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.