta go for dinner ... bye for now.

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    Jun 6 2011: Anita: First let me say that your mother is not a failure. she brought into this world and raised you with enough sense to ask this question of yourself, and indeed to the world. so you tell her kudos from me. next I am not sure if we can change from a capitlistic wealth driven society. at least I don't see it happening in the near future. What we can do is try to correct some of the things that is wrong with our current system of wealth and power. I have read most of the comments on here from individuals such as James Walker, Andrea Walstrom, etc. some of the things they discussed like Henry Ford, Edison, and the Industrial revolution, are only tangents in the bigger picture of a society moving forward and evolving. We humans are so immature in the big scheme of things. I think for the moment if we just put some guidelines on what we can and cannot do to measure success we will do just fine. some of those guidelines that should be put into place are education for everyone who wants it. stop teaching to the slowest person in our class rooms. All the wealth should not be allowed to pile up at one end of the spectrum (what does 1 person need with a 100 billion dollars?) that's hoarding! My mother used to make these amazing cinnamon rolls when i was a child. I always wanted to eat them all at once. but she said if I did that then I would make myself sick, and she was right. to much of anything is bad for you, even if it's good. the same can be said for business and capitalism. A little goes a long way. and rampant runaway capitalism makes our society sick. It becomes a cancer that feeds on itself with greed and coruption running rampant. starving the base of society till it all comes tumbling to the ground. For those at the top with all the money if you would just give some of that largess to causes that further human education, and ease the suffering of those that no longer have, you too will be a success at being a human being.
  • Jun 6 2011: I believe that 'success' should be measured using two parameters:- 1. what resources/opportunities you got in your life? and 2. what you are now? If you did best with your resources/opportunities then you are successful else not.
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    Jun 5 2011: To "succeed" means to acheive a goal. So "success" will be defined by the projects we chose to have. Wealth and power become the measures of success in a society that has chosen to follow what Neiztche called the will to power.

    The will to power is the way of life that florishes in the cave in Plato's allegory of the cave. So the question becomes whether there is an alternative as Plato suggests. Is there a different way of life guided by The Good? Is there true goodness, or is there just a big competition between the powerful to determine how we will think about goodness?

    I know a man who has lived the humble life of a school teacher. After he retired, he used the expertise he had gained to organize projects to improve literacy of children, to recognize the accomplishments of teenagers who had overcome some sort of adversity, to help young people to go to college, to help families provide christmas presents for their children who could otherwise not provide them. Financially, he lives an ordinary middle class retirement life.

    To those of us who believe that the golden rule defines the essential project of our species, he is a great success.

    To those who measure success by wealth, he is a looser as compared to the ceo who raises his own salary up from 5 figures to 7 figures by cutting the health and retirement benefits of the company employees, and by running the company into the ground, but makiing sure he gets out with a golden parachute before the company hits bottom.

    In The Logic of Life, economist Tim Harford explains that executives are not really worth the salaries they are paid, but the high salary is justified since it functions as an incentive to everyone else to strive for that executive position.

    However, the problem with that and measuring success by great disperaties in wealth is that it puts a premium on dishonesty and cheating.

    I highly recommend David Callahan's book: The Cheating Culture. His website is:
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    Jun 5 2011: @ Tony

    "It is up to us to give a human meaning to the word 'ambition'."

    I think you are absolutely right.

    If we could get other like-minded people in every corner of the world to begin to organise and form a "One World" movement I could die a happy man.

    Also get educators to plant the seeds of "One World" in the heads of our children.....
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    Jun 4 2011: Many times I felt, when I talk to the people around me, that I am in conversation with, antidepressants, vine bottles, pills, beer bottles...Deferent brands make deferent opinion.
    Anitha,I think, should get the ingredients from around you, wash it, remove unwanted stuffs, and cook your own loving recipe.
    The biggest problems are resolved from silence within,
    Let’s be the part of solution than the part of problem,
    “Success is present”
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    Jun 3 2011: Greece and its people are at an all-time low. It's labelled as the failed state of Europe. And prospects are discouraging. Young Greeks are emigrating in fear of expected anarchy. Faced with so many negatives, I share my passion for the things that matter most. Things that make me, and many other Greeks, happy in Greece. Even at this time of crisis. 
    Eudaimonia is a uniquely Greek word. 
    I explain what it means to me in my TEDx talk - my passport to eudaimonia (happiness+). -->
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    Jun 3 2011: Maybe we should look at the people that really affected the world we currently live in, on the positive side, and ask ourselves what were their motivations to move forward in those particular directions.

    Personally, and I am not a well educated scientist, but Nicola Tesla is the name that comes to my mind when it comes to thanksgivings. Probably not the most popular scientist in the eye of the common, but certainly the one most of our contemporary advancements came from.

    In my naive eyes and solely based on the writings of others on the myth, I see a man thrived to put back mankind on the rails of evolution through progress and bettering the world for all who live in it.

    It is up to us to give a human meaning to the word 'ambition'.
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    Jun 3 2011: Great question Anita.

    Recently I've been asking that question and have come to the conclusion that I get the most out of life when I am encouraged and inspired by other people - whatever form they hand it to me with. As I get older I am realizing the need for me to do the same and stop concerning myself with financial security/success.

    So my answer would be to encourage inspiring others at a younger age so we can become champions of all at the same time as being their competition. I think it can be more than just "team spirit" because that is a simple answer. I believe that if we grade ourselves not only based on our personal successes, but by all those that we touch, fulfillment and respect can be widen to a degree that even I cannot comprehend.

    That is my path now and I would ask your mother who she has inspired and encouraged along the way - she did a great job in raising you since you are so inquisitive and thoughtful in asking this question.
  • Jun 3 2011: Creativity is driven by need for survival. Therefore, social system are the reason for killing creativity. As an evidence, most people in middle eastern and asian countries have high level of education, and strong theoretical scientific knowledges, but due to their social system, there has been no need to be creative to help the society to survive. As for for example, in US, due to lack of social services, and unpredictability of sustainability, creativity has been a necessity for survival. One might argue that a lot of contribution resulted from creativity has been provided by the east, but they did when social system was not established yet. Also climate is another driving force for creativity. If you are living on the beach and coconut drops on your head, you really don't have to do much to live one. But if you are by north pole, then you have to be creative to feed yourself and keep yourself warm. So I don't think schools are responsible for killing creativity, its the social system!
  • Jun 2 2011: Unfortunately we measure success by comparison to others or not meeting our dreams. I also have broken dreams and have a hard time not comparing myself to others. I celebrate success when I realize independance, survivability, simplicity, and look at the things I have without external comparison. Are you happy with "your" life, not another person's interpretation of what your life should be. But your life. If the rest of the world ceased to exist: Would you be happy with your life and personal social grouping. Our minds are wired for small social groupings and small community living. Our ancestors living in small communities often had very similar lifestyles and therefore had little to compare each other to. It is only with the increase in complexity and population of society that we began having self doubt as to our success. What is succes? Maybe it is measured in personal happiness.

    Thank You
  • Jun 2 2011: Bhutan is making strides using a "Gross Domestic Happiness" scale - instead of Gross Domestic Product.

    So they ask things like "can you trust your neighbors?" and "how safe do you feel walking in your neighborhood after dark?" in addition to the "how much money do you make?"

    I guess first we need to define success well. Currently in the USA, we seem to define it clearly in just dollars. I'm old enough to have children in high school, and I remember a time when people who made less, but contributed more (teachers, fire fighters, etc.) were held in higher esteem than they seem to be now.

    Will local currencies like Ithaca Hours help?

