Defining "success" watching Karl Lagerfeld

Karl Lagerfeld died two days after I learned about him.

I watched the Chanel Couture documentary on Netflix and was fascinated by Karl Lagerfeld. After the documentary, I continued watching his interviews on Youtube as he spoke about the 2018 Chanel Couture. As someone who had no knowledge of fashion shows and zero appreciation for them, it was wonderfully insightful.

Though, my fascination centered on the 85 year old German designer. A self-identified 'working class man' who was so engrossed in perfecting his craft that he became a fashion icon. Then I learned that he had passed the next day. I felt eerily sad to learn of his passing. Unlike Buffet, whom I've studied for years, Lagerfeld came up serendipitous and though I had not known about him long, I could not help but feel this way. Maybe it's because I was watching his 2018 interviews and just assumed he would live for a while longer.

This made me think about success. 

We all have our own definition of success. If we don't, then we should. I would generalize that society largely measures success by financial net worth. I do not agree with this in the slightest but I can see why it's the metric of choice for most and why it's so hard to ignore. I have times of difficulty with it as well. Just a mere indication my internal scorecard needs be stronger. 

Lagerfeld was rich and famous. Though what attracted me to him was not his net worth or the aura of fame. I could care less for what his net worth was and I think he would agree. All his interviews were focused on how he thought about fashion and why it was important. The thought of his death never occurred to me. I don't think this would've mattered even if I knew he was 85. Charlie Munger, the Vice Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, is 96 and I hold onto a childish assumption he'll be around longer.

It was at the announcement of Lagerfeld's death that I thought he was successful. Why?

He was 84 last year and he was still part of running the Chanel Couture and giving interviews on fashion. He died a year later. That's amazing. I think he went as close to dying while doing the work he wanted. I think if money were the objective, he would've quit long before. As I mentioned before, I just learned about Karl Lagerfeld. I'm not a fashion nut who knows his autobiography by heart. So I'm just making assumptions by the actions I saw. Actions express priorities right?

I'd wager that if Lagerfeld was not doing work he loved, he would be like most old, rich people who lie on a beach while bathing in a sea of meaninglessness. 

If Karl had stopped at 67 to retire I may have never learned about him. He had to do a fashion show just until his death for me to learn about him and actually write an article dedicated to him. Sure, I'm not the "target" audience. But, I would consider myself to be a widely read and curious person. It still took me 20 something years to learn about someone who was operating at the top of their field. It just made me think about how small and insignificant we as individuals are to the world. 

It's just a reminder to internalize my own success. Plenty of books and people speak about this in modern media but I believe a part of success is doing what you love at that moment right up until your death. What I learned from mentoring people and even doing the podcast is that I can't convince someone to change their mind or see something I see. They have to decide to see it. It comes from an internal desire to do so. Given you can't control how many people you influence, all you can do is focus on getting your own system right. Only after constantly executing what I love for 60 more years may I hope to be someone or have done something of significance. To cope with such a long timeline, it only seems fitting to attribute a part of my own definition for success as doing something I love until my last breath. I hope you, my reader, can also take the time to define for yourself what success looks like to you. 


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