To be fair, the two young dancers executed a technically flawless routine with breathtaking maturity and emotion. They absolutely deserved to advance to the next round of the competition. And when the MC gave the female half of the duo the mic and asked, “What do you want to say to your fans out there?” I braced myself. Covered in sweat and makeup, driven with all the conviction of her 21 years, she panted, “Believe in yourself and never give up on your dreams! With talent and hard work you can make it!”
I face palmed. Not again! That pernicious lie…again!
Not long after, I was on a webinar for fellow entrepreneur coaches on how to grow our businesses. “I MADE MULTIPLE SIX FIGURES MY FIRST YEAR! A MILLION DOLLARS WITHOUT EVEN A WEBSITE!” the speaker shouted into his camera. “THERE’S ENOUGH MONEY OUT THERE! IF THERE’S ANYTHING GOING WRONG IN YOUR BUSINESS, IT’S YOU! GET OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY!”
Sheesh. I would have eaten this stuff up with a spoon — no, a ladle — just three years ago. Now my eyes rolled so far back in my head I almost fell out of my chair. “NOW I HAVE NO ENERGETIC HOLD ON MONEY!” the “expert” preached. “NOW I LOVE MYSELF! IF YOU’RE HIDING, YOU’RE NOT GETTING MARKET SHARE! WHO ARE YOU HARMING BY NOT BEING YOUR BEST YOUUUUU!!!???” He paused abruptly to find his place in his presentation as if waking from an evangelistic trance — as if coming back to reason after speaking in tongues.
I clicked on “end meeting.” What a load of caca-drivel!
I understand the temptation. We’re eager to believe it’s ALL OUR FAULT we aren’t “making it big” in life, whether that means earning SIX FIGURES IN OUR FIRST YEAR or just getting our calls returned. We’d rather accept self-loathing or tolerate abuse from a stranger than consider that most success factors are out of our control. We’d rather believe that there’s something wrong with us, than something wrong with the world. I get it. I even wrote a poem about it. It’s called “Easier” — because self-hatred is easier than living awakened in a culture that constantly lies. Self-loathing gives us a sense of control.
But make no mistake — these SUCCESS AND FAILURE ARE ALL YOU messages are bullshit. Have you noticed that the ones who preach “never give up on your dreams!” are the ones whose dreams came true? Ever noticed that those saying “with talent and hard work you can make it!” are those who made it?
One disadvantage of living in a highly individualistic culture like ours is we’re blind to the myriad forces outside our individual control that impede our success or bolster our chances. In fact, we’re taught to be blind to the incredible power of structures, systems and happenstance in presenting us with options, and influencing our choices. (For an entire book of examples, see Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers.)
To be fair, this is one of the strengths of our culture. Because we’re blind to the Big Picture and therefore believe we can do anything, we often accomplish remarkable feats. But one shadow side of that blindness is when we succeed, we think we did it all by ourselves. This leads to overblown egos, selfishness and unrealistic expectations for other people. Another shadow is that when we fall short — immediately or eventually — we beat ourselves up. Sometimes we even beat ourselves to death — emotionally, psychologically, spiritually and physically.
The toll this blindness takes on our individual and collective humanity is enormous. It’s especially acute during our current times when so many people are hurting, out of work, and “failing” in ways some have never experienced before.
So let’s cut through the bullshit and get real about how anyone “makes it” — whether the “it” is money, fame, a career or winning a dance competition. Here’s how: Sell something enough people with enough money want.
That’s it. Let’s break that down into its parts. Read the rest on Medium!