    Do we have good ways to get people to act locally?

    Maybe re=working the Bhutan questionnaire for your country / area is a first place to start. Start running the poll in your town/neighborhood.
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    Jun 2 2011: Wealth is never generated elsewhere than from debt. The unbalance of the monetary system is overwhelming. The success measured by the amount of wealth you have can not truly be called success, it is merely the weight that counter balance for many many poor people.

    Success must return to a more basic value, like happiness. Not only for the individual but for the community as a whole. Not only for a nation or a country but for all the people of the world.

    The current system is about to fall, it's only a matter of time, make yourself a favor and stop measuring your success by the amount of wealth you take from others and start measuring your success by the amount of love you give to others.

    If your only goal is to make profit to increase your amount of wealth and your power by the same mean, you will become addicted to this state and you will be ready to do the most horrible things to increase your wealth and power. Until now the ordinary people (individually powerless) know this and they have let it be for a while, but now the young are refusing to be controlled by the few rich multinational corps.

    A World is about to Fall and a New is about to Rise.

    The multitude of slaves are about to take back the control from the rich, as it happens every once in a while when the pleb is tired of the ways of the aristocracy.
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    Jun 1 2011: To speak as a 'familyman'; Find a way to sustain yourself and spend the rest of the day/week with your beloved ones = success. The problem for a lot of us (and every year more) is we can't find a job doing something 'good' AND sustain yourself. So you have to become an innovator/entrepreneur, looking for followers and power to sustain yourself in doing good, though being burdened with taking care of so many people you don't have time anymore for your personal beloved ones.... A paradox..

    Doing plenty good + Having plenty sparetime = success for yourself and the community.

    So how to do good in work AND not to be absorbed by it.

    Where are all those bachelors for life decided to love working for the good 24/7? Hire me! ;)
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    Jun 1 2011: The best accomplishment anyone can make is to live sustainably and devote their life to enlightening individuals and groups about ways to improve the world. It's not about money. We have a very small window to address the key issues like overpopulation and destructive practices (overfishing, dirty industry like oil, mining, etc...). Our economic system does not serve us well. We need to design a system that takes a cradle to grave approach to manufacturing, clean-up previous environmental disasters and create political systems that actually work for the planet.
    I have spent the last 20 years of my life volunteering on marine conservation initiatives. I have discovered that this isn't enough and have left the corporate world to take on these issues on a full-time basis. I have never felt more on track or happy.
    Individuals that are affecting positive change for the planet are more important than ones working on achieving personal or financial goals. We have to take a more planetary centric point of view. It is one planet that we all share. No one owns the resources. This is a construct created by greedy individuals that are more about power than planetary health.
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    Jun 1 2011: In my opinion, some of the answers to this question lie in how literal we define wealth and power. If wealth can be only be attributed to those with high material value, then I believe we are in need of changed thinking. If wealth can be measured in how many people we have made a connection with in life then I think being wealthy is on a positive spin. All in all, our view of wealth and success is close to accurate. A wealthy person has probably made great connections with others and achieved in accordance with Maslow's needs. This is at least some form of success and one that not all achieve. Our view of being unique and having accomplishments feeds into this ideal of what a successful person "looks like". That said, we are definitely in need of progressive business models focused away from greed and isolation. Detracting humans from social and family life for becoming wealthy is not positive.
    Power is a very relative term, but I agree it is a major measure of success. We all view power differently which probably makes it a bad standard for much of anything. If i am charged with making power an adequate measure of success; I am defining it as power over one's own body and mind. By looking within first we can create truly powerful, innovative thinkers and emotionally intelligent communicators.
  • Jun 1 2011: Are Wealth and Power conventional measures of success? I hope not. I am a big believer in that it is up to every individual to define what success means for them, and for them to strive to achieve this. There are plenty of people in vocational careers - e.g. religious leaders, teachers, healthcare professionals - who would absolutely recognise that they do not define their success by financial rewards, but by the positive impacts they have had on others.

    Ultimately I suspect a lot of people would equate success with happiness, and while money might make some happy, a loving family, good friends, and a worthwhile contribution to society would resonate with me as more important drivers of happiness.
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    Jun 1 2011: I am quite lost with pursuing this word as well, SUCCESS. At the age of 19, I thought my success was to have a lot of money. Then I put myself into business and left my parents, girlfriend and friends in pursuit of wealth. I had many objections for doing businesses but I still insisted and then I failed. After three years, I came back home. Still my parents accepted me though my girlfriend and friends left me. At the age of 22, insisting to do business again, I think my success was to rebuild my reputation and money back. At the age of 24, I lost everything again, betrayed by friends. Imagine how heartbroken my parents were when I came back home again. I spent a year doing nothing, except hanging out. Then, I met another girl who has put me back into life. I thought my success was when I had her by my side. Then, she left me again. For these three months, I have been so down and heartbreaking. Then, I set up a goal to forget her and restart my life again. I have been sitting and praying for power from gods, every god... I have been meditating and calm myself down. And I realize that actually the starting point is my success. If I start thing right at the beginning, success is already half way. I reflect myself and the mistakes that I did. Actually, it is the way of prioritizing things I value in life is the success. At the age of 19, I valued money, friends, family and girlfriend. I failed. At the age of 22, i valued friends, family, money and girl friend. I also failed. at the age 25, I valued girlfriend, money, family and friend. I also failed. Now I found out that I should value family, love, friends and money. doing this, I can feel positive result appearing. Therefore, I hold this believe and I think I will follow this recipe for my success. FAMILY, LOVE, Friends and money!!! I am sorry this is just what I believe! Please give me feedback....
  • Jun 1 2011: If you see yourself happy, its because it's given for us to be Happy.We should see our success
    not on material wealth but by how good and wonderful our life is given by our creator.
    and TEMPERENCE(self-control)
    this are the traits that each of us must have to have a happy and contended life.
  • Jun 1 2011: We are not our jobs. They are just things we do. Most jobs don't respect us, they just rent our time.

    We are tested and vetted and selected throughout our childhoods which I think can be an extremely damaging thing to do to most children.

    Perhaps the only important goals we should have is that we understand ourselves as best we can and try to be as kind as we can be to everyone and world around us, as opposed to desperately, sometimes with little choice, trying to be what society or the job market wants us to be or not to be.

    Here is a great example of people being human beyond wealth and power.
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    May 31 2011: Anita,

    If my definition of accomplishment tracks as true to you, your mother has accomplished something remarkable. She has abetted your success -- not least expressed by all the people who hear in your question something of importance to co-ponder, particularly those who have commented publicly here.

    Her scaffolding of you, in my read, then, is a powerful part of her legacy. Which, you now are spreading in a big way via TED, and as I expect you are via your other venues and efforts.

    Not to minimize her frustration in any way. It's a very sobering reminder, yes. Perhaps even heartbreaking. Yet your sharing it here has shed a light of hope, too:

    There is more to your mother's big picture, then perhaps is in full view (to her, at least). To me anyway, a part of her legacy is illuminated here.

    For your mom's sake and all the many others' whose potentials have been and still are under-supported I think it is a very good idea to keep asking, nurturing and "curating" questions like these, Anita.

    More to my point: we should all redouble efforts to follow your efforts and engage our potentials, as you have yours, by scaffolding many others abilities and potentials, too.

