The “Virtual” Rush to Success

There’s a lot to be said (and a lot has been said) about Social Media and its prevalence in today’s world. We all live performative lives – surrounded by other people performing their lives for us. Inevitably, we come across more than a few success stories – stories of people who have made it. The internet is awfully useful at making you feel a variety of things – but it’s especially great at making you feel unimportant. Today, we are often backed into a corner by the wide and varied talent on display around us. Social media has opened up new avenues and platforms for people to express themselves and establish themselves on. These new platforms have encouraged new shortcuts to success.

We read about nineteen-year-olds with fully funded start-ups. We see precocious eight-year- olds and twelve-year-old college graduates. Earlier this year, we were privy to a nine-year-old “Lil Tay” actually “flexing” and bragging about her success and her hustle on social media.

The age of success only seems to be getting lower. Today “making it” comes with its own expiration date. Young people on social media are increasingly encouraged to hustle and make the most of their youth. This is prime time. Do it now.

Where will you be in FIVE years?

It’s a vicious cycle – the more you compare yourself to people, the less secure you are in yourself. You are paralyzed, unable to take any new steps towards your goals because all you can think about is the five-year-old with the Fortune500 company. The two-month-old baby who is a viral sensation. That child star, this kid prodigy. Blah Blah blah. It’s easy to get caught up in this garbage rhetoric that life is somehow something to be won. That life somehow is to be conquered. It stops when you have “made it”.

We are conditioned from extremely early on to believe that life is competitive. That it is a zero-sum game. Right from the time we enter school, everything from our grades to our style of talking is judged, compared, analysed. Because you have to be the best. The best at everything. The greatest child in the class, getting into the best college, getting the greatest job, finding the greatest life partner. Fulfilling all the markers society sets out for you. Kids today are sent for college coaching from ages as young as 10. They are encouraged to take up multiple extra-curricular classes outside schools, with no time to even breathe between them. Many professional athletes got to be that way after being trained from virtually the minute they were born.

I grew up with the notion that by the time I was 20, I would be a fully formed adult, having figured myself out. Today, as I slowly approach the end of my teens, I realise that I have not figured anything out at all. Maybe that is what adulthood is – figuring out that you will never figure anything out. And that is fine. Because life is a journey and we must all go through it at our own personal pace. That’s not to say that people who taste success at early ages are any less valid – just that measuring your worth based on other people’s success is not worth doing. The “clock” that keeps ticking down is imaginary. Don’t let your youth be bogged down by whether or not you’re doing “enough”.

Life is not a contest or a competition. There is nothing to be won here. Life is simply a series of experiences we go through. And sure, some people have flashier experiences than us but that doesn’t make our experiences any less valid or any less important. Because when we talk about “making it”, the “it” should be all of life, all of our experiences. It’s important that we learn to contextualize our experiences – our victories and our struggles are known only to us. We don’t need to measure them by anyone’s yardstick apart from our own. Don’t make life about the markers, the goals that you feel society wants you to achieve. Because the moment you fulfill a marker, your next thought will be “When will I reach the next one?”. It’s a cycle that never ends, with no real, tangible emotional reward.

Life, in the end, is not a Job Training Programme. Life is not even a Success Training Program. There is no finish line, there are no competitors. We don’t need to prove ourselves to anyone else. In the end, don’t make life about “making it” at an arbitrary age. History is littered with successful icons from Stan Lee to Vera Wang who didn’t “make it” until they were forty years old. Because success is success no matter when you achieve it. Walk at your own pace. You’ll reach where you want eventually.

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