Different people play this game with different goals in mind.
I just saw someone criticizing a member of IRON for being happy that his alliance is #2 in score in Cybernations. The implication was that only being first counts, and he shouldn't rest until he'd achieved that.
Now, it's entirely possible that there are members of IRON that have that goal in mind. Certainly they're not that far away.
But why should that be his goal?
Take me for example. I'm quite proud of the fact that my nation, despite being less than two years old, is in the top 10 of all nations in the game with my particular starting resources (gold and furs). All of the gold & furs nations that are bigger than me are also older than me, most significantly older.
Yah I'd probably be a lot bigger now if I'd rerolled that day a while back and got say fish and aluminum instead. But big deal. My achievement is still a significant one, because it's what I wanted to do.
IRON have achieved a number of things that NPO has not. And vice versa, of course. I'd wager a guess that while there are some people in NPO who are happy they are #1, there are probably more who are happy they've successfully implemented the Revenge Doctrine or the Moldavi Doctrine or some other in-game goal.
Just like how I'm proud of what I've been able to do for Purple Team. And similar to how, no doubt, some of the people in IRON are proud of what they've been do for Orange Team.
Just think about what you love about this game. The main reason you continue to play is probably not out of a hope that your alliance will reach #1 in score among all alliances. For most of the players of this game, that is not a realistic hope.
There's probably some other reason. And so far as you succeed or fail in it, that's how you should measure your success. Not according to how someone on the forums says you should measure it.