    I'm glad you have,
    • May 31 2011: The answer is soooo simple: - A happy, harmonic and satisfied person = Succesful !
      Please note that the reverse is NOT valid - using the "modern" definition of success as being welth and power !
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    May 31 2011: I believe true success is first measured by how well we are trained in the principle of unconditional love or real love. When we know how to give and receive real love, then we are satisfying the deep need of our hearts to be happy. Our true happiness is not based on our wealth and power or the lack of it. We are successful because our heart is constantly energized by our relationships - the only true source of success and happiness.

    Wealth and power is just an external identity that is connected to the system of government and business that we empower to take care of our fellow human beings. But even on this level, when one is in the position of power and wealth and realize and work on the true purpose of this position - to take care of the bigger family (all the people being served), no words would describe the joy that would go back to that person of power and wealth with the multitude of love and respect received back from the people that are served well.
  • May 31 2011: You see, we all have the same general meaning for success, so tell your Mom to get it together because time is moving fast, and before we know it another one hundred years will have passed.
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    May 31 2011: Wealth and power. It is still the conventional measure of success because our present society makes it to be so. Even in Asia, presently, this measure has also been used as a yardstick for success, because of the predominance of western culture.

    But what is there to say that there is no other measure for success? When the world was still in its pre-historic stage of development, would wealth and power then have been a measure of success? It is more likely that, during such brutish period of our planet's history, the measure of success would have been our ability to adapt and survive through whatever nature throws at us... and as Darwin would have put it, success would have gone to the fittest.

    That is to say, it has been our very success of developing civilizations, when humans began to organize themselves, accumulation of property was possible and class divisions began appearing, that such successes would have led to the development of wealth and power, in which case, those with superior capability to accumulate the wealth would then deem themselves to be successful.

    Such concept of wealth is only illusory for the individual because it can only be enjoyed during the period of one lifetime, and cannot be brought beyond the grave. In order to extend beyond, it required that continuity of enjoyment of wealth be transferred in some way or other to the descendants of the original individual, thus the concept of inheritance comes about.
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    May 31 2011: Success, in my mind, is as much constructing one's legacy as it is about living in pursuit of it.

    This calls on an iterative process wherein one builds the story or their history even as they are scaffolding and enabling others futures. This requires embracing and engaging self-potentials with integrity that goes well beyond the facades of financial postures or fleeting feats that might imply power, but beneath which shifting sands of social or professional standards burble. Such are unlikely to "stand the test of time," much less "weather the storms" of any given life.

    So integral success, then, requires intentional and persistent engagement of others' potentials as much as one's own. The knowledge of one's inter-dependence with others and understanding that one's power to uplift others is directly proportionate to one's personal success.

    Like scaffolding on a building, this sort of power must be exceedingly strong even while it is subservient to a much larger expression of the efforts that come into view only because of it -- because of sustained integrity.

    So success, in my mind, is best measured by how many others' one's life has lifted up and sustained. The most influential leaders I know spend as much time illuminating others' potentials as they do striving for their own. They shy from showy success and invest far more in abetting and highlighting others abilities. Their happiness is derived from the very act of doing all they can to engage the best in others. In other words: it is derived from seeing others succeed.

    They realize their own potential is achieved in direct relation with others. And don't tend to lose focus on either their own or others' potentials and bigger pictures in blind pursuit of superficial success. Thus, leaders like these (be they mothers, spiritual mentors, musicians, managers or MDs) live their power and succeed through integrity. And while they do, they construct very humane legacies.

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    May 31 2011: We are moving from a paradigm of competition and struggle to cooperation and flow or harmony. There is planetary movement or shift happening all the way down through the atomic structure. We are evolving from a carbon based structure to a crystalline structure atomically and this means that everything is going to change drastically. So, wealth and power will have new meanings such as wealth of knowledge and love in the true sense of the word - power will be being at one with the underlying Power that is Life or God. religion will fall away because it is man-made and based upon the erroneous opinions of human beings, and Truth will flourish on every level for humankind.
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    May 30 2011: Equating success with "accomplishment" perpetuates the myth that success is measured by external factors. Also shifting "collectively" assumes success is a social (external) phenomenon. So, to answer your question, I would say, finding a way to experience fulfillment that is not based on extrinsic factors would be a good start: Nosce te ipsum.
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    May 30 2011: The cultural ideas of true purpose and meaning have been gathered from the limited mind of human beings; mostly opinions which have no basis in Truth - what is really true for the race and for the person in order to grow, evolve, find happiness, and enjoy and feel good about themselves - prosperity in all ways essentially.

    I have a perception . . . an experience of humanity being guided by true intelligence in order to become sovereign and truly free, truly intelligent, truly fulfilled in purpose and direction and meaning and goals that are based upon the higher laws of Life which I have gathered and which are simple enough to understand by almost anyone who desires truth . . . not the 'truth' devised by others opinions and agendas, but a real and great Truth which comes from the hghest of places within the heart of humankind. . . and it is based upon Love Higher Love and Understanding the wisdoms of the ages - for those searching for a direction and meaning and purpose beyond the traditional religions and spirituality, creeds and sects which people are born into and die into as well, I hold this truth to be self-evident that all are created equal and have the very same potential and opportunity in which to awaken this potential and bring it forth in their personal lives and world.

    Esu Kumara
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      May 30 2011: Signore Kumara....per noi popoli mediterraneo, la gioia è l ùnica misura per la felicita....dopo piu da 5000 anni d' istoria lo sapiamo benissimo. La felicita abita nel cuore....i soldi nella tasca...non e buona la confussione tra le due. (Il cuore è dove la famiglia, a casa), la politica e per parlare, e le donne per amare.
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        May 31 2011: Ive taken the liberty to translate your reply:

        Lord Kumara Mediterranean peoples .... for us, joy is the only measure for happiness .... after more than 5000 years of 'We know the story well. Happiness dwells in the heart .... the money in the pocket ... not good and the confussion between the two. (The heart is where the family home), and to talk politics, and women love.
  • May 30 2011: Happiness which mean: loving family and friends, living your life and doing some thing with a meaning (for others) and good heart! - that is my definition of successful person.
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    Tero -

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    May 30 2011: I'm trying to find the true meaning of success at the moment, as well.
    What I can say so far is that it's about self fulfilment and of the likes,
    and that wealth and power should/could only be byproducts of this.
    Even then, it's not necessary.

    as it seems that often power and wealth is
    acquired more and more through connections you are born into or one you force
    yourself into by playing a game that by all means is not fair or very productive.
    Those with high levels of money and power are at times at the worst end of the
    spectrum (in terms of doing harm to society, pushing for their own interest and
    thus contributing to the inequalities/pollution of this world)

    so in conclusions, money and power are not the true virtues of success - far from it
    A focus on being a good person, with a large venue of experiences and a positive mind
    will take you a hell of a lot further in being successful than any hunt for power and money ever will.

