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An observation March 1, 2012

Posted by mareserinitatis in societal commentary.
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Abstracting about human nature tonight, and I thought this rather interesting.

My observation is that people who are successful often attribute that success almost entirely to their own efforts without acknowledging the role that luck and the assistance of others have played in their success or others’ success or lack thereof.  I tend to find people who do acknowledge the effects of chance or a champion as being pleasantly humble.

Those who are not successful often attribute this primarily to luck (or lack thereof) as well as the effects that others have on them while downplaying their own role in such issues.

It seems to me that the perception of your own role has a lot to do with one’s longterm success (by their own definition, not mine), and I don’t know why so few people seem to take into account all of the aspects that determine their fate.

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1. Dave Vandenbout - March 2, 2012

Perhaps successful people succeed because they view their results as being directly related to their own abilities. So they work harder when faced with failure because they feel they can turn things around solely (or mostly) through their own effort, and failure to do so would be a failure of themselves. And the additional effort raises the probability that they will succeed which, in turn, reinforces their belief that they are the primary factor in their success.

This process works in the opposite direction with unsuccessful people: “If I’m at the mercy of outside forces, why bother trying when things go wrong?” So things get even worse, further reinforcing their belief.

Maybe having a realistic appraisal of ourselves isn’t really the best thing. Maybe inculcating an attitude in everyone that they are the primary drivers in their lives (even if it may not be true) will lead to more success for more people. At least they would feel more in-control of their lives, which is the #1 factor in workplace happiness, at least.

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mareserinitatis - March 2, 2012

I agree with your assertion that it is (somewhat) a self-fulfilling prophecy. However, my problem is that people who believe that fate and intervention of other people have nothing to do with their success often become self-righteous and start blaming other people for things which really are out of their control. It’s alright to say you’re the captain of your fate, but I don’t think it’s alright to assume that’s true for everyone, especially when you don’t know the particulars of their situation.

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2. Jacob - March 3, 2012

Perhaps a good compromise would be to take responsibility for climbing the next step, but not to take credit for how far one has gotten?

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mareserinitatis - March 5, 2012

I like that…and that’s the sort of thing I try to do. Being in the right place at the right time is important, but that’s necessarily all there is to it. 🙂

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3. nicoleandmaggie - March 3, 2012

I read a book about that when I was a teen… basically gender differences in how people view success and failure (and how being able to externalize failure and internalize success was good for men, a tendency to do the opposite hurt women). I decided to try to be more masculine in that respect. So I give myself more credit than I used to.

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mareserinitatis - March 5, 2012

I try to be with some success and some failure. But I think when we view everything as within our control, it creates a standard that many people can’t really reach, which can make them feel just as helpless.

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