Meritocracy and the “Successful Mindset” Scam

Productivity Arata! In the series Hello! Seiiti Arata we presented a video about failure and success. If you have not yet visited, go to this link here.

You are learning here with us at Arata Academy that success and failure depend on our mentality and our choices.

1. Criticism of the success mentality

A strong criticism of this way of seeing success and failure goes like this: ah, this successful mentality talk is a scam! It’s rubbish! It is very naive to think that the individual has the ability to determine his own future, to determine his own success, as if he only needs to believe in himself for everything to work out.

In this way, people contradict those who assert that “the rich and successful are where they are because they used their successful mindset to overcome obstacles. They believed in their potential and that they have merit; the poor are poor because they want to be. People who have failed deserve to be poor because they did not try hard enough. They did not believe strongly enough in their potential.”

This criticism also says that we have to take into account the social inequalities and difficulties that different people have at the starting point, and that there are many factors involved in success.

OK. So what can we say about this criticism?

2. It is true that there are many factors that influence success.

It is not enough to simply have the right mindset. It is also necessary to see all the other factors: whether the person was fortunate enough to perform the action at the best moment, if they had the right body type, if their network helped, if they were born in the city where there is more opportunity, if the economy was favourable, etc.  There are many factors that are not within our control! The success mindset focuses only on factors that can be controlled.

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This is not some cheap self-help approach, from the enchanted world of unicorns, magical elves and rainbows that make wishes come true. Far from that. The successful mindset is a practical posture: “It is up to me to look at what I can do… and do what I can to improve my chances of getting where I want to go. I must also have the firmness to accept what I cannot change.”

3. It is true that there is inequality.

Different people will start the game with different resources. Because of this, it may be easier for some and harder for others. However, neither success nor failure is guaranteed. It may be easier or harder, but never impossible.

The irony here is that the defenders of the weak and oppressed often end up as oppressors when they label people, underestimating the capacity of each person. We have to be careful—a rescuer discourse perpetuates the fragility of the weak and even dehumanizes the group with more than sufficient means.

This imposition of weakness and disability on others has a name: it is called a “Stereotype Threat”, and it happens when individuals end up conforming to the stereotype of their social group.

For example, African-American students ended up performing worse when they were encouraged to think of the stereotype that blacks are less intelligent than whites. I invite you to understand more about the Golem Effect that we discussed in episode 46 of the series Hello! Seiiti Arata.

4. It is wrong to say that the rich have success and the poor are unsuccessful.

You may see people equating success with being rich and failure with being poor. This is labelling. We should avoid labelling someone as a success or a failure without knowing his particular history, without asking her how she feels about her outcome. Our opinion, based on appearances, is superficial, based on the exterior and not what is inside.

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A person who lost his job may consider himself a successful person who maintained his integrity and refused to participate in an activity with which he did not agree. A person who has the highest-paid position in the company can consider himself a failure if he does not have time to see his own children grow up.

Because of this, we have to deal with issues of success or failure, always looking at ourselves in the mirror. It is only I who can say whether I succeed or fail according to the expectations I have created, according to the larger plan I have devised, according to the next steps I intend to take. And the success mindset is exactly why I will not be shaken by an obstacle or a frustration. I know that I can improve my plan, improve my choices, improve the quality of execution, improve my communication.

Do not let the Stereotype Threat limit what you can achieve.

This was a difficult video to prepare, because the chance of misinterpretation is great. This is a subject in which ideology can impair the quality of our communication if our preconceived opinions do not allow us to listen and reflect.

So let’s recap to be clear:

Success or failure does not depend solely on believing and making an effort. There is a lot of inequality, and there are also several other factors. But if I do not believe and do not take action, my chances of success are much smaller.

Also, there are plenty factors that I do not control. I will accept these factors and take them into account in my planning. And I will focus on what I need to influence. I will also invest in myself to expand my sphere of influence more and more, with more skills, more knowledge, more resources, more contacts, more confidence and more professional qualities.

Moreover, it is only the individual himself who will decide whether he has succeeded or failed. And this is something that can be perfected with better planning and training. If you want to improve the strategy you use to make choices within what is under your control, then visit this link now, and we will continue our conversation.