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Ash Mashhadi

Partner & Ideas Catalyst, Inspiration Zone

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Is it wrong to expect everyone to be capable or deserving of success?

It is my belief that it is our birthright to be successful, but that we have to fight for it.

Is it wrong to think that everyone should expect to be successful in life? Is it inevitable that some people will always live unfulfilled lives? What do you think?

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    Feb 17 2011: I hope I'm not going to stray from the subject too much, but...

    ...Ash, you wrote that people rarely do specific things that could bring on more happiness to their lives. This is, sadly, true. Why do you think that is the case? I would say this could be due to either of the two:

    (1) people don't know how to do achieve true happiness or they don't yet know what true happiness means for them
    (2) as Jane McGonigal put it in her book (which I hope to read soon :) ) - "reality is broken"; from her TEDTalk I understand that the way in which our reality works does not encourage life-time projects such as a "quest" of searching for happiness and does not give constant feedback with which to know if you're on the right track

    As you said, we need to fight for it.
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      Feb 17 2011: You're not straying, Piotr, I think this is the central issue here. You identify 2 great reasons and I agree with both of them. However I believe that the biggest thing that holds us back is that we don't believe we are capable of achieving the life we want. Connected to that is the belief that many people have: that they do not deserve to live the life they want. In my opinion, low self-esteem is responsible for most of the problems on this planet.

      What do you think?
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        Feb 18 2011: I'm waiting to receive my copy of "Reality is Broken' and agree with Jane's sentiments. Our institutions do not teach us how to quest for lives of meaning, nor do the economic and social systems support that concept either.

        We don't ask each other at dinner parties, "have you found your purpose," we ask, "what do you do?"

        Aristotle was on the right track. We need to build teaching systems for human thriving.
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          Feb 20 2011: I think I'm going to have to buy a copy of Reality is Broken now as well!

          I would love to go to dinner parties where people asked each other that. When I ask anything like it, I worry that they might think I'm being too serious.
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    Feb 22 2011: It is absolutely correct to expect everyone to be capable and deserving of success, as Sir Ken Robinson says in the Element, we each have an element, we just need to discover what that is.
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    Feb 18 2011: What I think is the heart of humans problems is exatcly the idea of deserving more .
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      Feb 20 2011: You may well be right there. I guess for me it comes down to 4 key questions:

      1. Should people learn to be content with what they have?
      2. What do we do for those people who are suffering because they feel they deserve less than others?
      3. Is the desire for more love, more happiness, more possessions all the same thing?
      4. If person A gets more, does that mean there is less for person B?

      I agree that the desire to get more just because we want more (i.e. greed) is at the heart of many of our problems.
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        Feb 21 2011: No , a lot of people shouldn't be content with what they have....and we should expect at alot of conflicts.At the second question I think the answer is who's the best will win, all what we should do is just to let them to share their the best.
        At the third question I would say that all that desires have something in common :selfishness, but all those desires are different by their nature.At the forth question my answer is yes because the person A gets more , not what is essential.But all that answers doesn't solve any problem.
        and in my opinion if we want to get more just because we want more or not will create conflicts whatever.
        The clue of all problems is to not be we selfish , but how to get more without being selfish I mean, without deserving more for ourselves?...............there is a way and that way is the religious one.
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    Feb 17 2011: I disagree a bit about "ideal life" , you know................we are living in a real world .
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      Feb 18 2011: I agree with you, we have to be realistic. However, IMO we should strive toward an ideal. You make a very valid point though.
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    Feb 17 2011: In my opinion it is very wrong to expect everyone to be capable or deserving of succes because : these deserves we'll make us more strangers with one anothers , and that we'll make us more and more enemies , in my opinion that's the root of any conflict at any social level , don't matter if someone is poor or not , if that person wishes for something more , we'll reach every second in conflict with others, is very logic , isn't it ?
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      Feb 17 2011: Eduard, I think I understand what you mean: anything that creates difference is likely to create conflict.I do agree with you mostly but I don't think I agree with it completely.

      Humans are, I believe, designed to want to excel. We love pushing ourselves beyond normal limits and I think this can be positive.
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    Feb 17 2011: What is "success" ? What is a "fulfilled life" ? Isn't it true that there are poor people who consider their life as fulfilled and others who accumulated a lot of wealth but still believe they didn't succeed or didn't live a fulfilled life ?
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      Feb 17 2011: That's great question. For me it has to be defined by the individual. How you would like your ideal life to be is what constitutes a fulfilled life. It doesn't have to be about money, it can be whatever you want. Success then is the feeling that you have created your ideal life.
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        Feb 18 2011: Ash, personally I find this language to be flat.

        The concept of "ideal" suggests that there is a lifestyle to which we can arrive and be done with our quest. That's not true. Thriving is an ongoing process based. As our worldview evolves so does that which fulfills us. What fulfilled me at thirty is different than what fulfills me at forty-fiive.

