(If you really want to learn how to be successful, check out this absolute classic by George Leonard: Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment: https://amzn.to/2BHbgep)
Everybody imagines an ideal image of themselves. A target people aim for their entire lives. Everybody wants to be "Successful".
But how does somebody become successful? And what the hell is "success" anyway?
Well the media has answers to those questions. Answers that are inaccurate and toxic. Answers that, if left unchecked and unnoticed by the individual, will destroy their chances of achieving the success they desire.
THE TALENT SCOUT
You sit under the tree, acoustic guitar in hand. You've been through a rough breakup and you need to let the emotions out.
Every note amplifies the emotions you're feeling inside. Music if your only friend.
Just nearby, unnoticed by you, is the manager of a high profile record label relaxing on the grass. By chance, he overhears your music and watches you with wonder.
This is it, he thinks, this is exactly the kind of talent I've been looking for.
He approaches you unexpectedly and introduces himself. He invites you to record a demo in his studio.
It becomes a hit. 4 weeks later your song is being played all over the radio worldwide.
You become a household name and spend the rest of your life playing to your adoring fans and signing your name on body parts.
STILL WAITING FOR THAT TALENT SCOUT? YEAH. SO IS EVERYBODY ELSE.
This is the premise of countless movies. Movies you may have watched as a child in the early stages of brain development. The idea is that if you're truly talented, somebody will discover you someday. It's destiny, after all.
In the film Good Will Hunting (1997) the university janitor (Matt Damon) is spotted solving complex mathematics equations in the school at night. His therapist (Robin Williams) realises his potential and sets him up on the path to greatness.
This plot trope is very typical in western movies
But it's not just movies. Justin Bieber was discovered online. Kim Kardashian was "Discovered" in a sextape.
Talent contest shows like XFactor and America's Got Talent base their whole show around this concept. Millions of people line up outside for days for their chance to be "discovered". And these are some of the most viewed shows in existance.
Talent scouts do exist, but in the real world, they're rarely the path to success.
THE TRUTH IS, NOBODY IS GOING TO "DISCOVER" YOU.
If you want a large audience for your talents, you need to actively pursue that audience and spend a large amount of your time and effort marketing yourself.
But that doesn't make a very romantic plot for a movie script.
This is how a "Quick fix" product appears on the market:
Take anything in life that requires a long-term process of hard work and consistent effort. Losing weight, building a business, learning a skill, making money or living a healthy lifestyle.
The only way to achieve any of these things is with consistent effort over a long period of time.
With any long-term process like this there is always a demand from the public for this goal to be solved quickly.
Where there is a need in the market, businesses will supply the solution. Even when the solution is impossible
And so businesses realise that if they can take a long term problem and offer a quick solution to customers there is serious money to be made.
Businesses create the diet pill.
To fulfil the need in the market for a quick solution to weight loss.
The business doesn't care whether the pill actually helps the person lose weight. All they want is to sell diet pills and make profit. They will produce a pill that technically makes a person lose weight by suppressing appetite or shedding water weight but offers no real long term solution to weight loss.
But why would they care about the long-term? The customer has already bought the pill.
This has a devastating effect when it comes to the pharmaceutical industry. The public are bombarded with adverts telling them that popping a pill can solve their health problems, when being healthy involves a lifestyle change and long term consistent effort.
So perhaps you've never fallen for the marketing schemes of businesses trying sell you quick fix pills. Good for you.
Unfortunately, the media misleads you about success in far deeper ways that that.
Whether you buy the pills or not, simply EXPOSURE to advertising is having an effect on you.
A LIFE OF ENDLESS CLIMAX
Here is a typical structure of a beer commercial:
00:00: Man is working at his computer at his office 9-5 job
00:01: Work ends. He leaves the office
00:02: Cut to man in the bar with his buddys. All of them laughing hysterically
00:03: Hot blonde chick nudges him flirtatiously and hands him a Budweiser
00:05: Blonde chick rubs guys arm while all his buddys continue to laugh at his joke.
What happened to all of the time between these events?
The 7 hours at work. The car journey from his office to the bar? How did all these guys become such good friends? How did the blonde chick become interested in him? Who's paying the tab? Who's driving them home?
All of these "Inconveniences" are left behind.
There is one common trait that links at least 50% of advertisements and it's this:
THEY ARE ALL BASED ON A CLIMACTIC MOMENT.