    Please convey that to your mother :)
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    May 30 2011: Hi Anita,
    According to me success is that what we think about success is.
    If you have a bright idea in mind, and if you are working on its fulfillment, then you are a successful person.
    There are personal success and social success.
    If you are not caught with a chronic disease, you are successful. If you are able to see the true beauty of the nature, then you are successful .If you can see and feel the depth of love in everyone you are successful. Even if you live with a disease and can see the beauty of the world and see the love around you and can spread the love, you are successful. Those we think who are successful in terms of wealth and power really need all these.
    People are also individuals, so they are deferent or else we can call everyone by a single name, can stitch cloth on single measures.
    According to me those who made Thousands, millions or Billions are old successful people and the new ones are those who work on any arena with passion and love for humanity and science.
    Money is only a byproduct of success.There is lot of examples in history and in current societies.
    Tomorrow morning, when you wake up… go out... or see through your window..
    Watch the Sun, see the plants the greenery, watch the sky.The flowers..The birds..You feel the sky is heaven who bestow you freedom and passion for love…
    You can see the world, you can watch the world, you can look the world, you can view the world, and you can observe the world.
    If you start seeing the world and work on your passion tomorrow, you are a successful person from tomorrow onwards.
    Try to make every small single thing you do more beautiful and correct, then all big things will flow to to you and manifest.
    Good morning tomorrow
  • May 28 2011: Possibly it is how a person is placed in the close world around them. ie " are they liked ?" do they give and receive kindness"? I have been poor, wealthy, and now average. There was no difference in happiness through the transitions. Many wealthy people out there trample fellow humans on their journey. They lack empathy. The prisons are full of people who lack empathy but still it continues in business unabated. It sounds like your mother is surrounded by love. That is success.
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    May 27 2011: Maybe another way of thinking about this is that Wealth and Power are "Rewards" that recognise contribution to the lives of others. In Western Europe, Real GDP has doubled every generation since the Industrial Revolution, and we have had a "rewards system" that has kind-of worked.
    Rather than thinking of alternative measures of "Success", if we don't like Wealth and Power anymore, why not think about WHAT IT IS THAT WE WANT TO REWARD, ie: what behaviours do we want to applaud. If in the past if was innovation and wealth creation that benefitted all of us, maybe now you want it to be something else?
    If we figure out the something else that we want to reward, then we can worry about what the reward is, if, it is different to Wealth and Power.
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    May 27 2011: More living, less money. Live an adventure, keep an honest journal about what and why you do what you do. When read, your reasons will be just as if not more important then your actions. Never let anyone touch it and then give it to your family when you pass. In summary, encourage attaining moments above finance. Leave behind you and not your wallet. Your life story is your success.
  • May 26 2011: I am an 21 year old male. My suggestion can be an unimportant one due to my small age; however, perseverance really matters. For instance, Thomas Edison have tried to find the lamb for many times and , finally, even his assistance told Edison " isn't that enough that you lost a thousand times..." In a remarkable way Edison answers 'I found a thousand ways which will lead me to create the so-called lamb". Everything can occur in the earth in terms of obstacles. Therefore, without ignoring the realities we need to see well, think well in order to live within success.
  • May 26 2011: For me success is Durable Fulfilment i.e. "is the feeling that I have accomplished everything that I need to accomplish, the feeling of being able to fulfill whatever I am purposed to do here on earth."
    Being content, tranquil, unconditionally happy with being myself.
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    May 26 2011: Anita, I think your concern for your mother perfectly answers your question. If we define ourselves by acts of kindness towards each other, we measure up well with each other in a timeless socially highly valued way. Our awareness of each other's concern for our mutual well being transcends materialism. Everyone has a boulevard of broken dreams. You are a curator of magic unrealism, I love your description of yourself. Document your mother's life and show her her very real accomplishments. The real social currency has always been kindness, and our treasure measured in friends and family.
  • May 26 2011: Sorry about the scattered answer but i didnt really want to spend a lot of time I wanted to get some ideas out there

    wealth and power's pinnacle has already been reched by certain men and women who hold fortunes large enough to support entire third world communitys by building them basic unfrastructure, some people hold enough wealth to support many. some people have earned their welath making other people poorer. I think that wealth is a good thing to have but greed is quite a dangerous trait. Maybe we could define success as an end to our own dissatisfaction with our personal life. Maybe a new measure of success could be to not be narrow mindded and measure success when infact you were born in a 1st world country which automatially makesyou successful. What im saying i guess is success could be measured in modesty and humbleness while at the same time expressing yourself fully and striving to attain a certain standard of living. Maybe sucess could be measured in lack of desire to be that rich person.

    There are many different measures of success and the scattered nature of my article indicates how complex the true answer to the question really is because there is many influencial factors. one for example is which values does your success abide to. I think a good definition of success is when the human race succeeds as one.

    Sorry about the scattered answer again, was it hard to follow because if so i will work to improve my writng and editing, feedback would be great.
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    May 25 2011: I like Earl Nightingale's definition.

    "Success is the progressive realisation of a worthy ideal".

    To me, that is all about how we evolve as human beings, communities and families. In this sense, your mother is absolutely successful. To have a daughter as a TED fellow is an extraordinary feat. There are not that many Fellows. Additionally, ANYONE who is brave enough to migrate anywhere has been successful. Moving overseas to live is one of the HARDEST things to do personally, financially and psychologically.
  • May 23 2011: Wealth and power have been embraced as common measures of success because they work and the results are tangible.

    A skyscraper can't be built from dreams alone. Steel and labor are needed. Money will buy those things.

    Power, the ability to influence people, can help a person gain wealth or the skills to assemble that skyscraper.

    However, success is relative and can really only be defined by each person. Ones view of success can't be forced onto another determined view.

    Some think that the conventional model of success has proven to be destructive. I think it has helped motivate people to gain wealth and power so that ambitions and dreams can be made real.
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    May 21 2011: Shouldn't we always consider our own success by the end of our lives by how happy we are? For me, at the moment, I'd be more successful if I would take more risks (--> less regrets) and saw more of the world.
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    May 19 2011: Interesting question. I think part of the struggle is that people place so much emphasis on big achievements in life and fail to notice and cherish the smaller things. In all that we do the biggest measure of success has got to be the happiness it brings to us or to others. Maybe if we took more notice of the small things we would be better at evaluating and defining success in ways other than wealth and power.
  • May 19 2011: Wealth and power have been our conventional measures of success. What definition will better sustain us now and how can we move into it?

    Simply put - how many people turn up for your funeral.

    Again simply put that may well be the measure of how much you've added to others lives while living yours. Think Ghandi.

    A simple answer yes, I admit that, but with all the differing reasons, peoples, languages, societies, learning, cultures, it is one thing that we all can understand, plus it leaves it in our hands to decide the best route to achieve the goal.
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      May 21 2011: Ah but I don't think Nietzsche had too many friends by the end of his life. And Arthur Rimbaud, he had pretty much nobody by the end. Yet both are probably the most remarkable people I've found.

      Although, neither of them would probably have considered themselves successful when they died...
  • May 19 2011: Hi Anita,

    Thanks a lot for your question! :)

    I agree with you, there is something else, something more valuable than just Ego.

    Let me give an exemple:
    Life being ironical, imagine losing your truly love and earning in the other hand a lot of money (I mean a LOT) , would you be HAPPY?
    You would probably feel empty.

    History of Humankind is centered around Ego, the dream of individual fullfilment by Domination, most of the time.
    You can see it in the way our governance systems are built, our economic systems (individual profit only).
    May be there is a center between "everything for me" and "everything for all", don't you think ?

    WE always tend to go to an extreme, why ?
    May be because our thinking is too unclear, we prefere clear situations.

    By the way, scientists have unconsciously understood this situation a long time ago. Why ?
    Because it was less efficient than "everything for me".

    Ego is important only if you can dominate it, otherwise it becomes destructive and also less efficient for you.

    So, what definition will better sustain us ?
    Well, I'm still looking for the word, something between global collaboration and self-improvement.
    May be collaborative improvement ?

    Which kind of fullfilment do you prefer ? Domination ?

    And finally, how can we move into it ?
    We are moving into it, but still now, unconsciously.

    I think we need the step we are into, to understand what we need to change.

