Dan Ariely provides thought provoking insight about the way we make decisions in his TED talk "Are we in control of our decisions".

    Ariely points out that almost all of our decisions are made for us due to the way they are presented. We often gain illusions from our choices that greatly influence the things we chose.
   First, Ariely shows some examples of visual illusions such as this table or this cube:

    The table on the left seems longer, but is in fact the same length as the one on the right. Similarly, the square on the top looks brown while the one on the bottom looks yellow, but they are in reality both brown. These are visual illusions that show us how easy it is to deceive our eyes. Ariely tells us that our decision making is deceived in a similar way through "cognitive illusions".
    An example of one of these "cognitive illusions" is a study on advertisement customers of the Economist. When presented with the choices of:
Print only: $89.00, Web only: $125.00, or, Print and web: $125.00, the most popular choice was Print and Web, while no one chose web only, and few chose print only. This trend occurred because the customers saw that print only had the same price as print and web together, so they chose to buy print and web because it appeared to be a good deal. Why settle for one when you can get both for not paying more?
    Interestingly, when the web only option was removed, more customers chose print only than print and web together. When the comparison was gone, they chose the cheaper option. I found this point extremely interesting because, I know I have often fallen for tricks like this. Judging something based on what you have to compare it to is in our human nature, but it often hinders us rather than helps.
    Illusions like these show us how our decisions are already made for us because what we really want is not what we consider in our decision making. We consider instead how the options are presented to us and make comparisons to alter our decisions.
    I personally believe this relates to literary tragedy because the tragic characters often fall to cognitive illusions. For example, It has been foretold that Oedipus would kill his father and marry his mother. This "pre-decided" fate influences all of Oedipus' decisions so that it eventually becomes true.

 
  In this video, Alain De Botton shares quite a bit of insight about how we as humans view success and failure. He also ties in how literary tragedy relates to all of this.
    First, De Botton states that in our modern times, career anxiety has become increasingly common. Everyone experiences an inevitable moment when, "...what we thought we knew about our lives, about our careers, comes into contact with a threatening sort of reality..." 
    He says that one of the reasons we feel this anxiety is because of snobbery around us. He defines a "snob" as someone who uses only a small part of you to judge who you are entirely. Essentially, the respect they show you is directly related to how much power your position holds. I can relate to this (as I am sure many of us can) and I find this definition for snobbery very fitting. In my own life I have let others' opinion of me cause me to feel like a failure. 
    Another reason for this anxiety is that we have extremely high hopes for our careers. In this day and age, people are essentially equal, so there is more competition. With this equality also comes envy. This envy is rooted in our societal definitions of success versus failure.

We live in a meritocratic society, which means we believe that people become successful because of their talent and hard work. People are successful because they deserve it. The problem with this philosophy is that if you base success on merit you are also saying that those at the bottom, the "losers", deserve to be there as well. This is cruel because we cannot be successful at everything, and we shouldn't be labeled as losers because of the things we fail at.
    If this were true, all of the heroes in tragic works would be losers. We cannot say they are losers simply because they lost. De Botton explains that tragedy is an art showing how people fail, and it allows them sympathy. The reason we want to label characters like Hamlet as losers is because our ideas of success and failure come from people other than ourselves. Our families, traditions, and media force ideas of these concepts upon us. De Botton stresses that we need to get rid of these ideas and define success and failure for ourselves.

What I have taken away from this video is the realization that failure and success are in the eye of the beholder. Just because I may not live up to society's ideal image, does not mean that I have failed. Basically, my own opinions determine whether I have succeeded or failed.