wisdom to win

 Wisdom to Win
search bar left
search bar right

Soren Kierkegaard - Philosophy and SuccessSoren Kierkegaard - Philosophy and Success


Soren Kierkegaard (1813-55)


Danish philosopher (pictured right) and founder of existentialism that emphasizes

  • an individual’s unique existence and
  • responsibility to lead the best possible life (see below).

This was adopted by other philosophers likeSoren Kierkegaard - Philosophy and Success

 Soren Kierkegaard - Philosophy and Success

What did Kierkegaard say about success?


1. Existentialism

To make the right choices and decisions, you must be aware of, and learn from, your unique existence.

There are three parts to this existence:


a) aesthetic 

(instant satisfaction of desires and pleasure).

 Soren Kierkegaard - Philosophy and Success

b) ethical 

(duty and responsibility).


c) religious 

(faith in God which is the only way to personal salvation and fulfilment – see point 2).

What’s important is to find something worthwhile you can live and die for.

 Soren Kierkegaard - Philosophy and Success

2. Passion and faith

Passion and faith are just as important as reason and intellect.

Authentic beliefs come from:

  • the heart.
  • a “leap of faith” that goes beyond intellectual understanding, reasoned argument and experience.

This leap of faith is how Kierkegaard justified his devout belief in God (although he often attacked the Christian Church for getting in the way of a person’s relationship with God).

Truth is subjective because it is open to each person’s personal interpretation.

 Soren Kierkegaard - Philosophy and Success

3. Live an authentic life

Life’s main purpose is “selfhood” i.e. find your true self and live by it.

This means:

  • searching for your ideals, beliefs and a meaning to life (through reflection).
  • putting them into action.

But some people can’t do this, because they are:

  • powerless.
  • alienated from the rest of society.
  • lack self-esteem and passionate moral and religious conviction (see point 2).

 Soren Kierkegaard - Philosophy and Success

4. Overcome life’s problems

You become anxious, when you are free to choose between (sometimes terrifying) possibilities.

 If you make the right moral choices, this anxiety will lead to the maximization of your potential.

But you will suffer the despair of missing life’s possible opportunities, if you:

  • don’t understand yourself,
  • fail to live an authentic life (see point 3).

You must learn from the past but never dwell on it and always move on.

This is what Kierkegaard meant by his famous phrase:

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards”.


Key quotes on learning and wisdom

The thing is to find a truth which is true for me, to find the idea for which I can live and die

Subjectivity is truth.

A crowd... in its very concept is the untruth by reason of the fact that it renders the individual completely impenitent and irresponsible, or at least weakens his sense of responsibility.

Everything must be doubted.


Key quote on change

Face the facts of being what you are, for that is what changes what you are.


Key quote on happiness

Be that self which one truly is.


Key quote on stress and pain

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.


Key quote on influencing people

The tyrant dies and his rule is over; the martyr dies and his rule begins.


Key quote on love and ethics

Above all do not forget your duty to love yourself


Key quote on creativity

You cannot get the truth by capturing it, only by its capturing you.

Free Newsletter
Enter your name and e-mail address to receive our free newsletter with analysis of business issues and new business books