    Also, I have an idea about a tool:
    A kind of mix between social networks, TED, role playing game and wikipedia.
    This will get us to hyper-democracy as a civilisation but I see a lot of trouble in front.
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    May 19 2011: How come our conventional model of succes has proven to be destructive? Technology is advancing faster and faster everyday due to competition. We still live, our greatest acccomplishment is the fact that we exist, survival. Our second greatest accomplishment is the level of technology we have achieved, knowledge is the strongest asset we have as a collective being. I do think there could be more efficient models though but i guess that would limit our personal freedoms even further.
  • May 17 2011: Sucess should be analyzed not by competition but my refering to previous personal goals in life. When, in the future, we look into what we would hoped to achieve and "calculate" if, with the information we had at the time, could we do something different to achieve the goal or not. If not, the attempt is equally important. An viable attempt sort of speech in which there is no prove, at the time, that it would be impossible or ilogical to pursue that goal with that particular approach.
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    May 17 2011: Success in my eyes is simply measured in the achievement of your goals set in life!
  • May 17 2011: Imagine if we had even an informal system of recognized progression through an educational and training program not unlike the "belt' systems of some martial arts.

    Except that what is learned is essential and advanced elements of humanity--everything from the practical value of sobriety and perseverance to the high degrees of emotional intelligence and understanding needed to resolve conflicts or effectively teach.

    Such a system might be devised by assembling some of the world's great philosophies and "best practices" of living, into curricula, theoretical and applied, that could be followed at one's own pace and that may take years to complete.

    Once you've completed important elements, you would be recognized for it, as in "Jerry may drive a piece of crap and dress like a shlub, but he's an eighth-degree Jedi Human Being. His mother is very proud."

    Perhaps we would get to wear cool earrings or something?
  • May 17 2011: I've been successful at work, financially and gotten awards but I feel more proud about the effects I've had on others. Illuminating other's lives, helping others heal physically, planting trees and gardens, improving the homes I've lived in and LOVE . . . love everyone you can, the more people you love the more love you have to give. Help your mother realize that the things she thinks are valuable are very tiny compared to what she probably has already done.
  • May 13 2011: I think this just clearly shows what today's society values the most. Sure we can have our personal values, but given that we are all shaped by our society, then it's no wonder that a lot of people value the "mainstream" meaning of success.

    Sure we live in a material world but instead of equating wealth just to our material possessions and monetary (which is really just an idea) worth, we can also think of wealth in other areas of our lives:
    wealth of health
    wealth of relationships
    wealth of experience and wisdom
    wealth of culture

    Can't we think of power outside of the context of competition?
    power to choose and decide for ourselves
    power to change ourselves
    power to influence change in our community
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      May 14 2011: Thanks for your wisdom words.
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    May 13 2011: We all have our own definition of "self" but all of the definitions only include a selective collection of qualities and attributes we think we are, or we want to be or we are somehow related to. It could make us feel happy, think we are successful and increase our self-confidence or on the other hand make us sad! We define our identity with things we believe we have accomplished so when it is important for us to gain some thing and we haven't been able to, it seems that we feel some shortage in "our Identity" or in the "self".
    Now the question is If the definition of "self" in this way is extrinsic and not inherent, why should it be defined in a destructive way! Things that are conventionally the symbols of success naturally can't be completely achievable and also can’t be kept forever and could be easily lost! So rationally if the terms success or self be defined based on such things you have defined yourself and your happiness in contrast with the rules of nature.

    I think the mankind needs a new definition of "self" and all our actions and behavior should be based on that.
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    May 13 2011: To me, the most important thing in life is health. Nothing made me happier than seeing my beloved one being safe and healthy. Yes, all of us has so many targets to accomplish; however success can be measured in different ways.
  • May 12 2011: If most of the time you arrive at the office/work whistling or humming...and after work, without dropping at a bar on your way home for quick shots of tequila you look forward to see your family/ play with your child..... then you know you are successful in life. Rest is just illusion that we take on lease.

    How we can move into it depends on how determined we are to set our priorities in life. Success is not what you achieve but what you give to others. And this is the easiest and toughtes thing in life tho an open secret for everyone.
  • May 12 2011: Maybe we start from what we (hopefully) don't want in society

    Gated communities, separation, wide income disparity, status seeking, hubris, greed, misery and so seek the opposite. If you help to further these opposite aims then maybe that's achievement.

    Be careful with the 'happy child raising' goal. OK, it is laudable. I too have grown up children. But do not always put their needs above the wider community's. "I can justify that private school as I am doing it for them". It becomes a comfortable excuse and sends them a negative message.

    I once went on a long bike ride. I felt vulnerable and appreciated those who said yes when I asked for something. They are the ones I want to live with. It made me realise the benefits of being humble (not that I always follow this) and so feel so alive.

    The trouble is that I find that I can be more considerate now I am more financially comfortable, so I have built my own gated-community, which rather undermines the whole process. Maybe to be qualified to advise then you need to be vulnerable. Sorry, no answers here.
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    May 12 2011: We have to make many changes in the society. 2000 characters won't be enough to explain the whole process. But i'll try to resume the idea.

    We need to give a value of wealth similar to money but more limited, something that balance itself like a justice value based on the quality of life of each individual on many level, like physical, emotional, psychological, environmental, etc. everything related must be taken into consideration for the well-being of everyone. If someone give humanitarian aid, he gain wealth on that system, if someone commit an aggression or any free criminal action he not only lose wealth but something similar to the current justice authority will have to judge the actions of the individuals, i won't go into details for now.

    The goal is to stop the capitalism system and transform it into something more humane, where the increase in quality of life, happiness, joy, love are highly-valued and where the destructive manners of the current system like pollution, unnecessary dumping (for the sake of profit), weapons and all other things which brings nothing more than awful results are prohibited and/or condemn by the authority. Everything will be measured by their results, are they good or are they bad.

    In this system, Global World Peace is the ultimate goal, to reach a global level of abundance without much greed or envy. A World where everyone is free, where being jobless is not an issue because the system will take care of your needs for you. The direction the technology is going will eventually cause all corporation to lay off all their employee, in our current capitalist society that will be the end of the system, on the new system this will be the liberation from neo-slavery, where the corporations producing goods don't need money to distribute their product, if their products are good, the production will keep on going as long as the offer/demand is attained.

