Hey folks, I was reading a piece about Elon Musk the other day. It was talking about all his amazingness and his eccentricities. It was praising him as a modern-day Great One, and it claimed that he has tapped into some secret knowledge that has allowed him to be so successful.
I don’t know much about Elon Musk, but I have a generally favorable opinion of him. I like his name, and his accent, and his cars and rockets. I like the fact that he seems to be so disruptive, though that may be more of a perception than anything. I like most of what I know about him which, again, isn’t much.
This piece then went on to talk about Jeff Bezos, and all his eccentricities and unique traits, and also claimed that he has found the secret to success.
I don’t care much for Jeff Bezos, and I have been trying for such a long time to lay out exactly why. I have never researched him, and most of the narrative in my head surrounding him is all conjecture, but he really just rubs me the wrong way. Could it be that I don’t like him because he is an uber-capitalist, hell bent on automating and ease-ifying everything to the detriment of our very humanity? Probably. And I hope that I do make the time to write it all out, research him and make a cogent argument that we should second guess everything he says and stands for. I say all this while typing on a machine bought on Amazon while I browse Amazon for things I need, using internet that is more likely than not hosted by Amazon Web Services; I’m not ready to die on that hill.
This piece delved further into the canon of Great American Innovators and Entrepreneurs. It talked about Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, or was it Jimmy? It lauded figures like Tesla and Ben Franklin and Edison and Bell. I just realized that they only talked about men in that piece. It spoke of capitalism as if it were divine, beatifying the saints of American Industry.
I get it, we like success. I like success. I work, a lot. And in my time not working at my job, I work on this, I write and I take photos, and I try to find a way to get out from under my own fiscal doom. I am convinced that capitalism is on its way out, that the future will be built not by men of industry but by humans of communities, but for the time being we are in a system that has roots that run deep.
A lot of people aspire to be successful. I don’t think I know anybody, in fact, who doesn’t want to be successful. The way we measure success varies, but for most people it is centered on material wealth. A lot of people think influence is a big part of it too, that’s one reason why we have become obsessed with likes and replies and subscribers and all that.
Anyway, I’m rambling. I like some of the public figures mentioned in this piece, and I dislike others. The main thread connecting all of them is the influence they have on my life, on all of our lives.
We see these names and we click on that hyperlink (are we still calling them that?). We open that article and we read through because we are conditioned to listen to these people, and to listen to people who are talking about these people, because they are important to all of us in some way or another.
It frustrates me when I am trying to read the news, well, that is more than frustrating without saying more. But, when I have waded through the mire of tripe, blocked the hate outlets and trolls, ignored the iterative fallacy-salad bars, I am left with something that could be called The News if one is feeling generous. When I am scrolling through what serves for news these days there is invariably a link or two to an article that promises secret knowledge to unlock power and success and happiness.
It always starts out by lauding these great figures of commerce, usually in a tone deaf and grievously uninformed manner. It tells us how happy they are and reminds us how unhappy we are, then it lays out a simple plan that will have us sipping cocktails on some beach in less than a year, or whatever we strongly desire and doubt we’ll ever attain.
This specific piece claimed that all these greats had tapped into secret knowledge that reaches all the way back to the genesis of western thought. It explained that Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos and all these others used the magical formula of First Principles, and that you could use this way of thinking to magic all your problems away too!
First Principles is a name given to a system of pragmatism made popular by Aristotle. Aristotle was an old Greek guy who has his name of a lot of important stuff. I like Aristotle, and Plato and Socrates and Aristophanes and Diogenes and all the others, but I really can’t stand when people do this type of ancestor worship. Yes, most people who are successful have a strong understanding of something. That understanding allows them to do that specific something well. Throw in some good timing, some marketing and a little bit of luck, and you’ve got the recipe for success.
People, there is no secret formula for success. That is the message that it took a thousand words to get out. There is no secret formula for success!
The only thing that all successful people have in common is that they Do something! That’s it! Simple, I know, and you may doubt me, but I promise you that is it. Don’t waste your energy on bad advice, don’t believe there is some magic key that will poof your dreams into existence, don’t miss your opportunities because they don’t fit into someone else’s model. Find something you are good at and that you enjoy doing, then find a way to turn that into success.
There are some people who work freakishly, producing around the clock and never seeming to rest. There are some people who live like The Dude yet somehow manage to make their mark. Most people fall between the two extremes and look very similar to you or me. Some people waste their entire lives pushing themselves beyond their limits, ignoring life, neglecting their families, never enjoying a moment, all in a failed attempt to be successful because they believed they were close to unlocking the secret, meanwhile success was there to be had all along. All over some bad advice.
There are strategies you can use to increase your productivity. There are styles of leadership and schools of thought that can help you along on your journey to success, but you will not find any of that on an infographic or an advertised link on Buzzfeed.
If you are interested in professional development, I suggest you follow a successful business writer, or buy a few books on the subject, or even take a few courses. Don’t rely on pop-up ads in broken english. Don’t waste your life chasing after things that don’t exist.
In my mind, the most important ingredient for success is honest self reflection. Once you are aware of your circumstance, your goals and your strengths and weaknesses and assets, you can formulate a plan and execute it. That may sound good to you, and it may not. Your favorite principle may be dedication, or attention to detail, or integrity, or who knows how many other things. We all know what we need to do, as long as you get up and do something, rather than just click on clickbait all day, you’ll figure something out.
Thanks for stopping in, folks, I hope you all are well. Go out and be the best version of yourself that you can possibly be!