In this special episode of the Economical Rice Podcast, we leap back to the realm of Audio Dramas… somewhat.
So what happened was I came across this article on Medium titled How Do You Take The Leap From Your 9–5? Follow These 7 Steps written by Nicolas Cole, thought it was fantastic, and figured maybe an audio adaption would really accentuate the message. If you are currently thinking about leaving your 9-5 to pursue a different career path, then you should definitely give this article a read. Otherwise, you can click on the audio player, put your phone in your pocket, and go about the rest of your day.
A few thoughts on Success
With that being said, there are a few things I’d like to say about the article that I didn’t want to fit into the episode.
The reason why this article really spoke to me was that I’ve been noticing this sentiment floating around on social media where people attribute success to factors like luck / network / privilege instead of hard work / grit / perseverance. It is something that is typically brought up when a media outlet shines a spotlight on a successful entrepreneur, and the comments on luck and privilege serve to undercut the significance of the entrepreneur’s accomplishments as well as to bring up the contributions of their supporting cast. Be it the entrepreneur’s employees, mentors, family, friends, society, government, taxes, roads, etc. You get the point.
Now, these factors and / or supporting cast matter. Of course they do. Lengthy award speeches and film credit rolls are a testament to that.
Are they underappreciated? Of course! Inasmuch as barely anyone actually bothers about the personnel involved behind the scenes in film, music, academia, and so on.
Thus, there is merit in these ideas. Media tends to glorify and idolize the idea of the uber-successful entrepreneur, and as attentive citizens we would do well to sift through reality from sensationalized narratives. In part as safeguard and diligence against media agenda, in part as spotlight and recognition of the perpetually underappreciated.
Cutting down vs. Bringing up
However, where the sentiment irks me is when it crosses into blatant attempts to cut down an individual’s accomplishments. This is where people make claims that hard work and sacrifice don’t matter, that success is mostly (or entirely) due to luck or network or privilege or some other factor. That anyone else given the same privileges could have the same success.
For the most part, this leaves a bad taste in my mouth for the following reasons:
(1) These claims stem from a point of jealousy / envy / spite.
(2) The main intent is to cut down the individual’s success, even though they might mention the other factors or supporting cast.
(3) Claims that hard work / sacrifice / grit don’t matter are blatantly false.
(4) Claims that hard work / sacrifice / grit don’t matter are poisonous.
Now, (1) and (2) are obvious, bitterness and envy are never a good look.
(3) is more contentious. Of course, in cases where the successful were born into wealth, never having to break a sweat or make an effort to enjoy comforts in life, then it is much more plausible that hard work doesn’t really matter. But what about the others who had to work their way up? Immigrants who came with only the shirts on their backs? Or those who grew up in abject poverty?
What about those who spent many years struggling behind the scenes before ever making it successful? Like Olivia Lum who peddled water filters for years before ever setting up Hyflux, or Walt Disney who was fired from his newspaper and ran an animation company to the ground before making hit movies? Are we to say that all their effort was for naught? That they were just lucky?
Which brings us to (4). The reason why I find claims such as these poisonous is because they are inherently defeatist. It strips you of your human agency. Why bother trying if everything is down to luck? Why make an effort if the privileged are always going to win anyway?
The thing is, if you want to talk about ideas of privilege, inequality or even just to spotlight the underappreciated, do it separately. Write an article about it, or a Facebook post, or a Twitter thread. But masquerading envy and bitterness under these guises is misleading, and ultimately sends the wrong message. Unless you intend to tell people to give up and resign themselves to their miserable misfortunes. Unless you are trying to make a point that all the hours spent into perfecting a craft, working multiple jobs, scrimmaging and sacrificing, and all the difficult decisions made on the long and often arduous path to success, don’t actually make a difference.
Reality is difficult for a lot of people. And many individuals suffer while others do not. But the truth of the matter is – and Nicolas Cole’s article will attest – that if you want success, long-lasting, genuine success, be prepared to work. Hard.
Music used in this episode was provided by Blue Dot sessions, you can find their music here. Below are the specific tracks listed chronologically:
Stakes and Things
If you’re interested in checking out our other Audio Drama production, listen to The Insurance Lady.
Cover image credit: Vlad Bagacian