We are taught that ascending the ladder, rung by rung, is always a good thing – one should seek more knowledge; acquire more riches; accumulate more fame; accrue more academic certificates; stay ahead of the competition. More and more, and forward, are signs of progress, and other considerations are regressions.
But ascension comes at a cost, one that we rarely measure, and if we do, fail to calculate its totality. Up and above also means losing down and below – becoming in charge vests us with authority and respect, but we are slowly disconnected from humility; surfing on the coattails of success also means failure can no longer be a good teacher to us.
It is not that simple of course. Very often, our lives are threaded delicately with the people around us, a fragile interwoven mesh. As we breathe, so too do we affect the world. Your elevation in power can and will alienate your friends or cost you someone very dear. Success robs us of our sense of self within the community and blindfolds us to our own flaws. It is a ripple effect, never obvious and always subtle.
Conversely, states of failure, moments of despair and sessions of abject agony exist in our lives as a necessary mirror image to success, happiness or pleasure. It is because life is at times infinitely unbearable and unfair that we create our own sense of meaning by struggling against the impending tide of inequity. The worst moments are opportunities to transcend the odds, and when one has hit the bottom, there is comfort to be had in knowing you cannot fall further, so you may as well try.
When we celebrate success with joyful wariness and welcome despair with hopeful reluctance, only then can we perhaps say that we have truly grown – because when seen carefully, success and failure are cut from the same cloth.
So, have you thought about what success and failure mean?