The Real Secret to Success

Originally written in Nov 2nd, 2022

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Quick update: Just a quick note that the person I complained about in this post has undergone a serious mental health crisis. I wrote this soon after her success in the current program I'm in without the awareness that the story doesn't end with the celebration of gainful employment. However, my point of the post about privilege still stands.

So what causes a person to "make it" in this world? Is it hard work? Is it being a good person and not being distracted by the things of this world? Is it Jesus? What is "the secret?"

Before I reveal the truth behind the stupid ideologies I used to give my life to like self-help, the Human Potential Movement, or whatever the fuck Tony Robbin's cult is called, I want to illustrate two stories.

In 2000, a 17-year old neurodivergent boy with a flyer route was beaten up by huge kid that was pretty popular at his school. This poor boy ended up with a black eye after trying to defend himself while the large bully was throwing punches at him. Eventually, the boy delivering flyers was fired for picking a fight on the job because the huge kid's parents phoned the flyer company even though their son started the fight. The boy who delivered flyers turned 18 and started working at McDonald's. The huge kid, now working construction would come in with his buddies and bully this boy until the distraught McDonald's employee quit and started working in call centres. Our neurodivergent hard worker struggled to keep jobs in several call centres until one day he had enough and tried to stand up to the horrible working conditions that were just as bad as when he delivered flyers. Since then, he was fired and worked numerous freelance jobs that paid casual ever since.

Recently, I also came across a tweet that I will paraphrase like so to preserve anonymity:

"I got my first offer as a software engineer! Thank you X and X and the community for getting my skills up! I had absolutely no coding experience and worked full time while your awesome coding bootcamp while doing this. I also started really late at the end of June to catch up from the start in January and here I am, four months later making big bank!"

I'm actually enrolled in this same bootcamp and started working my ass off since the beginning of June and am just over halfway through. I looked into the tweet and the user's bio indicates that this person is a cofounder of a marketing company. Something didn't add up so I looked into the followers and who this person was following. What do you know...this person has connections to local business people in their Michigan hometown, which is aparrent in multiple tweets. The person also follows folks like Robert Kiyosaki, James Clear, Jenna Kutcher, Tulsi Gabbard, and Jordan Peterson. They've even recieved retweets from these people congratulating her.

Let's talk about those two stories and how they are related. I am the boy with a flyer route with the exact story in the third paragraph. I have struggled with nothing but dead end jobs and the bully that beat me up is responsible for my back injury. I may be jealous of the marketing company co-founder but that's not the point. I'm not writing this so you as a reader can feel sorry for me (showing pity won't fix anything). I'm saying this so you can understand that there's two kinds of people in the world of success, self-improvement, and hundreds of both true and false testimonials all over the damn internet.

The so-called "secret" is not cold showers, hustling until you burn out, plannning and execution, eating healthy, budgeting, or reading the right self-help books, blogs, podcasts, manifestation, Jesus, or get rich quick schemes. It's not even having the right mentors even though knowing smart people is very helpful.

The secret to ultimate success by American standards is one thing: privilege. That's it. The more privilege you have, the more successful you become. If you look past the complaints and think everything I say is bullshit, just remember this one fact.

The more money your parents or care-givers have or set aside for you, the better the chances of you getting the education or resources you have to get through adulthood (this is debatable now). The more people you know, the higher the chances of life-changing oppurtunities coming your way. The more extroverted you are, the more people you get connected to (and the better online savy you are even if you're an introvert the better you'll do in social situations on and offline). The smarter or more creative you are, the higher the chances of people being influenced by you. And yes, the more able-bodied and more neurotypical you are, the higher chances you have of becoming the embodiment of the American Dream. A good chunk of this ALL COMBINED will determine how privileged you are.

It's not about being good. It's not about doing the right thing. It's not about following certain steps or life choices. It's not even about valuing the right or wrong things. It's not even luck with the right consequences. This is why the American Dream and the system is a nightmare. Society favours the people with the most privilege. If you have less privilege you're the outcast, the other, the leper, and the person with the high chance of being cast out.

Now you're probably wondering what the solution is to this? Based on your own privilege, you'll probably understand that suffering, depending on how much privilege you don't have, is inevitable. Every human has to suffer or feel lonliness or get screwed by an 'ism' (wether it's capitalism or racism) in some way, shape, or form. Ask yourself two questions: what do I really want? And not how will I get it, but what should I chase after if I don't get it?

I may explain what I mean by this in a future post, but let me give you some examples: if you can't find a spouse that looks like a certain celebrity, do you find someone else who has a higher chance of being more attracted to you? If you can't eat certain foods you used to enjoy without gagging for some reason, is there an alternative you can stomach?

Another question you should ask yourself is what do I truly value? Sometimes things you value like money or fame or likes and virality of posts you create or videos you perform in aren't socially constructive or won't get the attention you deserve to have. Sometimes you can do certain things that are good but they might cause you to have to take risks or they will cost something like deep relationships or even a community you used to stand up for. While values are more important than things like consequences and choices, what they do is help you with all of these things including privilege. The more controllable, socially constructive, and realistic your values are, the better you are at handling your privilege. And I'm nowhere near perfect at this because knowledge doesn't solve systemic problems (don't get me started on the fallacies behind replying about personal responsibility).

So good luck in whatever you do to chase success. Try your best. Use what you got. But if you completely and utterly fail and there's no other options, just stop asking yourself what you can do better. Accept and feel the failure, then ask yourself how your privilege factors into what you want. Ask yourself if the success you want is something valuable to you. If something in your gut tells you that there's something else you should be doing to get around a certain obstacle, it's worth investigating, but if your heart is telling you it's time to move on, actually move on. Give up and do something that is more aligned with your privilege. Because when you find a life that aligns with your values and privilege, success doesn't matter. The "secret" doesn't matter. What matters is that you can continually change your life with as little suffering as possible.