    I knew 2000 characters wouldn't be enough, i hope i brought you the big picture...
  • Apr 29 2011: I think that if we don't smarten up as a whole then we are eternally in trouble. My paycheck doesn't measure the quality of human that I am. It doens't measure anything but how much money you have and to rely on that as a characteristic of status is disgusting. We have allowed ourselves to be objectified throught the years by not taking a real stand against what needs to happen, but now is the time. We don't have a choice but to finally decide that we aren't going to take it, because if we all stand up then that doesn't leave many people. i know that ultimately its going to be up to us to make the change that we desire. If you put more good in the world than you take out, you are successful, as good things will always happen to you and find their way to work out. If you are a taker and rely on your paycheck to define you, I'm sorry for you. Wake up, when it all comes crashing down and your successful job no longer exists that paid you big bucks, what will you have left to define you, oh yeah, you lol. Success should have more to do with your internal happiness and living a life that you love, that only does good for your and the people around you, and accepting nothing liess.
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    Apr 29 2011: If everyone keeps trying to buy and consume as much as possible, our planet will die and humanity with it. Once you have enough food and shelter and healthcare to live a full life, maximizing possessions should no longer be the goal. Yet, that is what capitalism is based on: individual greed. To consider and treat individuals as distinct, independent entities is the flaw. Tribes, groups, cities, states, nations, societies, humanity itself: it is through these aggregations that we operate and identify ourselves. The goals must include sustainability, increasing opportunities for advancement of knowledge, a continued refinement of our lives and our surroundings. Building a small but elegant, interesting and complex place to live and interact would fill our lives with real riches: the richness of experience, the satisfaction of interactions and correlations with our common miraculous existence from a cold, perhaps random, universe.
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    Apr 28 2011: i dont kown, so
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    Apr 28 2011: Skill and perhaps Knowledge and Wisdom. Skill implies talent and gives high status to those that achieve greatness in something, especially something productive to the community. Being skillful at something at least shows one is productive and able to provide a service to his or herself and provide for their community. Knowledge and Wisdom in general are always good things to have. For a healthy society and community it would be wise (In my opinion) to reward those with the most knowledge with the most status.
  • Apr 27 2011: Compassion linked to the ability to listen MUST be the characteristics we value most as a society.
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    Apr 27 2011: I believe it will change when people will define themselves and not let society decide for them. Only late in our history we truly find encouragement of self-recognition. We have created a society of survival ( hunter gathering) then of production, I believe it is time for a society of ideas an individuals that synergize. Then how define success? It depends of each person. Did the monk in the high plateau of Tibet have obtain a success yes. But such everyone do the same? Doubtful, who make Our food? Our clothes? This website? Does the rich man obtain success? Maybe if it was his goal. We need everyone little success define by their limit, their dream and their own belief.
    There a line in Cyrano of Bergerac that I love ""Cyrano: I know, you will leave me with nothing - neither the laurel nor the rose. Take it all then! There is one possession I take with me from this place. Tonight when I stand before God - and bow low to him, so that my forehead brushes his footstool, the firmament - I will stand again and proudly show Him that one pure possession - which I have never ceased to cherish or to share with all-
    -and that is-
    Roxane: And that is...?
    Cyrano: My enormous - panache." Act 5, pg. 157
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    Apr 27 2011: Accomplishment = setting goals + giving a true effort + learning from the effort I put forth to achieve that goal, and then realizing new skill sets I need to attain/ reasses my values in order to reach that same or new goal. Money and material is not the problem. If your heart is in it to be the best salesman you can be, as long as you are not infringing on others rights, your acts are morally sound and honest, and your goal is to make the most money you can in order to be happy, then go for it!

    The problem with the "conventional model of success is the general collective cultural canon of the people. It is a belief that the more you have, the more secure you will be in the future. And deep deep within all of us, we feel insecure and need to externalize that void in the form of material gain and profit. The problem is not job titles and possesions, it's the reason why we have "material-valued ideals" to begin with.

    Competition to the Romans and Greeks actually meant to strive along side our brothers and sisters to a common good. Today it means, to strive for an upper hand above and beyond our brothers and sisters which will create status and power giving us further security because we then have something that other people want and need. So we can use it as a bargaining chip.

    We can collectively shift towards embracing a comprehensive accomplishment, by striving (with our intrinsic-non egoic goals) alongside our brothers and sisters' intrinsic-non-egoic goals to better ourselves to attain a balance of life where we are happy and content. Once we individually can achieve happiness (from succesfully giving a mindful effort towards a goal. learning, tweaking, growing cycle) then a collective whole accomplishment will ensue.
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    Apr 26 2011: This is a question thats been plaguing my mind recently.

    My current career has been leading me down a path towards achieving a position where I will be able to finance the things I want to do in my own time, but I have little interest in the industry/ role i currently work in or even the one I have been aspiring to. It just begs the question - Why don't I just pursue a career I enjoy & where money won't be an issue because I'm having fun? Which would make me feel more successful? Aged 17 I was easily convinced it was the one that would make me the wealthiest, now I'm not so sure. I don't think my personal priorities were wrong or have even changed, I just don't think i ever considered them as part of the equation. Now facing a redundancy situation, I'm thinking of taking it as an opportunity to change my life.

    One thing is for sure though - if a career change is the right thing, the UK university fees rise isn't helping give me the courage to go for it!
  • Apr 25 2011: It is true that wealth and power are always considered as the symbol of sucess, but I have just finished a debate about the relationship between happiness and sucess, my team hold the opinion that we are sucess because of happiness. But we didn't win in the contest, I am really confused about this.Advocation of the value that we shouldn't only focus on the sucess, which is admited by other people in the society, is it not right? In the history of China, there are many great people lived in the forests or mountains to search for the peace and the true self, but people now can not appreciate the value any more. I have to say it is a sadness of the modern civilisation society.
  • Apr 25 2011: I think money and power just partly represent your life ,but everyone has his own criteria about success,a farmer's sucess is to have a harvest,a movie producer's sucess is to publish a excellent work ,a merchant's success is to earn more money and a politician‘s success is to sustain the nation's stability .Therefore,everybody is successful if they realize their own dream .
  • Apr 25 2011: I think the moment we put a ‘comparative measure’ into our success or happiness or wealth we are doomed.
    A measure that entails a comparison will always have a yardstick that is measured by someone else. In effect it actually means how happy or how wealthy or how successful we are is never in our hands.
    When accomplishments are enjoyed without a comparison and that moment becomes just our own measure then whether it is wealth, health or happiness, we will actually revel in it.
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    Apr 25 2011: Ms. Anita is right in her statement that the conventional model of success (being measured with the materialistic possessions) has proven to be destructive, separating and pitting us against each other in competition, resulting, ultimately in unhappiness.
    It is, probably, because of the increasing consumerism that the individuals have now become self-centered. This has led us to believe that a successful person is the one who has a very good bank balance and a house having crystals, chandeliers, classic furnishings, and branded materialistic possessions. Further, if one sees something better (in fact, costlier) elsewhere and is unable to afford that, one feels saddened in spite of his more-than-required worldly and costly possessions. Still further, because of being materialistic rich, one develops an ego of having had achievements such as title, job, money etc. On the other hand, self-power, based on our own spirit/self and not the objects of our experience/possessions/materialistic achievements, is permanent as it is based on the knowledge of the Self.
    With money alone, no one has ever been able to have/purchase treasures such as a good family/friends/relatives, sound health, true love/respect.
  • Apr 24 2011: Success is both objective and subjective.That is to say that wealth and power cannot be said to mean nothing in context of a successful life ;rather wealth and power are not the only barometers.Like many people here say,individual sense of success,achievement and happiness is the key.So if you cannot find it,nobody else is going to "reveal" it to you .
    One should be able to work towards it.
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    Apr 24 2011: Your mother is correct - we should not tolerate and celebrate mediocrity.

    We are all special therefore no one is. In order to be perceived as achiever one has to stand out significantly from the rest.

    For example I would be considered a big achiever compared to my grandparents. However they lived in different time and social environment than mine. If we take that in consideration it would most likely be the case that I have achieved much less in my social environment than them in theirs.
    They did stand out from the rest, because if the stories are true they were one of the first in their village to have black and white TV in their house. They were also among the first to have a car. They were pretty progressive people for their time.
    I am not even close to them in relative terms considering the modern times.

    Perhaps your mother is right. If most people have a house or a degree or a small business then having a house or a degree or a small business is not measure of success because nobody stands out.

    There is a better idea of how to measure accomplishment.
    Make a radar chart (spider web chart) with multiple axis. Let each axis represent one way in which a person could be accomplished. Put a dot on each axis to represent how accomplish the person is in that particular way as the axis indicates. The surface formed by connecting the dots on each axis is a measure of accomplishment for that person.

