4.1 On achievements unlocked
Some things feel great to attain. That difficult bar reached after a bit of effort? Well, it’s special precisely because it’s a challenge.
Achievements from doing difficult work provide flow and satisfaction as a result of interaction with elements that test our mettle.
This is why achievements come with a sense of enhanced status, inherently exclusive in character. If everybody could do it, the feeling of achievement would be less for that.
Some achievements though have at their heart a certain nonsense about them. No matter how bright the glare of their halo-effect, it seems as if there is a hollowness never quite filled, a contentment never truly felt. There is always an insatiable quest for more.
The posturings feel shrill, the product of frantic needs powered by an ego’s brittle, constant need satiated and stroked. The rich like to sequestrate what they like to think of as the symbols of an aspirational lifestyle, whatever that happens to be in the moment. But the irony is that cannot ever grasp it, because it is their money and idea that it can be purchased that gets in the way of the real gift of being happy.
There’s something not quite right with the rich kids of Instagram. No matter how much the gilded trappings might try to suggest otherwise, what comes over is a hideous ennui.
We’re all on a quest to satisfy our senses. You know, there’s food and then there’s M&S food. Different. Special.
There’s achievement, and then there’s ultra achievement, uber performance, mega states of prestige. There’s the ‘only one winner’ who has ever higher and supposedly more rarified dividends.
But in a connected world, this is a nonsense.
Take a look at this commercial made by Cartier. This is what happens when Cartier take you on an odyssey. I have no idea what it means either.
We are coming to understand, I think, that attainments like these don’t really instill deep feelings of contentment and satisfaction, nor provide as much meaning as we might think.
Indeed, we may be reaching the end of road in believing materialism can provide a route to infinite happiness.
A super, shiny ‘costabomb’ fast car cruising around Bel Air, Knightsbridge or Dubai is still subject to speed limits. There’s only so much more ‘soft’ the luxiest of anything can provide. In fact, there are only diminishing incremental levels of bliss to be had, no matter how fancy the trappings.
The average bottle of red burgundy costs around £16. The world’s most expensive bottle of wine is a red burgundy that comes in at just below £9,900. Does it taste 618 times better? Of course it doesn’t. Do the maths and, proportionately, the amount of ‘extra’ a fat wallet can buy does not, ultimately, pay off or look like a good deal.
What we’re capable of feeling and enjoying has to expand before that happens. In terms of neuroscience and economics, if one has to pay a high price for happiness then those least able to derive contentment from the simplest pleasures are not, in real terms, the most well-off.
Consider Mbongeni Buthelezi in South Africa, who paints with recycled plastics. He’s finding wonder in the ordinary. Maybe that’s a truer sense of achievement.
The world’s beginning to work against the traditional idea that exclusivity is a recipe for happiness. And, in a connected world, the idea of scarcity commanding a premium is completely illogical.
This blows economic models. Scarcity is a marketable commodity, of course, but it contains a primal fear – the idea that we’re not capable or complete and need to be defined by goods and accessories. This is an industrialized construct, and it feeds the factory.
Being digital gives us a shop window, a chance to bask in the gaze of others and to feel that halo effect. But keeping up with the Khardashians or anyone else for that matter is a hamster wheel that can destroy the very point of the gaze, a form of interconnected slavery for attention. I would put it to you that real happiness runs deeper.
And now that we live online, we are abundantly digital. The world has exploded with virtual resources and possible realities. Our greatest assets are within, in our imagination and our individualism. It is these that give us the power to make our own mark and to resist being defined by algorithms.
We have been thinking in ways that are becoming obsolete.
Power and status is being derived today by developing the value our output has to others as well as to ourselves. Power is coming from being the makers, not just consumers. Power is coming from taking initiative and being masters of our online domains. PewDiPie and Nick D’Alosio are showing how, as self-made entrepreneurs of the natively digital generation.
Today, achievement, power and status come from having a digital identity that will endure beyond the time that you do; your voice, your own bling, as appreciated by the world.
Programme, and be a geek that inherits the earth. Programme, and you can save lives. Programme, and your business will develop value from this shift.
Maybe this is how our achievements will be unlocked as digital humans; how we will develop a new kind of worth.