What makes someone successful? Is it in what they do? Who they are? What they embody? We have books and blog posts and inspirational speeches all dedicated to the habits of successful people. And now, because it is 2018, we have a meme. The “most successful people” meme is Twitter’s response to the question, “Okay but, like, what is success, really?” The answer: Success is whatever you want it to be...but also everything and perhaps nothing??? Basically, Twitter can’t be serious for even one second and that’s probably why we love it so, so much.
Last week, a tweet from @APompliano went viral after giving earnest, but perhaps unrealistic or at least a little trite, characteristics of “successful people.” According to the tweet, “the most successful people” do things like “workout daily” and “believe in themselves” and “demand excellence in everything they do.” While many took the advice to heart, as evidenced by the 55,000 likes and retweets, some were quick to call out problems with the list. “Plenty of unsuccessful people that do all of those too,” one person responded, adding that the list leaves out things like “happened to be in the right place at the right time,” and “had a lucky break.”
And that, kids, is how a meme is born: from sincerity turned realism that eventually devolves into absurdity. People began retweeting the original viral advice with their own set of rules for “successful people.”
Many channelled the most successful people in their own lives, like their pets and other people’s pets and did I mention pets. Pets are the most successful people.
Others took to music, movies, and other pop culture. Who embodies success like Carol from the movie Carol? What inspires achievement like the lyrics from The Killers' “Mr. Brightside”? Honestly, put the script to Carol and the lyrics to “Mr. Brightside” in a museum for future generations to honor, worship, learn from. If nothing else, they will be like, “Ah, so that’s why our ancestors got nothing done...they were Googling old alt rock lyrics.”
It’s no secret Twitter doesn’t like being told what to do. The recent “by the time you’re 35” meme was clear evidence of that. The meme came as a response to an article in Marketwatch, which said that by the time you’re 35, you should have twice your salary saved. If you heard a sound, that was just the collective laughter of everyone in their 20s. What started as people comparing their pittance of a salary turned to other absurd rules for turning 35. “By age 35 you should have a huge box of cables but you can't throw them out because you're pretty sure you still need a couple of them but you're not sure which ones,” read one tweet from @LoriG.
We, as a Twitter people, are all for inspiration and tips for success...so long as they fit exactly into our lifestyle and don’t require us to grow and change even a little.
Tips for success often have take the same tone as think pieces telling Millennials all the reasons they’re responsible for not having a house or money or killing a beloved Boomer-centric industry. Millennials buy too much avocado toast. They eat too many sandwiches. Apparently food is the source of our debt and not, oh I don’t know, our trillions of collective dollars in actual student loan debt.
So, I leave you with this, friends seeking sage advice on success: The most successful people I’ve met...
- Can change their life
- Can change their clothes
- Can change their mind
- Well that's the way it goes
- But I'm gonna keep your jeans
- And your old black hat
- Cause I want to
- They look good on me
- Your never gonna get them back
Standard definitions of “success” truly are so yesterday.