    Now all we have to agree on is how many axis to have and how to name them.
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    Apr 23 2011: Being a mother and raising children is a major accomplishment - it's a shame your mother doesn't see it this way. Also being kind, caring and compassionate is of far greater benefit to the world at large than pusuing individual wealth and status. There is a deep underlying shift needed to enable people to value these attributes rather than purely selfish goals like making money and having power.
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    Apr 21 2011: Well your mom birthed a beautiful and intelligent girl which in itself is an accomplishment. She raised you, migrated to find a better life, all of this takes strength and ambition. We as humans are victims of being defined by our upper class counterparts. They set the standards and have the media influence to play on our minds and hearts. Success means you've accomplished your hearts desire. Money is not a measure of success. If thats the point then I know successful people who are selling harmful drugs and destroying my community. How successful is that when you think about it from a humane point. SUccess is playing a role in the survival and evolution forward of humankind, how ever great of minute your contribution, if you have helped you are a success.
    • Apr 22 2011: I agree. I think it is normal to question our own achievements or lack of at times. This more likely happens when we are feeling low because our perspective can change a lot with our moods. In situations where I have had a close ones have this self doubt I find if you point out their real achievements and abilities it can make them feel a lot better. We are all insecure after all.
  • Apr 21 2011: I think success is defined differently for different people. To claim that there is a single, correct measure of success would mean we discount what matters to others. The first step in defining success is a personal choice. What does success mean to me? The second step in measuring success is deciding how you did against the definition of success you set for yourself. If your mother doesn't feel she has been successful, then she hasn't been. No one else can tell her she's been a success and make it so, she must decide it for herself. Simple example: for one individual, making the Olympic team for your country in a particular sport might equal success. For another, making the team might just be a step and the success comes with bringing home a medal. Success is dependent on, achieved and measured by the individual.

    it might sound like a cop out answer, but true success would be allowing everyone the freedom (without ridicule) to define their own success.
  • Apr 21 2011: Perhaps success should be measured by what we leave behind when we die.
    Power and wealth cease to matter once we die.
    The positive differences we have made one choice, one action at a time is what measure us.

    The number of generations who will remember our good deeds will measure the success we have had while alive.
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    Apr 21 2011: Hi Anita,

    I think the answer lies in your question. What is success? Why our lives have to be deemed as success or failure in the first place? Its not a business project... is it!

    I guess, since birth every one of us are spoon-fed with the concept of competition so deeply, that we have become incapable of thinking of life in other terms. Life's always a competition for us, competition for getting a school, competition for getting a job, competition for getting more recognized, accepted... that's when the concepts of "success" and "failure" emerges - because in a competition, there are only these 2 options.

    I know, its hard to think out of the way we have been taught to since day 1, but life isn't all about competition. Life is a one-shot.. you gotta forget every other opinion and live it in your own terms - whether it is living for your family and making necessary sacrifices (not getting market standard success), whether it is just living on the edge with no strings attached - its your life, and its your choice how you are gonna live it.

    So forget about conforming to age-old conventional standards; people deeming you failure doesn't make you one! Maybe they find their happiness on sitting on a pile of notes... maybe you find it in looking at your little baby's eyes after a frustrating day (example)! You both got what you really want - and you both are success!!!

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    Apr 20 2011: I think it depends whom you asking it to.sadly there are differents levels of succes,politicinas is ambition,poor people is just get something to eat in a day,but mostly succes is what a human being is proud of, no matter if is in a good or bad way. the point is we all are forgetting that succes is giving to those in needs.
  • Apr 20 2011: Because of the fallen and errant condition of our world, wealth and power will always be the dominant measures of success....that does not mean they are the "right" or "best" measures of success. The internet and worldwide connection via social media and other online outlets for the first time in world history allows for a real challenge to this dominant measure.

    My mother also recently lamented to me her lack of "success". She did not pursue a college education and feels as if she has not accomplished much in life like she could have. True enough, a college education would have served her well. But I also pointed out to her that she raised a family of four children and worked very hard all her life up until the point she could no longer work due to an illness. I told her she should be proud of her accomplishments. I told her that I am proud of my accomplishments and career and she should be proud of what she has done also. I will never raise the family that she did, and while I could not be happier with my choices in life, they are no better or worse than hers.

    We really need to, as a society, stop defining success by singular measures. Wealth and power are NOT the only measures of success.

    (my mother calls herself the "Russian Princess" as she is also of Russian descent from her father.)
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    Apr 20 2011: We could measure achievement in terms of what we have done for others, without neglecting ourselves;
    take pride in spreading happiness, honesty, being generous with those who need it, inspiring others, assisting in efforts towards sustainability, bringing up our children with love, anything which leaves the world a little better off.

    To take pride in material wealth ignores the fact that it is at the expence of others, for example, in thier ecological footprint, for all people to consume as does the typical Australian we would need 5 Earths. Big houses and cars, etc. result in more global warming and other environmental degradation. Usually the means of aquiring that wealth is also unsustainable and increases the gap between rich and poor.

    Also, I agree that personal development, especially in overcoming obstacles which can be defeating or damaging to your personal development, is a measure of success. Someone who has endured much cruelty (especially if as a child) is damaged, yet many such victims become kind, caring individuals, that is an achievement.
    Achievement must take into account anything which gets in the way of its fulfillment.
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    Apr 19 2011: People are Fluctuating between two situations
    one they like ( power , money , health ..etc)
    and other they dislike ( poor , sick , ..etc)
    and they associated success by getting what the like and failure by been unable to get what the like
    but in reality both status has nothing to do with the real success and real failure
    who define success in any game let us take football for example
    to be successful in football you must score goals in your opponent goal not in yours with out using your hands
    if you fail to score goal or you try to use your hands you will never win in football game
    why because you did not either understood the rule of the game or you understood you do not want to follow it
    but who made this rule do not use your hands?
    the Game Creator
    other Game Creator who like the use of hands to score goals Invented a game called Handball where you must use your hand only to score goal
    if you try to win in football using handball rules our your own rules surely you will fail
    the First step towards success in any filed to find the Game Creator
    Second step is understand his policy (the rules of the games)
    Finally start practicing you will succeed
  • Apr 19 2011: How about "compassion quotient(CQ)". Metric needed.
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    Apr 19 2011: Hey Anita,
    Redefining success is actually where much of my effort is spent. I'm glad you asked the question. It is my perspective that success is defined by the triumph of integrity over insecurity, the thrill of experiences, and the joy of life itself. And the idea that everybody in the world can be successful. Everybody. No matter the circumstance. If you can live a life like that, I believe you are living a greater life.

    On a not so off-topic side-note, this TEDtalk I thought would be worth noting:
  • Apr 18 2011: The best measure has always been a personal measure. A conventional measure of success would have to include a variety of factors. one is have you used your God given skills to the best of your abilities? Do you feel satisfied with what you have endeavored to accomplish? Or, did you do what you could to the best of your abilities? Its an assessment that can be individual or collective.
    The problem is that career highs and financial prowess are not really indicative of anything really. it could come about by accident of birth, luck, and an inexhaustible amount of coincidences.
    I think the real questions is whether a person is happy. I think it is possible to have conventional measures, but like someone else mentioned its still based on what people think of us and that is such a changeable thing.
    the question is do you think your mother is a success?
    Its seems that she feels she was not able to you use her skills the way she wanted and that she didn't accomplish all that she could?
    What she needs to do is redefine her level of comfort and to realize that her life is still before her....
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    Apr 14 2011: Great question Anita!

    In western society we seem to be stuck on an hedonic treadmill. We are designed to want more and more and are constantly comparing ourselves to others. We crave the materialistic, but it's never enough to satisfy us. Isn't it funny that people would rather earn $40,000 a year in an area where their neighbors earn $20,000, than earn $60,000 in an area where their neighbors earn a $80,000.

