Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Blinded by Success

I know I haven’t been posting a lot here for a while now. Fact is, my book reviews and my thoughts about writing and storytelling go on my Writer’s Blog. Social stuff which heavily involves or revolves around women and women’s rights goes on Feminism Wow. There’s little left for this blog, my first on. Although, perhaps I’ll start doing game reviews here again. Subnautica and Sims 4 come to mind, as does Stardew Valley (a game I have sunk more hours into than I should admit). But the topic I want to tackle right now doesn’t fit with either of my other blogs, so it goes here.

I got into an argument with a guy of FB today which showed me again that people sometimes get completely blinded by their own success - or what they perceive as their own success. Now, this is not about the topic we argued about so much - the question of why minimum wage is not a living wage in most places, although it should be -, but about the way his personal success blinded him to what other people can and can’t achieve.
You most often hear people like that guy chiming in on two topics: success at work and success at weight loss. Those people have either managed to work their way up the career ladder from humble beginnings to somewhere in management or they have lost a lot of weight in a short time. The problem with them is not the success as a such, success is recommendable, especially when self-achieved. But here’s already where things can go awry.

Let’s have a look at the definition of ‘success.’ A promotion at work surely is to be counted as a success, it’s something to strive for and something to be proud of when it happens. Same goes for losing weight and becoming more healthy and fit. But how much of the success is really self-achieved?
Surely, if they lose weight through dieting and working out, it’s their success. And, yes, in the weight-loss category, success usually is self-achieved (unless they got a liposuction, of course). However, there are quite some factors they can’t influence which can help or hinder their success. Such as certain diseases which will either make it easier or harder to lose weight. Such as the fact that some bodies lose weight easier than others on the whole. Such as having the money for a personal coach and someone to make diet food for you. Such as having gained the weight in a short time (which often makes it easier to lose it again as well). Don’t misunderstand me - even in the most unfortunate cases, it’s still possible to lose weight permanently, but it might be a lot harder than in others.
And as far as business is concerned, there’s a lot of things outside of the successful person’s control which play into the success. First of all, all qualification and hard work won’t do them any good if there’s no free position. Or if their boss has a favourite subordinate which they are not. In such cases, they might still be looking for a new job for a long time, since most companies first try to fill positions higher up the ladder with their own people and reach out to the job market only after having exhausted their own resources. Entry-level jobs are easy to find, those higher up require more luck. A lot more luck in some cases. Vitamin B helps, of course (or is that Vitamin R in English?). Knowing the right people can tremendously expand their chances for a better position, inside and outside the company where they’re working at the moment.
In those cases listed above, success might have been easier than the person thought it was, simply because factors outside of their control were in their favour.

The problem, however, is not that those people were successful. The problem is that their personal success (or what they perceive as their personal success) has blinded them to the problems of others.
That guy I mentioned above simply continuously stated that because he’d been successful, everyone else could be, too (a staple of people with that problem). If people didn’t have his work ethics or weren’t prepared to work as hard as he had, they, essentially, deserved not having a living wage. That is a general opinion of those blinded by success. They were successful and everyone who doesn’t want to do as well as they did deserves their fate. When I asked him what would happen if everyone were as hard-working as he was and had his work ethics, if everyone qualified for better jobs and got their promotion, he didn’t answer my question. Because my point was that society actually relies a lot on there being people to do minimum wage jobs. Our society wouldn’t continue for a long time without waiters, cleaners, and many other minimum-wage workers. His point only was ‘I was successful and they’re just lazy and that’s why they’re not.’ And while that might be a possible interpretation, it’s far from being the only or the most realistic one.
The same kind of discussion can also happen if you talk to someone who lost a lot of weight quickly (and, perhaps, even made a career out of it). They are blinded by the success they had and don’t understand that not everyone will have the same success with the same method. Some people can lose weight the same way, others have a body chemistry which makes this an impossible or near impossible way to lose weight. Some people can’t dedicate that much time to their weight loss (which might mean not having as much workout in their day or sometimes eating less-than-ideal meals). Some people have other things interfering (like family life).

And in some cases (less with the weight-loss and more with the career), people might not even want a success. They might know they will never qualify for something better (because, for instance, they have a learning disability). They might like the overall work (because, for instance, they like physical work much more than mental work). They might simply have a life outside of work which demands the resources (mostly time and money) which ‘successful in business’ has invested in their success. They might be caring for a sick or simply elderly relative, they might have a big family, they might be following a project outside of work (like remodelling a house or creating art) which takes their time and money. There’s many reasons why not everyone can work their way up in business. And, again, would it be good if they did? If everyone was over-qualified for the low-level jobs? The jobs on minimum wage?
Women are often ‘accused’ of not putting as much time and energy into advancing at work. Of being more comfortable with the job they’re doing, even though they could do better. A lot of the time this is down to women having another focus outside of work. A focus on society, family, other projects. At the same time, it’s seen as more normal if a woman doesn’t do her best to advance at work than if a man doesn’t. Men are supposed to be focused on success, on getting on, on advancing through the ranks. So to a man who has done his ‘duty’ of succeeding, men who don’t may seem even more lazy than women who don’t. The whole ‘if you weren’t so lazy, you wouldn’t have to do this job’ discussion is getting us nowhere.

Neither is the ‘if I succeeded, you can as well’ attitude of some people. It’s an attitude which assumes everyone is living the same life (and, hence, has the chance to distribute free time and money the same way), has the same life goals, and has the same chance of success. Neither of these three things is true.
Even two people who seem to have the same life (same marriage status, same income, same area they live in, same job), most of the time don’t really have that same life. One of them might have to pay off an old debt (car, house, student loan, etc.). One of them might have a relative in the same job who they’re on good terms with. One of them might have another passion than work which they need time and, perhaps, money for. One of them might get on better with their immediate superior. They do not really have the same life. The one in debt doesn’t have as much disposable income as the other one. The one with the relative in the same line of work doesn’t have to invest as much money in a new qualification, because he gets the training ‘for free’ (or, perhaps, a few lunches and beers). The one with the other passion isn’t as driven in business matters and will spent less time and money on a qualification and do less overtime. The one who gets on better with the superior will be more likely to be chosen for promotion if there’s several candidates.
And even if they’re similar in the question of spare time and money, they might have different goals in life. Not everyone is totally focused on their career. And even if they initially are, life has a way of changing things. One might suddenly find themselves in a situation in which they need to put their personal life above the career. Or they might realize they don’t want to spend the rests of their life in that job. There’s a lot of things which can change a life goal. Epiphanies are more common than people often realize. So they ‘slack off’ in the eyes of the one blinded by success and are no longer worthy of that person’s support.
Finally, not everyone is born with the same chance to succeed. If you’re born into middle-class, you have more chances to succeed than someone born into the lower class (it goes without saying that the rich and wealthy have it easy to succeed, not to mention some of them don’t even have to succeed something else than their parents). If you can afford college after school (and go to a good school in a good area), your chances are much higher than those of someone who does evening courses to get their college degree. If you manage to get into a certain line of work to begin with, you have much more of a chance to promotion. Some jobs simply don’t have a big career ladder.

If you’ve been successful in your line of work or consider yourself very successful in another aspect of your life, please try to keep in mind that life isn’t ‘one fits all’ and you shouldn’t stop caring about your fellow humans just because they seem to ‘slack off,’ unlike you.

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