Defining Success: I Think You’ll Agree


First off, I’d like to thank those of you who have been following by book reading and have been consuming knowledge alongside me. I’m thankful for every single one of you! For those of you who aren’t, check out previous favorites here, or email me at to find out what I’m reading, what I suggest, or to shoot ideas around about one of the books (also open to suggestions!).

That being said, I’m currently reading “Civilization & Its Discontents,” by Sigmund Freud, and I kept coming back to this quote: “Success is never certain; it depends on the co-operation of many factors, perhaps on none more than the capacity of the mental constitution to adapt itself to the outer world and then utilize this last for obtaining pleasure.”

Freud prefaces this by mentioning that there are a few different types of people: those who will choose emotional relationships over anything else, those who are more “self-sufficient, [who] will seek his essential satisfactions in the inner workings of his own soul,” and the type who “will never abandon the external world in which he can assay his power.” Maybe you need to read this in order to fully understand, as it is deeply philosophical, but I’m going to do my best.

I wanted to talk about the second and third types, because doing so will settle an argument I’ve been having with myself. The second type, which searches for inward happiness, is no better or worse at perceiving reality. They simply have their individual perceptions, which may be delusions, but it doesn’t matter because that is their reality. So, being content with what you have and searching for happiness inside of yourself is great…but all it really means is that you are coping with the outside world.

This second person who never “abandons  the external world” does the same thing…he or she perceives reality, but chooses to believe that their power lies in staying focused in that external world and not retreating. For this person, it is just as inward as searching for inward peace and happiness, but the manifestation of that searching is external rather than internal.

And so, after all of this philosophical rambling, success is the ability to perceive and respond to the world outside of yourself. Doesn’t seem like much of a realization, but it is! I’ve been saying all along that the #1 key to success is the ability to change things based on your perception; anything negative can be spun around and made beneficial, and the people who learn to do that are the most successful. And Freud’s work has served as a means of explaining that in terms of the difference between inward and outward happiness and success.

After reading this passage…probably about a hundred times, I’ve realized that maybe there are simply differences between people that we don’t realize normally. I’ve been having debates with people over whether happiness and success can only be found in complacency (being happy with what you have and not needing more) or progression (still could be happy with what you have, but constantly push yourself to get better and to become a better person).

For those of you who read through this post, thank you, haha. I know it must have been rough. If this doesn’t make sense, please let me know! I feel like this is an important realization for me, so I’m sure it would be for you as well.

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