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Home » Why Doesn’t Success Bring Happiness? – Laura Gassner Otting (Transcript)

Why Doesn’t Success Bring Happiness? – Laura Gassner Otting (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of author Laura Gassner Otting’s talk titled “Why Doesn’t Success Bring Happiness?” at TEDxReno 2022 conference.

Listen to the audio version here:


The Excitement of Accomplishment

Have you ever accomplished something you weren’t quite sure you could do? It’s energizing. It’s exciting. It’s amazing.

Success feels kind of wonderful, right? The work you did opened more doors than you ever thought possible. And yet, that work also teased the opportunity of even more doors that you never thought possible. Maybe, just maybe, as you peeked through the doors at what could be, you thought to yourself, “I think I want more.”

The Paradox of Success

Instead of success handing you happiness, it gave you a faster pace and increased hunger, bigger goals. And in that faster pace, increased hunger and bigger goals, you also found uncertainty, self-doubt, anxiety, stress. Success is wonderful, but it’s also kind of hell.

It just might be that success is kind of wonderhell. Over the course of a 20-year career in executive search, I was hired by my clients to go out and find for them and recruit away on their behalf some of the most successful people in the world. Now, that sounds like kind of a hard job, except I was helped by the fact that despite all this success, which is why I was calling them, they weren’t all that happy, which is why they were calling me back.

The Illusion of Ease

Now, we think once we’ve achieved success, everything gets easier. So why doesn’t it ever get easier? Why doesn’t it feel better? Why doesn’t success equal happiness?

And why does it all too often feel like wonderhell? I had my own wonderhell moment shortly after my last book came out. I’d spent the previous few weeks existing on airplanes.

A Moment of Realization

I had gone to sleep in 20 different hotel beds. I’d woken up in 10 different time zones. At the moment of this realization, I was 35,000 feet in the air.

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