Successful Ignorance

“The world will always need ditch diggers.” This saying, or whatever version you might be familiar with, has been around for as long as we have had modern industry. As people have moved from primarily farm based activity to jobs in production, we have been constantly striving to move beyond the need for menial labor and into work that satisfies our souls. Few people are content with the idea that certain people have to do the dirty jobs that most of us avoid, and virtually no one wants to actually do them. Yet, until we enter into that utopian post-scarcity society where all our hated tasks are automated and work is no longer required, the saying still stands.

We human beings tend to be very good at learning new things, especially if it is taught to us by someone who has gone through it before. It is for this reason that we tend to look at successful people as masters of information who can provide us with insights that can move society forward. Unfortunately, many times this is the case, which reinforces the idea that we should listen to some people simply because they found success in whatever endeavor they happened to excel in. We forget that expertise in one area doesn’t mean even a competent knowledge in another, so we take their word for it, plunging ahead with ideas that have rarely been truly analyzed, simply imitated because it seemed good.

It is interesting how it is always the successful people in the world who talk about changing society from what it is today into something that is more beneficial to everyone. Their hearts are in the right place, but this attitude shows a basic misunderstanding of human nature, more specifically the capability of people to rise up or be hauled out of where the are to a new level of existence. In their minds, if they could find a way to break away from the machine and live the fulfilling lives they have now, why can’t everyone do it? It seems so simple to them that we just need to shift the way we do things so that people have more opportunities to follow their dreams. The brutal truth is that most people simply aren’t capable of doing the kinds of things that these very successful people do.

First and foremost, it typically requires a certain amount of intellect to be able to manipulate your situation in a way that becomes advantageous for you. If you are incapable of processing what is going on around you and figure out ways to gain from them, it doesn’t matter how much heart you have, you’re going to fail. Stupidity is always punished, and if we’re honest the average person isn’t really all that intelligent compared to the kinds of difficult tasks required to rise up out of the muck of mediocrity. Most of us simply aren’t well equipped.

Assuming you can get past that first hurdle of recognizing opportunities and having a vague idea of what to do with them, you must then possess the courage to take the risk of acting upon them. Success absolutely never comes without some kind of risk associated with it. Never. It might seem like the safest thing in the world, but even if all you’re investing is your time and effort, that is time and effort that you never get back if you fail. It is time and effort you could have been putting into something else that may have succeeded. It requires a great deal of courage to see an opportunity and be willing to jump in feet first to try and make it happen.

While there are a multitude of variables that go into becoming successful in society, perhaps the absolute most important one is completely outside of our own control: luck. No matter how smart or courageous or hardworking you might be, it all comes to naught if what you’re doing isn’t happening in the right place at the right time. Successful people tend to believe that they got where they are through their own hard work and determination, and to some extent that is true. However, lurking beneath all that veneer is the fact that they just happened to be right where they needed to be to take advantage of the opportunity that presented itself. Luck is an extremely important factor, and we all can’t be as lucky as that.

This is what really irks me when I hear a successful person trying to say that we need to tear everything down and readjust everything so that all people get to live the kinds of lives they want. We live in a world of limited resources, which includes things like natural ability and intelligence and work ethic and luck. Some people have more while others have less, and the world has shown us that resources tend to be allocated accordingly. Those people with all the right variables, not the least of which is that pesky luck, will always rise to the top while the rest of us wallow in whatever causes us to remain at the bottom of the food chain.

Does this mean I think we shouldn’t listen to successful people? Obviously not. There are many things that you can learn from a successful person that you can implement into your own life to increase your odds of becoming successful yourself. What I’m saying here is that we should never listen to the philosophy of a successful person when it comes to how they think other people should be treated or how they believe things should be changed so that more people can find success. The reality is that they have no clue beyond the field in which they found success. It is important that people stay in their lane, even those who have become prominent members of society. They simply don’t know much beyond their own expertise, however impressive that might be.

For those of us who have yet to find the success we crave, or likely never will, we must keep in mind that success is a finite thing, just like everything else. There isn’t enough to go around, and some people are going to get more of it than the rest of us. It simply is what it is. Armed with this knowledge, you have two choices. You can either buckle down and go after whatever it is you want with all your heart and hope luck is on your side, or you can decide to direct your efforts toward becoming content with what you have and figuring out a way to be happy in whatever life ends up having for you.

Regardless, it is important to remember that no matter how much success another person might find, they are no more an expert on what is best for you than you are. Only you can decide what your life is worth and what is important to you. It is important to learn from others, but take care in how you incorporate that knowledge into your life, ensuring it remains in its proper place and perspective. And if you one day find the success you crave, try to remember that you’re just lucky, not better.

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