What is success and what is failure? We understand that to be successful is to arrive, to get somewhere; and so we worship success. When a poor boy grows up to become a multi-millionaire, or an average student becomes the prime minister one day, he’s feted for being successful.
Is success an absolute or is it an idea we pursue? Because the moment one arrives, there’s always a point further ahead at which one has yet to arrive. In the pursuit of success we are faced with challenges and conflicts. Even when you have ‘arrived’, there’s no rest for you because now you want to go still ahead; you want more. The pursuit of success is the desire for ‘more’ and a more is not an intelligent mind; on the contrary, it’s a mediocre, stupid mind, because its demand for ‘more’ implies a constant struggle in terms of the pattern which society has set for it.
What’s contentment, and what’s discontent? Discontent is hankering for ‘more’ and contentment is the cessation of that struggle; but you cannot come to a state of contentment without understanding the whole process of the ‘more’ and why the mind demands it.
If you fail an examination, for example, you would perhaps take it again. But by themselves, examinations and your performance in them don’t really reveal your true worth. Passing an examination is largely a feat of memory or it may be a matter of chance; but you strive to pass your examinations and if you don’t succeed, you keep at it. With most of us it’s the same process in everyday life. We’re struggling to achieve something, and we’ve never paused to enquire if the way we are dealing with it is the right way. It’s only when we have understood the significance or insignificance of wanting ‘more’ that we cease to think in terms of failure and success.
We’re all so afraid to fail, to make mistakes not only in examinations but also in life. To make a mistake is considered terrible because we’ll be criticized for it. If we’re afraid of making mistakes, we’ll never learn. The ideal of success is held up for us to follow; and success is always in terms of respectability. Even the saint in his so-called spiritual achievements must become respectable, otherwise he has no recognition, no following.
So we’re always thinking in terms of success, in terms of ‘more’ and the ‘more’ is a relative ideal dependent on what prevailing social norms consider to be respectable. If you do not live up ot that societal ideal, you are likely to be called a failure. But if you love to do something with all your being, you are then not concerned with success and failure. However, very few have the evolved perspective that allows them space to think this way. The whole concern of an intelligent person is to see things as they are intelligent person is to see things as they are and understand the problem –which is not necessarily about bracketing action in terms of being oriented towards success or failure. It’s only when we don’t really love what we’re doing, that we think in those terms. Didn’t a wise person say; “Success is a relative term; there’s nothing absolute about it?”
What we think of as success today might be thought of as failure in another time and situation and vice versa. It would be in our best interest to view both what we call success and failure as relative states, and so treat both success and failure with equanimity.