One month ago my friend Calista heard Casey Neistat speak at Hustle Con. This weekend she told me the recording was out. The final question Casey was asked was the most important one:
Host: What’s been the biggest failure so far for you?
Casey: The biggest failure was celebrating success.
…and then he went on to re-iterate a point he’d made on his vlog a year ago.
Casey: I think the biggest takeaway from that is with every success should come a bigger, more ambitious goal. It took a couple of years I would describe as failure to be able to appreciate that.
The Only Finish Line in Life
Einstein died when he was 76 years old. In his last week, he had signed a manifesto, prepared a radio speech and by his deathbed, his family members found 12 pages full of equations.
He didn’t try to remedy some previous failure or desperately achieve something. He just wasn’t done. Like Casey, he knew that the only “finish line” in life is death.
Casey isn’t telling us to keep chasing success because he’s an egomaniac or greedy or delusional. It’s simply a piece of 2,000 year-old Stoic advice he and Einstein rely on.
On Sunday, my copy of The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday explained it perfectly with a quote from Marcus Aurelius:
“Receive without pride, let go without attachment.” — Marcus Aurelius
Ryan then goes on to explain why we should treat failure and success the exact same way:
“Do not take the slights of the day personally — or the exciting rewards and recognitions either, especially when duty has assigned you an important cause. Trivial details like the rise and fall of your position say nothing about you as a person. Only your behavior will.”
They’re external events. Like seasons, they come and go. So let them. What you get when you do is a new definition of perseverance:
Continuing a course of action without regard to discouragement, encouragement, opposition, support, previous failure or previous success.
That’s the kind of perseverance that lasts a lifetime. The kind that survives the entire journey between life and death. The kind that keeps you scribbling notes on your death bed.
To me, that is success.