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“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” – Neil Armstrong (1930-2012)

Fresh Reads from the Science 'o sphere!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Life Is Too Long.

"Yeah right," you say. "I'm certainly not in such a hurry to die."

Me neither. Let me explain what I mean.

I see that many people are attracted by spectacular success stories, of self-made billionaires for example. Success is much like climbing a mountain, they say. You need to read lots of motivational books, apply what you have learnt and work very hard to reach it.

I agree that success is like a high mountain.

Oh boy, you have no idea how superb this analogy is.

When you start off at base camp, you see a massive crowd. The higher you go, the fewer people you see. The view gets better but the air gets thinner. Some people return to camp, some stay at altitude and rest a while. Most never make it to the peak.

Suppose you are one of the rare few to actually reach the peak. The view is awesome! You take a moment to enjoy the triumphant feeling. Maybe take a few photos.

Then what?

No one can live on the peak forever. It's tough at the top. Even if you just want to stay a while, I hope you've brought enough oxygen and food supplies. And be prepared to put up a fight because everyone else wants to be there too.

Leaving the peak is not an easy task either. At this height, the climb downhill is steep and treacherous. One missed step and you might plummet all the way to the bottom.

Life is too long, because success is fleeting.

A single win doesn't necessarily give you a free ride for the rest of your life.

Not to mention the term "success" is ill-defined to begin with. For example, is a reclusive billionaire suffering from a debilitating mental disorder and severely addicted to a number of prescription drugs "successful"? Who is keeping points?

You may think, "these are the words of a loser."

Firstly, just because I am a loser doesn't mean I am wrong.

Secondly, I'm not sure what's up, but there has been a string of spectacular failures reported in the papers lately. About a month ago I read about the once super-rich "People's Park King" who passed away penniless. Just yesterday it was reported that the once multi-million-dollar construction giant Wan Soon has now become so broke that its founder had his house and car repossessed by banks. Many construction workers are still owed months in wages.

And just in case you think that is merely confined to the construction industry, let me show you that scientists are not immune to shocking falls. William Anderson was a world-renowned geneticist who was runner-up for Time's Man of the Year in 1995. Now he is convicted for child sex abuse.

Sometimes failure strikes because the person is at fault. Sometimes it's a multitude of reasons. Sometimes its pure dumb luck.

Who knows?

What we do know for sure - success is always temporary.

Even if you are only interested in achieving success, it is always informative to learn more about failure. Just so it doesn't sneak up on you unawares. Here are two interesting articles on this:

Failure Is a Key to Understanding Success

How Failure Breeds Success

Personally I think that all this constant talk about success nowadays is not just annoying, it can actually be bad for your mental health. Check out this superb article.

Willy Loman Syndrome

Of course, if you are as twisted as I am, you'd find failure itself to be a fascinating subject. Here are whole books on it.

The Logic of Failure

Born Losers: A History of Failure in America

I'll end this post with a quote from an editorial review of "Born Losers":

We understand the human side of failure far more keenly than we did a couple of centuries ago, but we still fear it and still believe -- against all the evidence -- that somehow we can and will escape it.

Go on. Let out that little evil laugh you mean bastard.


mathia said...

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;

-- Rudyard Kipling's IF

Then again, if it takes so much to just be a Man, we really are setting up ourselves for disaster

Xisla said...

Yet another Nobel uncle? ;D

So what if one becomes a Man exactly as he prescribes? It is about impressing others?

Come on, does he believe that his recipe can produce any individual who will truely impress a self-absorbed prick like myself? Puhlease.

Is it about impressing yourself then? If that's the case, if I can do just one bizarre, utterly meaningless thing every day that confounds even me, I consider myself successful.

I am meticulous about not being picky.