    We have to go back to basics if things are to change and remember what's really important (i.e friends, family). We also need to be able to recognise when enough is enough. It's good to set yourself personal targets and goals on things that are not necessarily money related (i.e running a marathon, starting a new hobby etc). I believe that this kind of achievement can really bring out the best in people. All of us can set an example!
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    Apr 14 2011: Interesting that you say this, because people seem to assume success in some way implies an ethical end. When ethics and success have absolutely nothing to do with each other. And terribly flawed arguments on this subject are even presented on the front pages of news media.

    This is something I read today on the CNN website.

    "Increasing taxes on the wealthy means punishing the more fortunate and successful people of a society, and more so, violates their free will to independently help individuals who they would like to help," Sean O'Connor, whose location was not listed, wrote on Facebook. "Punishing success in any field is evil."
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    Apr 13 2011: Anita, I, like you find the material world can be very destructive. I do have an idea, and this idea could reshape things dramatically. I have not shared this idea with many people so I would appreciate feedback, lets call this brainstorming.

    In my idea everyone in a country is given, at birth, say, 100 life credits each life credit (LC) is worth, say, $1. During your life you meet really nice people doing really good things. You have the opportunity to donate LC to this person as recognition of there value to society. As you accumulate LC you have more to donate to good people. In return you probably get LC back. Once you accumulate, say, 1000 LC you can sell LC beyond 1000 back to the government who would then recirculate this in the system.

    If at any point the government thinks the country needs to be cheered up more than usual they can increase the supply of LC to the living population.

    This may be a crazy idea but I think it has merit since you only earn LC for doing really good things and, yes, there is some monetary benefit, not huge, that would help to motivate good behavior. What do you think?
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    Apr 13 2011: Many people are unhappy because they try to be somebody they cannot be or cultivate desires that cannot possibly attain.
    The solution would be to live as authentic as possible. Just be yourself and try to make the best out of your life without constantly looking what others have that you might not have.
    However, I know that's easier said than done.
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    Apr 13 2011: happiness is more impottant then wahtever...what mattters is not how much we get ,it is selfbelive matters .
  • Apr 12 2011: I think a better accomplishment for us now would be to place our attention on becoming who we really are! And at all costs avoid striving to be who we think we ought to be in order to shine more than the next person.
    I think we could begin the shift by being interested in one another, and each other's stories, and by entering dialogue....such as this!
    Have you come across a process called Social Sculpture?
    Within its framework there is a project and exhibition entitled "Becoming a self in history, becoming a self in my street." by Deborah Ravetz.
    Deborah's work is about vulnerability and the art of being human.
    I think you would be interested to read some of the stories in the exhibition which is on line at
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    Apr 12 2011: Unfortunately we too often take success to be all that we receive, rather than what we can give. Spending your time engaged in productive work, which is a provision to others is the ultimate accomplishment. However as individuals I think we are too easily trapped by the mainstream collective positioning of success; money, ownership and holding fast onto power. It should be our duty to prime others for personal growth, and engagement with their passions – for the sake of sharing rather than accumulation.
  • Apr 12 2011: We are conditioned from birth to viewing success as attaining the things other people have in life. This pattern is very negative and leads many to forget what it is that they truly desire in life. When I speak with people about true success I ask them to answer as if they were their own parent. A parent measures success of a child in true loving eyes. Answers to success become associated with happiness, loving relationships, and freedoms in life. I then compare those answers with society's standard of success- large bank accounts, fancy cars, McMansions, etc... When measuring success, forget about what you think you know about success, and let your heart answer for you. Thanks and God Bless. Adam Brandt
  • Apr 11 2011: This seems very much to pivot on individual philosophy. Measuring success against others rather than against your own potential will always lead to dissatisfaction and in turn, bad experiences stemming from mans tendency towards greed.

    However, if there was some genuine reason for creating an order or gauge of success in society, I think the first major pitfall that must be overcome is accepting that the very fact that this would be a very difficult task in regards to quantifying and none of the obvious options of measurement will ever give a true representation.

    Anyway - can anyone truly be "successful"? Is it like beauty and it is in the eye of the beholder? Surely everyone is potentially beautiful and successful in their own way? My own measurement would be regarding someone's outlook on life; how open minded and interested they are in the world; how eager they are to get stuck in and do something that THEY enjoy which ideally can be shared with others to maximise their enjoyment of life also.
  • Apr 11 2011: There is, indeed, this widely accepted belief that success is measured by fame, fortune, and power. Though, to me, the true definition of success is dependent on one's desires and goals in life. Whether that is acquiring fame and fortune, or just being the best person they can be, success is subjective to how each individual defines it.
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    Apr 10 2011: Freedom seems to be a better measure of success in terms of how free people are spiritually. For example, even a dissident in a Chinese jail can be free. A financially wealthy person can enslaved by expectations and the race to maintain a certain level of wealth. A gay teenager who embraces who he his can be totally free. Success has to do with money - yes - and knowledge and power. But those who are truly free have achieved success too.
  • Apr 9 2011: Success should be measured in the knowledge one passes on, either through writing, scientific papers, teaching, talking to audiences, through parenting even through pod-casting and blogging (like here). It is what you leave behind that should have worth even if you are forgotten, your ideas and contributions should live on. How is that for an altruistic ideal?
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    Apr 8 2011: This is an important question for our times. Success comes- I think -when you can look at yourself at the end of a day, a project or a life and say " I did my best and I was compassionate in my dealings with others". Giving your best doesn't mean you always win or save the day but it does mean that you did not stand idly by either. If your character is still strong and your commitments to your own moral code are still firm you are a success in my view.
  • Apr 5 2011: I disagree with the idea of power+wealth=success. I believe that happiness=success. Everyone, untimately, is seeking happiness. So you have succeeded if you are happy.
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      Apr 5 2011: I think Anita is suggesting as far as western culture we emphasize the rich more than we do sharing wealth.

      But you are exactly right on an individual level Colby.
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    Apr 5 2011: I use to think the more people who showed up to your death were your measures of success, but I learned power and/or wealth can effect that measurement.

    Great questions. Edmund Benz already said my answer. "Adaptability"

    Must learn, teach, preach, and practice how to adapt constantly to everything. A world with everyone open minded to everything is a beautiful one.
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    Mar 21 2011: There are two different perspectives at work, and they cause us to struggle with our feelings on a daily basis.

    There is the vision of public success, which for so many is power and wealth based and for many others is 'being able to touch other's lives'. Common between them is that there is a public admiration of what they have achieved. People like Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, Warren Buffet, etc. would be examples I place in this category. For me, I do respect and acknowledge their accomplishments but I do not admire them, for I fall in to the other version of success.

    Which is what I refer to as personal (or private) success. I am not wealthy. I am not powerful. I am not admired by legions of followers. But I am, in my own way, highly successful. I live my life as I see fit and I love my life. I do not seek, nor I desire, any public recognition for my success. My success is simply from loving the life that I chose to live - I do not wish to change it or to vastly improve on it. I have areas in which I tweak from time to time, but overall am very happy with who I am. And perhaps the most important factor is that I am very COMFORTABLE with who I am.

    For me, the feeling of success is more related to being comfortable and accepting as to who we are as individuals. The collective mass of society is comprised of a multitude of individuals. Starting at that level and working our way up, and ensuring that the individual is nurtured as required along way is important.

    I do not wish to stand out as selfish or arrogant or egotistical but do acknowledge that others may think that of me. So be it. I can not contribute to society if I do not feel successful in who I am.