Today’s ideal model of success might be well-stated in the lyrics of Travie McCoy – “I wanna be a billionaire so frickin’ bad.” We choose to believe that success is wrapped in dollar signs, square footage, and images of ourselves in shining lights. We get excited about the possibility of quick fame and celebrity status.
And why shouldn’t we?
We live in an era when names like Jake & Vienna , the Situation and Snooki are more famous than Yitzchak Dovid Grossman , Chesley Sullenberger , and Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu – true heroes of our time.
Some historians and thinkers attribute this societal shift to the rapid pace of communication technology. In 1962, historian Daniel J. Boorstin wrote (in The Image: A guide to psuedo-events in America), “The machinery of information has brought into being a new substitute for the hero, who is the celebrity, and whose main characteristic is his well-known-ness.” Boorstin’s words resound in a society that loves “reality” entertainment, when fame can be sought and won by those who become known for being known.
In this society, the end justifies the means. We will choose to do whatever it takes to discover happiness, to find love, to become famous, or to provide for our families. In the words of self-made blogger Seth Godin (author of Tribes): “(We) don’t have enough time to be both unhappy and mediocre. It’s not just pointless, it’s painful.”
So, you and I look for ways to succeed quickly. We choose to be great, but at what cost?
Our challenge in this digital society is to achieve greatness without losing ourselves. To be authentic without degrading ourselves or others. To find a digital identity that supports our real identity. To serve our communities in a way that respects its members. In short, to choose both success and honor.
In the end, we all know that becoming a billionaire requires more than wanting it “really frickin’ bad.” And, we realize that happiness and success cannot be measured in the quantity of material wealth, but rather in the quality of our relationships. So, how do we handle the rapid changes in technology and society while maintaining our own sense of honor?