Alain de Botton discusses the idea of success in our society. One of his striking ideas is that the harshness of failure essentially comes from ridicule. He notes that newspapers are a prime example. They are chalk full of stories about people’s mistakes. It is a cruel world where little goes unnoticed.
Another great point is that in our society a key problem is envy. Consider these two situations: do you feel more of a failure when your colleague gets a raise and you don’t or when you compare your net value to Bill Gates’? You may initially say, well next to Bill Gates I certainly look like the failure, but if you really look carefully and consider which situation you dwell on longer, you would probably choose your colleague getting the raise over you. For hours or even days you might brood over how you stack up next to her. However, you quickly dismiss any comparison between yourself and Bill Gates. This is because your colleague’s raise is conceivable and attainable but you lost your opportunity. It is much more difficult to accept that she got a raise and not you, thus people tend to beat themselves up out of envy.
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