The race is won and done.
Whether it's young people jumping up and down in ecstasy drinking cans of cola at the beach or a man in a suit driving around a winding cliff face in his new Audi.
In a TV commercial break you will watch climactic moments over and over again in quick succession.
This isn't how life works. And this isn't how success works.
What happened to the process? Who carried all of the cans of cola to the beach? Who organised the party? And why the fuck are they so intensely happy?
Why is the man in the car so satisfied with himself? How long did it take him to drive to such a scenic winding road along a cliff face? How long did he need to save before he could buy that Audi?
THE MAIN PROBLEM WITH ALL THIS IS THE MESSAGE IT SENDS TO THE AUDIENCE ABOUT THE RHYTHM OF LIFE.
It's climactic moment after climactic moment after climactic moment. There is no in between time. There is no work. There is no process. Only shot after shot of pure happiness.
Could there be any link between this phenomenon and the gambling addiction sweeping across the western world, the overuse of pharmaceutical drugs, the popularity of the lottery, the high sales revenue of diet pills and the increase in drug-use?
People have been misled to believe that happiness and success can be achieved quickly and easily.
Two generations have grown up in a society exposed to an onslaught of advertisements sending messages of quick-easy success. Is it any surprise that most of us tend to feel as though are lives should consist of one emotional climax after enough? Or that most of us feel as though we should have everything perfectly in place already?
SOCIAL MEDIA AND SUCCESS
If you want to feel like a disgusting failure, then scroll your Facebook newsfeed for an hour.
It seems like everybody has it figured out. Everybody but you.
John and Sarah are having an amazing hike around the coast. The girls went on incredible night out clubbing. Chris is having the time of his life in Asia. Gary is having fun with his cute dog at home.
You see everything they want you to see and remove everything they don't want publicised.
But the truth is that John and Sarah were arguing the throughout the whole hike. One of the girls went home crying in a taxi by herself. Chris is having an existential crisis in Thailand and running out of money. Gary is depressed at home and has nothing better to do than take selfies with his dog.
This is what people are REALLY like. Everybody seems as though they have it figured out and yet hardly anyone does.
A lot of people are posting happy snapshots on social media. But not many people are ACTUALLY DOING ANYTHING towards becoming successful.
Millennial in particular are very good at advertising themselves in the social media marketplace but terrible at building a good product (Themselves) to back it up
WHAT IS "SUCCESS"?
The media will tell you what success is.
If you're a man success is money, a nice car, a big house and a sexy wife.
If you're woman it's having the perfect body, having perfect children and a perfect husband.
And this is generally the vague idea that most people are chasing.
But is this YOUR idea of success, or was it spoon fed to you?
Does this idea actually align with your values? Or are you using somebody else's value system?
Perhaps "success" to you is simply raising 2 children to adulthood. Or taking your dog for a walk. Or living off the grid in living in a motor home and growing your own food. Or spending your days painting works of art in your bedroom.
Now the idea of success has evolved with the introduction of social media. The idea of the big house and nice car was far more prevalent in the 90's when television was the dominant medium. Social media has certainly made the mainstream idea of success slightly more varied.
Generally speaking, in the social media era success is a well constructed Instagram page. Success is centred around having a active vibrant social life. If you haven't posted any photos in the last few months, you're a failure.
This model of success leaves no room for the introverted artist writing poetry alone in her room, or the scientist studying the nuances in chemistry in the lab. The social media accounts of these potentially very talented people would be probably left relatively blank, because they're busy working on their craft.
In the current mainstream success model, a pretty girl taking selfies in the club is more successful than a talented scientist making exceptional progress in an area of chemistry.
The dominant media of the time will decide what success is. And left unchecked, many people will end up chasing a success model that doesn't fit them. Wasted potential.
The media will send you confusing and misleading information about success. And its insidious, because it will often do this in a very subtle and subconscious way
But it's not all bad news. In the internet era, we have access to genuinely successful people who will speak honestly about what it takes to be successful. You listen to their audiobooks, their Vlogs on Youtube or read their blog posts. Anybody that's speaking honestly will usually talk about a journey of long-term, consistent day-to-day effort full of high and low moments.
The media that you choose to consume can make or break you chances in achieving the success you desire.
Books I read to research for this article:
Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfilment: https://amzn.to/2BHbgep