‘Career success is fulfilling’ – truth or lie?

David Brooks, an American writer, claims we’ve created a culture based on lies.

The first lie he names is this: ‘Career success is fulfilling’.

‘This is the lie we foist on the young,’ he says. ‘In their tender years we put the most privileged of them inside a college admissions process that puts achievement and status anxiety at the centre of their lives.’

Here begins western culture’s life-long mantra — ‘If you make it, life will be good.’

But the mantra’s faulty, says Brooks. ‘Everybody who has actually tasted success can tell you that isn’t true.’

This resonates with my experience of the successful. Their inner drive to succeed is often the creation of something unresolved inside them they are trying to escape.

Success might spare us from the shame or sense of inadequacy we might experience if we feel ourselves a failure.

But while it can mask it, it doesn’t resolve it; so career success alone cannot provide peace or fulfilment. This human life is a tapestry involving many interwoven strands… not just one.

‘If you build your life around success,’ writes David Brooks, ‘your ambitions will always race out in front of what you’ve achieved, leaving you anxious and dissatisfied.’

And sometimes it’s failure we need. When something has died, and something else needs to live, failure can be the best of guides to help us take the next step.

Career success is a buzz; but never the stuff of fulfilment.

This being human, this tapestry of story and colour that is your life, is much richer than that.

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