What is Success and Why Are We Always Afraid of Failure?

Aizaz Baqir
6 min readAug 18, 2022


Failure is the key to the kingdom within (Rumi).

In conventional terms, success always means money, status, fame, and society’s approval. In dictionaries, success is defined as the accomplishment of any aim or purpose; favourable outcome of any activity that one is involved in. For instance; winning a contest, passing of an exam, getting a dream job with remunerative benefits, marrying a person of your choice etc. In short, success is usually defined as achievement of any of your goals (irrespective of their value) or fulfillment of any of your desires (irrespective of the inanity of them). Although success is typically measured in terms of achievement of any objective but, one thing is imperative that what you want to achieve is more important than the achievement itself.

Thus if your are a typical thief or a robber, then your achievement may, ultimately, prove a terrible failure. But if you are an innovative stealer of great ideas, you may be really successful.

However most people are always struggling to achieve without knowing that their achievement may ultimately prove a failure. In other words, if you don’t have a clear vision and just chasing your goal impatiently without seeing the whole picture, you might get frustrated in the end.There are many examples of temporary or superficial success that ultimately proved a great disaster. That is why sometimes failure also proves to be a blessing in disguise.

Here is a summarized version of a story of King Midas for whom the golden touch, instead of giving a sense of fulfillment, became a curse:

“King Midas’ was a rich king who had a lot of gold and little daughter named Marigold whom he loved very much but not as much as his gold. Even though he was very rich, he still wanted more. One day he met a fairy in his gold room. Fairy asked him for any wish and he wished that anything he touched would turn to gold. The fairy gave him magic powers so that anything he touched would turn to gold. He felt very happy and euphoric in the beginning because his dream had come true. However, anything also included water and bread. So whenever he wanted to drink water and touch the glass of water it would become gold. Similarly bread would also turn into a gold upon touching by him. So he remained thirsty and hungry for many days. One day he accidentally also turned his daughter into a golden statue. So the king regretted and called the fairy back. He gave up his “golden touch” in exchange for his daughter back. He didn’t long for gold anymore.

This is a good illustration of the fact that desirability of the objective is more important than achievement of the objective. But most people simply take the definition of success that others set for them only to be disappointed, instead of having a sense of achievement, in the end. Hence, It is a wrong notion that we will be successful when other people will think and tell us that we are successful. If you need other people to tell you that how and when are you successful then an utter failure and disappointment is your fate accompli.

In short, living in alignment with your personal definition of success by staying true to your values and taking meaningful actions toward your own valued goals is real succes.

Thus You will have real success the day when you get the courage to be yourself and are able to discover your gifts and know that they are really precious gifts even when others don’t realize or acknowledge them. We, usually, become enamoured with the all sorts of trivialities if life. What is of real value is not our glossy appearance or superficial image, but the qualities of our heart; integrity, honesty, sincerity, compassion, kindness, generosity, bravery, humility, simplicity and, ultimately, the purity of our soul. Moreover you need to work hard to achieve your goals and sacrifice the little things to achieve a bigger goal.

In The Death of Ivan Ilych, Leo Tolstoy gives a tragic account of a man who wasted his whole life conforming to an empty social norm. On his deathbed, Ivan Illych comes to question the whole of his life. Had he been merely going through the prescribed motions?

Remember that the societal defined or prescribed success comes at the cost of meaningful human relations.

So as you look at your life, what do you feel? Well put together on the outside, but lacking on the inside? Or may be your heart is right, but you are not successful person in the eyes of the society.? We are often presented with two options to attain success; one is glossy imitation and other is the authentic version of a true human being. However, if we don’t know what being authentic means, we may just pursue the glossy imitation and miss the real deal altogether. Remember that a failed but sensitive human being is always better that a cold successful robot. More and more possessions and more and more desires will not get us anywhere.

If we remain prisoner of our addictive behaviour and continue to desire the infinite, we will reach nowhere and keep moving in circles. That is why someone aptly said:

The false image of success keeps us always looking for more: Bigger, better, smarter, faster, stronger, more attention, more stuff! The more we get, the more we want. And the endless journey never ends as the thrill of temporary achievement is a bottomless pit.

In short, walking in wholeness with the soul is a true demonstration of success and this success comes as the by-product of a life lived from the inside out. And as someone said, “Becoming a whole person involves utilizing our heart, our soul, our mind, and our strength. These elements are meant to operate in an integrated and holistic manner, working together to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts. And if even one of those areas is impaired, all we may feel is brokenness.

Thus success comes as the by-product of a living a wholesome life that is lived from the inside out.

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i) Images, google.com.pk

ii) https://cpb-ca-c1.wpmucdn.com/myriverside.sd43.bc.ca/dist/0/1467/files/2015/11/summary-2audjgg.pdf



Aizaz Baqir

I am a freelance writer and translator based in Multan, Pakistan having interests in reading, writing, travelling and social services.