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Honoré Victorin Daumier:
The Print Collector (c. 1857/63)

"Success seems priceless"

The cost of Success might eventually come into question. The underlying idea being that the value of the Success should stand in excess of the price and that Successful action should properly show a profit rather than a loss. Upon reflection, this sort of cost accounting should seem spurious since it employs less than uniform units. How might one assess value, and on what basis? Likewise, how might one reasonably account for profit and, again, using which values? Scrutiny should properly find the whole effort spurious, if not entirely worthless. Few of us won't catch ourselves attempting to complete such an assessment, though, us having been reared within a capitalist system. We were raised to produce profit and loss statements.

When it comes to Success, though, we might prefer to cipher in units of happiness or joy.
Success tends to be advertised in such terms. Who, besides dedicated masochists, pursues Success for anything other than happiness or satisfaction? The question always comes in as to precisely when it comes time to perform this critical calculation. We understand that return on any investment properly requires some time for improvement. Calculating too soon risks undervaluing the return or even discouraging the investor. Often better to defer assessment until well after actual achievement, the better to buffer potential discouragement. This suggestion leaves the Successful investment unassessed for some period, formally unacknowledged, and intestate until the final accounting can be finished.

Nothing like deferred accounting, though, to inhibit the sort of passion one might aspire to gain from Succeeding. The accounting seems so much buzz-kill when deferred until it's more convenient. Few care beyond the feeling experienced in the first moments of Success. Through those moments, the costs, however ruinous, get forgotten. The effort damned well seems worth it, even if everyone involved lost their shirts on the investment, for Successful completion gets valued in a different currency than does the price of any input. The deprivation the starving artist contributes toward his first masterpiece seems well worth the investment in the moment that painting appears in the salon. The so-called hierarchy of needs seems silly whenever the pauper transcends his genre without first securing his emotional security. We freely give our best selves away to achieve Success. We do not really care about the accounting.

Success seems beyond price, beyond caring about cost. We pursue it without thinking financially. We will willingly pay any price, though we only rarely ever slow down enough to assess relative cash flows, for the pursuit of Success almost always occurs off the books. We pursue what seems right instead, what appears so damned alluring we'd ruin the pursuit even to imagine the price we're actually paying. Passion performs no cost accounting, and expecting it to account for itself utterly undermines its purpose. We pursue with such feeling that we anesthetize our inner cost accountant. We put that sucker into a coma, or we'll never Succeed. We do not need a return on these kinds of investments. The investment itself seems to be the return, the price of admission into the park we play in rather than toil. Were the pursuit of Success like working, we might easily surrender to even the most demanding forensic accounting. ThePrice of Success seems priceless; the cost routinely far beyond reason or accounting.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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