The German word for nerd is ‘streber’, which literally translates to striver.
Strivers are poked fun at, more so during our teens and our early twenties, as being nerds, geeks, wannabe and other such pejoratives. Success is always welcome, but somehow, the hard work that goes into achieving this success needs to be hidden from view.
This leads to successful people hiding the effort that went into making them successful, making it seem as if success came naturally to them. On the other hand, the people who fall short are led to believe that ‘they don’t have what it takes’.
Our hypocrisy lies in the celebration of success, but the derision of the effort that goes into it. Wouldn’t it be healthier to do the opposite?
Our culture tells us we are successful if we
- Are famous (celebrities, sportspersons, actors etc.)
- Are extremely rich (worth several million dollars)
- Lead a lavish lifestyle (Lambhorginis, Michellin Star meals, destination weddings)
- Are powerful (CEOs, Managing Directors, Founders)
- Graduate from famous colleges (Harvard, Stanford, Cambridge)
- Do something groundbreaking (Innovators, Explorers, Pioneers)
We are actually successful if we merely
- Have enough leisure to not keep hustling
- Nurture a close circle of family and friends
- Eat nutrious food, and exercise regularly
- Cultivate habits that preserves our well-being
- Have enough money to sustain our needs
- Lean into life with generosity and a sense of wonder
The list below might seem like a terrible compromise. But it is startling how many people deemed successful by the one above, have glaring gaps in the one below.
Leading an ‘ordinary’ but virtuous life is worth celebrating, because it is much harder and more important than our culture leads us believe.