What is ‘success’? How much of your time is in your control? – The philosophy of: CGP Grey, Apollodorus in Plato’s The Symposium, The Onion, a former student of mine, and I guess mine too.

What do you consider ‘success’?

The way that it’s treated by seemingly the majority of the world is: money, fame, recognition, financial assets or some bullshit ass cocktail of the above. But no matter how substantial your bullshit ass cocktail is, do you live a longer life than those without the cocktail like yours? No –so you know, eternal life = not possible yet (Alexander the Great and his mule driver = same fate). And do you attain eternal life if you make a shit ton of money, or get famous? No.

Money will come and go, but there is one… One single thing… that goes and does not come back… and that’s time.

And yes attaining that bullshit ass cocktail may free you up to take holidays in the south of France and be able to jet around the world, but does it really free you up? With more wealth comes more fear of losing it, and more stress related to protecting all the wealth and comfort you’re used to. Like, ‘Oh god, please no, I can’t afford to lose all this. I don’t want to have to holiday in the North of France like some peasant’.

This is what my new favourite-Youtube-channel-man-video-maker-person-at-the-moment, CGP Grey says about it:

I measure success by what percentage of my time I have control over. (at 2:55…)

This is what The Onion defines it as, in The Onion Book of Known Knowledge:

Success, State of having accumulated more money than the current partner of one’s ex.

And this is what a former student of mine said a few months ago (in response to the question ‘What’s your dream?’ But that’ll do, there’s enough similarity between what is your dream and what do you think is success to make this at least 1% relevant):

To be a good person.

And this is Apollodorus in Plato’s The Symposium:

…whenever I discuss philosophy or hear others doing so, I enjoy it enormously, quite apart from thinking it’s doing me good. But when I hear other kinds of discussion, especially the talk of rich businessmen like you, I get bored and feel sorry for you and your friends, because you think you’re doing something important, when you’re not. Perhaps you regard me as a failure, and I think you’re right. But I don’t think you’re a failure, I know you are. ¹

Sidenote: Now, I just started reading The Symposium so I may be misguided here, because what Apollodorus says there seems pretty cynical and may be devalued later in the book. But whatever, it has a point. And for now, you know, I’m saying it’s valued.


¹ From Plato’s Symposium, Penguin Classics, translated by Christopher Gill.