Saturday, August 3, 2013

What does "Success" mean? Let me think about that...

What does it mean to be successful?

This question has been on my mind of late.  It’s the basis for a documentary I’m participating in titled “Making It” about the struggles and successes in the arts industry.  How does one make it as an artist?  What does it mean to be successful?

Consider what it must feel like to be in Heaven.  You’ve been waiting for it your whole life.  You’ve worked hard, did all the right things.  It feels good.  Like freedom, like peace.  Then you realize that there are billions of people who didn’t make it.  You know some of these people.  You’re related to some of these people.  Some of these people also worked very hard.  But you made it to Heaven.  How happy can one be?  How does success feel?

Perhaps personal success in this way is a bit myopic.  I find it increasingly difficult to just make art and feel good about myself when there are so many unemployed, underemployed, impoverished people slipping through the cracks.  Most of us, it seems, associate success with our jobs.  Our placement and ranking within the industry.

The more I learn about technologies like automation, the exponential growth of computing power, and our rapid increase in productivity the more I realize that jobs are becoming more and more obsolete.  It seems apparent that at some point the bond between income and employment will break.  It’s cheaper, safer, and more efficient to use software algorithms and robotics.  It’s just a matter of time.  What will we base our success on then?  College is mostly about preparing people to find jobs.  Not necessarily about learning for learning’s sake.  Will people attend college and take on huge debt if jobs are becoming automated out of existence and the remaining jobs become more and more scarce? 

These technologies will probably not affect artists and other creatives nearly as much as people in other fields.  Yet, even now I can ask myself how many artists do I know with BFA’s and MFA’s?  And how many of them are making a living off of what they studied in school?  I would submit I personally know quite a good deal that are successful and at the top of their game.  But not nearly as many as the people struggling to get a foot in the door.  Some of which are quite good.  A college education is no guarantee.  Hard work and mastery is no guarantee.  Networking is no guarantee.  Amazing fellatio... well, you do what you gotta do.  But still not a guarantee.  Even if you do make it I don’t think most nonartists realize how many hours a week it takes to be successful and to run your own business.

At the end of my life do I want to look back and say “I did it.  I spent most of my life working my ass off.”  Admittedly, part of me would be proud to say so.  My mom came to America from Vietnam with a ridiculous work ethic.  It rubbed off on me.  And the other part of me would be exhausted and burned out and probably suffering from numerous affects of chronic stress(worth looking into see Robert Sapolsky and his amazing beard).  With such technical capacity for the extremely high productivity levels that we possess today does it make sense that even now work and jobs remain our society’s main goal?  Do we really need even more jobs?  Is that success?  Perhaps what we need is a revolution in social thinking.

Consider some of these quotes from some people who may know a little about this topic.


Daniel Cruit said...

Thanks so much for sharing this man.

It's really something I've been worrying over recently, and I don't think my worries will be ending anytime soon. It's helpful to know other's are thinking about it as well. And thanks for keeping the facebook feed fresh with material (artistic and social).

EricFortune said...

Thanks for the feedback Daniel. We can only try to address the problems we can acknowledge and understand. Good to know we share this concern.

Victor Maury said...

I'll second Dan on this one, always enjoy the posts, Eric. I am faced with these kinds of concerns/questions myself, and I'm not sure I'm drawing any useful conclusions...anyway, looking forward to the documentary, and your continued posts.

FM said...

I think its cool where our society goes, in the end, the smart ones in the right places survive to changes and the others dont, maybe that will change? I dont think so, but with powerful learning tools like internet we can make everyone smart right?

oh man im just writing the first thing on my mind, your art is awesome, keep rocking!

Jeremy said...

I think we all have the ability to make art that pushes people to think about these changes thoroughly and take action to create a future where the technology is used to relieve people of their struggles instead of being run by the wealthy to opress people even more so, in addition to doing that ourselves. Social thinking needs to change(amongst the majority) in terms of how we view and take action in our government, economy, resource management, etc., but people who already "awake" should be joining together to make the rest of our population realize the things they are. I guess some artists are amongst this group of people and some are not, but that could change. But back to my orginal statement, I think it is important for artists to talk about issues like this and others in the world today. Discussion would push art forward and most likely our global society as well.

In response to FM(I misread your comment before I wrote most of this so I apologize for comments that do not apply directly to your statement)it can change but like I said above people need to take action in some way shape or form. Even the dumb people in the right places(high levels of the social ladder) can thrive in the world granted that they are surrounded by other smart people of the same status. The internet can only reach so far. For example people using the internet could have informed themselves of all the cruddy stuff obama has done as president(not going to get into this right now)and not voted for him in 2012, since he would much or less do the same things, and lie about them or not bring them to the forefront of the public eye. But most people using the internet are not using it for purposes like that, or anything to really fix injustices or solve other issues. If about 80% of America uses the internet and we have an ever increasing number of things going on here and in other countries(ie as a result of the people we elect and ultimately ourselves)then we currently are not making a majority of internet users smart. It will probably take a considerable effort though.

I apologize for grammatical errors. I'm in a rush, but I wanted to say these few things.

Cara said...

Suergood read. Cant wait to see the documentary.