Dangerous success

OK. So this is one of those “thought provoking” quotes that occasionally shows up on a paper Starbuck’s cup.

Failure’s hard, but success is far more dangerous.

If you’re successful at the wrong thing, the mix of praise and money and
opportunity can lock you in forever.

– Po Pronson, Author of stories, screenplays, and nonfiction, including What Should I Do with My Life?

This is an interesting quote, but it’s all about perspective.

As a musician, I have failed. As a computer programmer, I have excelled. My career has advanced considerably. It used to be that dropping out of IT work to work harder on music would mean living frugally. Now it would mean a massive pay cut. And I need that money to take care of my family, send my kids to school, pay for the minivan. If I stay where I’m at, I’ll have the opportunity to move up even more. The dream of being a musician, or any kind of artist for that matter, becomes more and more distant every year. It’s now entered the realm of the absurd.

Oh well I guess.

Where did we get the idea that being “locked in” was bad? Being locked in prison is bad. Maybe locked in a dead-end career is bad. But “locked in” to a successful and relatively prosperous career? What a pile of suck! Totally the wrong thing! Really? I’m not convinced. Time to break out the Merton again:

Who is willing to be satisfied with a job that expresses all his limitations? He will accept such work only as a “means of livelihood” while he waits to discover his “true vocation.” The world is full of unsuccessful businessmen who still secretly believe they were meant to be artists or writers or actors in the movies.

-Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island, Ch.7 Sec.5

Who is selling us this lie? This isn’t part of the American Dream. Is this only since 1900? 1960?