        I like Jefferson's concept of the "pursuit of happiness" which is an ongoing quest for the evolution of self.
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          Feb 18 2011: Steve, I am delighted to see you bring this up. I've been deliberately avoiding it in the hope that someone smarter than me would introduce it. I'm happy to see that it has. I agree totally, the pursuit of an ideal is ultimately a journey that cannot be completed, IMHO. It is the journey itself that transforms us into the kind of people we want to be. As you rightly point out, that is an evolving condition. We are all different people than we were 10 or 20 years ago and no doubt we will be different again in the future.

          In my personal experience though it is that journey that has taught me and transformed me more than I could have expected at the beginning. As someone once said "success is what you become rather than where you arrive". I'm paraphrasing horribly there :-)
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    Feb 16 2011: @Jordan - Thanks for your input here. I agree, we all have the power to choose how we deal with what life throws at us.

    @Piotr - thank you for your kind words, this is one of the issues that occupies much of my time. I totally agree with your point that too often the nature of success is defined for us. I feel strongly that as humans we need to exercise our own right to choose the nature of our success. That takes a lot of effort, time and energy, but it is OUR choice. Of course, as Anantha quite rightly points out below, we then need to act to make it real.
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    Feb 16 2011: I think that you asked an important question, Ash!

    I watched the Talks you marked as related. It seems that none of the 8 secrets is connected with fame or fortune. What a surprise ;) ! Csikszentmihalyi goes even further - in my opinion when he gives the example of a composer and describes his flow as "taking a piece of paper and putting down little marks", he actually points out that experiencing flow can happen to anyone doing anything. Having said that, I don't believe there are people doomed to live unfulfilled lives. But I do fear that today "success" has wrong (or to be more specific: very superficial) connotations.

    I don't think there's something wrong with expecting people to be succesful. The problem is we may tend to judge other people's successes according to our own standards, achievements, hopes and desires. Maybe there are 6 billion definitions of "success"? It's a pity that more often than not young people are told what success IS about rather than they are presented with possibilities of what success MIGHT BE about in their case. I'm glad the Talks you suggested in your post describe what may lead to success and not what success is.
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    Feb 16 2011: @Amanda - I like that: "small pebbles of joy". What a wonderful image.

    @Glenda - that's always the issue isn't it? Everyone has their own definition of success, but ultimately it's not too important in that we all measure our success by what we define individually - the goals we set for ourselves. Being unfulfilled would be failing to achieve them, whether it is love or financial independence or changing the world.

    The essential question for me here circles around the fact that so many people live a life that they themselves would define as unfulfilled. The single person who dreams of a wonderful relationship; the wage-slave who works in a soulless cubicle, etc.

    I see people every day who wish for what they would call a better life (according to their own definitions) but are they doing all they can to reshape that life? Rarely.

    What are your thoughts on this?
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      Feb 17 2011: I agree with you, Ash. But I think the reason so many people have 'unfulfilled' lives are societal and cultural. Achieving one's goals necessarily demands knowing one's limitations. We do not teach our children to be self-critical; we praise them for being 'mediocre', in the erroneous belief that any sort of criticism will undermine their self-esteem. Thus we do not equip them with the essential tools for success: knowing what we really want, and, more importantly, if we can realistically achieve it. Rather than thru' education, the young are being 'taught' - thru' reality TV - that 'success' has only one definition: wealth and fame, and are thus in a real sense condemned to a life of 'unfulfilment'. As with everything in this life, it all starts with education.
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        Feb 17 2011: I agree with an awful ot of what you say here, Glenda.

        1. We need to teach our kids to be accurately self-critical. Not over-critical or afraid to see their own excellence.
        2. We can blame TV & popular culture for setting an artificial and overly-narrow definition of success
        3. It does start with education, but we need to remember that our education is a lifelong activity

        Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
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    Feb 16 2011: I'm with you ash. everyone is a human being - innocent when born and filled with the ability to feel badness (sadness, frustration, pain, etc.) or goodness. we strive for the good anyway we can. and it is often from that striving with good intentions that we go a rye and can often cause much of our own detriment. plus others may add to our sorrow.

    the fact of the matter is anyone has the potential and choice to be happy but many will choose not to be. some through no fault of their own, others will mostly bring it on themselves.
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    Feb 16 2011: Interesting debate!

    In my humble opinion,
    Expecting success won't bake the noodles. Working towards it does! No debt goes unpaid in this Universe and every act of pronounced bravery is recognized. We just take time to realize it. The rich may feel that the poor are unhappy. But the poor know happiness means to them. I realized this fact when I saw that my house-maid's 8 year old daughter was happily playing in the Sun bare footed while my brother was crying that his shoes were stolen- "$68! I can't imagine I lost them" he complained! Success (or satisfaction or happiness or salvation) comes to us at various levels, in various installments, and in various forms.

    The individual's ability to recognize and collect these small pebbles of joy scattered all over the beach decides his/ her level of happiness in his/her life.

    Yes, it's not wrong to expect success, but its better to work towards it.

    Thank you
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    Feb 16 2011: What do you mean by success? FinancIal? Professional? What's 'unfulfilled'? Lack of money? Status? What? Some author, and I can't remember who - it may have been Carver - said that the greatest thing anyone could say about their lives was that they had been loved. I tend to agree.