Philosophy Tuesday

To riff a bit from last week’s post regarding the “safety to fail” to further encompass the broader thing going on right now of “look at my triumph” articles.

Because we ought to be especially wary of stories about super successful young entrepreneurs, or about those who paid off their mortgage when they were 22, or about other kinds of “glorious success” stories that have this “if I can do it, you can do it to!” backhanded* motivational bent to them.

If the article/story/etc you are reading doesn’t mention the whole of the context around it, then they are likely, in a fashion, lying.  Or at least fibbing through omission/obfuscation.

What’s needed is including the whole context.  Even better is calling direct attention to said context.

As examples, one young entrepreneur story had the individuals proudly proclaim they had built their company from scratch at the end of high school, starting in the basement on weekends and such, and now they were financially very well off.  Look at us!   The article, fortunately, helpfully (and rightfully) pointed out that the first client for their software was their father, who happened to be the CEO of an international corporation.  Definitively a leg up when trying to market your unknown and untested software!  Not to mention the leeway to fix any bugs in the software while being guaranteed a paycheque.

For the mortgage story, it turned out that the one who was chiding others for not being able to pay off their house a) their mother paid for the down payment on their place b) they could live with their grandmother rent free (and perhaps grocery bill free?) during the time and, to top it all off, c) were hired right out of school by their mother at her company.  So, very much a safe place from which to accomplish their “hard work miracle.”

This is nothing to say of the stories where someone decries “if only kids wouldn’t spend their money on lattes these days, they’d be more well off!” only to let slip “Why, when I graduated I got a 2M dollar loan from my uncle and I took that money and got myself going…”  Turns out most people don’t have uncles with 2M to lend or to give. **

I’m never going to be one to diss on anyone who’s willing to be responsible for their success and doing the work to earn a good living (provided, of course, that this doesn’t injure/harm/disempower/create hardship/screw over the environment/etc).  But for those to be acknowledged the whole context needs to be acknowledged.  And if that whole context shows that the work maybe wasn’t so hard or so gifted or even so lucky then let’s apportion the acknowledgement and avoid incorrect lauding and putting on a pedestal while also, especially, avoid crapping on others for not being so fortunate.


* I say backhanded because they often have this tinge of “you must be a doofus for not being able to have done/accomplished what I did” to them.

** This one’s a bit different, but there was a senator recently decrying the push for a $15 minimum wage, stating that when they started out they only made $6 an hour and they were fine.  Of course, adjusting for inflation, they were making well OVER $15 an hour.

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