If I earned my success, did you earn your failure?

I stopped watching Oprah Winfrey around the time she earnestly confessed that she didn’t believe in luck. 

It picked me so much that I became a bit obsessed with the idea until I could turn it into this modest personal philosophy: both my success and my failure have a thousand parents.  Sort of obvious, right?

Popular sociologist Malcolm Gladwell has been making this point for years.

So has Alain DeBotton, whose book Status Anxiety has been featured in my classroom. 

DeBotton’s main point is that modern society produces a new and special kind of anxiety that goes something like this: in a modern free market society, everyone has the right to pursue success; the greatest people achieve the greatest success; therefore, the rest of the people achieved their failure.

DeBotton historically traces this hugely powerful idea that what we do to provide for ourselves is the measure of our worth. 

In the classroom, I get the sense that students are a little relieved to learn about this crazy idea—-because the idea is within in all of us, in spite of moral objection.

So if you’d like a wee break from envy and regret, here’s Alain DeBotton on snobbery and modern life.



2 Responses to “If I earned my success, did you earn your failure?”

  1. Audrey Byrd Says:

    Went to the link and listened. I relate and love it! Thanks Annie. Merry Christmas to you and those you love.

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