The dangers of success

muhammad-rizwan-270301.jpgSuccess, growth, progress, development and the like can all be wonderful and edifying experiences. Unfortunately however, it’s not always the case. Such experiences are usually accompanied by the acquisition of additional resources. Such might include money, time, influence or even things like perspective and experience itself.

With each increase in resources we acquire, the divide between what percentage is used to maintain the ‘function’ of our daily living and what’s left over as ‘excess’, grows. I’ll talk even more about the benefits of differentiating between function and excess later on, but for now I just want to further elaborate on what the expenditure of our excess evidences. Remembering that how we spend our ‘excess’ says much more about what we’ll likely do with any additional resources we might acquire, than what’s spent on ‘function’.

If we truly recognise and appreciate the fact that we gratify by default, we would be wise to gauge to what extent gratification is occurring amidst our excess resources before too hastily trying to acquire more. Simply put, if we gratify more than edify now, the balance of probability that we continue to do the same after acquiring additional resources, is too high to be ignored.

In an overly simplistic way of thinking, it’s not wise to give somebody more of the tools they’re currently using to hurt themselves. The choices we make in our day to day lives are the main resources and tools that we use to either edify or gratify ourselves. The greater the freedom and the less default purpose involved in those daily choices, the more likely we’ll default to gratification, because the decision is that much more ‘left up to us’. The outcome always heavily determined by how we choose to use what we have.

Being more purposeless by nature & definition, ‘excess expenditure’ involves a greater degree of choice. Failure to effectively utilise that choice evidences too great a likelihood that we would still choose poorly even if we had more. An important difference being the increased reach of consequences. The greater our access to resources we’ve yet to master, the greater the probability of indulgence, waste and collateral damage. While our surplus is limited, so too is the extent to which we can binge, glut, and burn through those resources and the people around us while we do so. 

One shouldn’t expect that they are either ready or even deserving of ‘more’, if they can’t prove through existing expenditure that they’re maximising the utilisation of what they have. This doesn’t mean we should shy away from growth or success as much as it means we should proactively prepare for such by always first prioritising more effective utilisation of existing resources.

jeremy-paige-146337.jpgFor those pursing financial success, money’s not that different. Why are so many of us so keen to be rich and simultaneously so sure that financial independence wouldn’t actually destroy us? If the current expenditure of what little excess we currently have is primarily used for gratification, we’re foolish to believe we would have the self-discipline required to somehow magically emancipate ourselves from the very demons that would obviously grow to the magnitude of our increased financial freedom.

All things by degrees!

Wisdom surely suggests that most of us are probably ridiculously unprepared for substantial financial wealth. We should first take an honest look at mastering the current expenditure of our existing surplus. Once we can at least say we edify at least more than gratify ourselves, via what surplus we have, only then can we begin to look at broadening our resources by increments sufficiently small to ensure we are capable of remaining a master of our gratifying habits, and most definitely not becoming a slave to them.


The fact that the climb to the top (financial independence as just one example) for most of us is a slow and painful one is something we should appreciate. With each step higher that we take, we only have that much more capacity to fall if we slip up. Those who pursue cheap success, over-night fortune, or short-cuts to the top, travel a dangerous path filled with unproved foundations, untried equipment, untested materials and unpractised skills.

I remain convinced that for so many people financial dependence is a necessity of life that I fear too few appreciate. It’s a huge driving force that keeps people actively engaged in a purpose and while such a large portion of your resources needs to be recycled into that purpose to keep you going, you have that much less excess to worry about splurging on your own gratifications.

mateo-stepniak-40986.jpgThink about it for a second: When asked “What would you do if you won the lottery?” how many of us instantly flash through the cliché slide-show of gratifying desires like luxurious holidays, expensive cars, big homes, shopping sprees etc.? Many of us certainly still think of investing, education, charities and other good things, but how many of us can be certain that such would genuinely be the priority? A short amount of research into the lives of lottery winners (long after having won) is certainly an interesting endeavour I would recommend. Here’s an interesting start point.


  • When you’re asked what you would do if you won the lottery, what are the first thoughts that come to your mind?


  • If today, you discovered that somebody had been secretly observing you all day every day for a month, recording everything you spent your time, energy, money and attention on, would their records indicate something you’re proud of, or something you would want advanced notice about to better ensure you’re demonstrating your own values and priorities?
    • How much surplus do you have each week? (Time/Money/Opportunity/Energy etc)
    • In honest self-evaluation, those surplus numbers were to double, would continuing to spend your life on the same priority ratios end up in your favour or disfavour?


  • If, with a click of your fingers, you could instantly remove all the stumbling blocks to your ideal successes in life, would you do it?


  • Would you be better off with no obstacles or resistance, or would you be better off learning how to overcome them and master them?
    • Which of two better increases your capacity to be good?


  • When looking at your obstacles, challenges and resistances experienced in life, how often do you genuinely view them as opportunities to utilise the resistance to your advantage, to edify yourself, as opposed to merely wanting to be rid of the hassle?
    • Which perspectives are going to serve you better in the long run?
    • What can be done today, to ensure that from now on such things are viewed in a more helpful light?



2 thoughts on “The dangers of success

Add yours

  1. I have to ask. If we are constantly adapting to maintain our emotional equilibrium, how do we recognise and adapt those traits to increase our ability to edify? If we change and grow, become more successful, or gain additional wealth, can we acknowledge our need to edify over gratifying ourselves with “rewards” for our hard work?

    I’m trying so hard to reach a place where I can recognise my worth and work to help others do the same, but I stumble at each success, imagining I have earned a reward and mad when I don’t get my a prize. It’s childish, I know, but ingrained since birth.

    Only in recent years have I come to understand my hard work and success is not about gratifying my desires. My potential, my worth, and my self-esteem were forged on the principle that hard work equals reward, but not all rewards are created equal. Shedding the habit of childish desire is a challenge but gives me so much more.

    My gratitude expands daily, while my comprehension of how our needs, healthy or otherwise, are driven by media influence, community demands, and family expectations. I find I need reminders, not of the need for edification, but on the risks of gratification based on the values and demands placed on me.

    I would like to hear more about working to build your Edifying Muscles and assuaging our desire to gratify, especially as we adapt to our successes.


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