You are on a staircase of an MC Escher painting.  Your environment is reasonable at a glance but illogical upon inspection.  

Define “success”

Your definition reflects your philosophy of life and your self-identity. It is your true north.

There is also an societal and implicitly defined version of success that is, likely, disparate with yours. Oddly and illogically, you embrace this societal definition without ever pausing to acknowledging the magnitude of the incongruence between these two definitions. 

The societal version of success demands that we obtain or, at least, relentlessly strive for fame, money, and top dog status. Your personal definition of success probably does not.  However, the posts that capture your attention as you surf the net, the articles you read in “Success” magazine, and the partially read “be better” books scattered about your home are all evidence that you unapologetically embrace the societal definition.

We don’t want to want this societal success but the Sirens’ lure of fame and fortune haunts you even when you are playing catch with your son in the backyard before a family dinner.  You wouldn’t trade this life experience for any amount of fame.  With effort, you lower the volume on these relentlessly taunting thoughts but they are impervious to elimination.

Let’s make it weirder.

Why would you, a grown wo(man) ask to have your photo taken with Peyton Manning (insert your favorite QB, politician, or musician)?  His/her “success” is far removed from your own goals and life philosophy, but that photo will be framed and hung conspicuously forever.

This a thought experiment not a judgment.  

In your defense, Fame is an uninvited and disruptive guest at the Success’ dinner party.  Your success definition represents the life priorities that you thoughtfully and deliberatively constructed..  The desire for fame is an evolutionary relic thinly veiled as a modern phenomena.

Your brain stem is terrified of blood-thirsty predators and warring rival tribes.  It is obsessed with keeping you safe from these threats – “safety in numbers” is an instinct that resides in the same neighborhood as breathing.

Remember the transitive property?  (If A=B and A=C, then B=C)  This explains the photo-op obsession.

A photo with Tom Brady is evidence that he is part of our pack. Therefore, all the members of his pack are also members of our own.  As a result, we are safer.

The same is true, and more obvious, with our desire for fame.  Our pack grows directly.  We are safer.

Conclusion:  The concept of “fame” is a cancer to your definition of success that cannot be surgically removed.  You can only reduce the size of the tumor by continually reminding yourself why “fame” is not an element of any functional definition success.

“The desire for fame tempts even noble minds.”

– ST. AUGUSTINE, The City of God