Are We Afraid of Success? (Essay #14)


I read a good little piece about fear of success. It is interesting how a change in economy changes the overall attitude toward many things. Success is not as popular a subject any more because the general environment has changed to be biased against it. Actions are more likely to result in the opposite in today’s economy than in a good economy. That makes many people defensive and cautious. I think cautious has always been a good rule. I was raised on the cautious side and so is anyone who has had something of value that may be lost. Cautious is the attitude to maintain while success is the attitude to acquire something. Today’s environment does not promise success and caution may be a better attitude toward business and life. Are people afraid of success in general? I assume so. The human mind develops patterns based on experience and changing these patterns can be difficult later in life. That is a big difference between the young and the old. Humans learn to stay within the realm of certainty as they have learned by life experiences and the quality of life is dictated by the extent and the quality of experiences within this realm. Any attempt to go beyond the boundaries and try new things is likely to result in a bad experience. Humans learn to avoid this by staying within the boundary. That has proven to work well and gives the person control over life and its quality. Some of us are socialized by family, friends, schools and society to learn everything needed to live within a closed realm of our experiences. The sum of our experiences can make for a life that is very successful or otherwise. Higher education and income usually reflect in the next generation as automatic achievement of a good quality of life by providing the experience base the second generation needs.

That is why rich kids seem to automatically do well in life because the parents were rich. Do they fear success? If they learn what is needed to live within their own limits at the standards of the parents, they are fairly successful already and need not venture outside their realm of experience to find alternatives that are better thus achieving success. The society selects individuals and grooms them for levels of experience that make specific people. Parents, the choice of friends and the avoidance of other peers, the education and other activities determine what sort of experiences a person will have. This socialization and acculturation is far more important than the education one may receive. This person knows and understands things and life in ways that make the person a member of a specific group of people. Power has a great deal to do with who is allotted the right to such experiences. Those in power regulate who goes to what school and learns what else. Success is in theory available for everyone in the American society but is really attainable only by a few people as exception to the rule of grooming to become successful. What is interesting in the American society is the emphasis on maintaining a large class of people who are not successful.

Much of the public school system is designed for this end and so is public higher education system. Those are the only chances a person can have, if one does not come from the right family and upbringing background, to actually go against the norms and learn to live successful by simply following the guidelines of an educational system. The more important part of an education program is the socialization of the person and a screwed up public school system at secondary and higher education ensures the number of people who can actually attain a successful position in the society is strictly controlled. In other words, people have to go against the rules of the educational system to attain the right kind of learning and how are they to do that? Historically, a few people have succeeded but the system by itself will not allow it and will control those who are successful. The successful have some level of power in the society and the power principle requires the strict control of all those things and people who have access to power. Does American society condone failure? Of course. That is how it has survived for centuries. The attainment of success is not an incredible thing and can be done on large scales but the byproduct of it is the personal power that is not at the disposal of those already in power. Success on a large scale will mean a change in the power structure.

Are we afraid of success? People are afraid to go outside their comfort boundaries. These boundaries are set in place little by little as the person grows up and becomes a mature adult and citizen. The person finds some level of success within these experience boundaries or a screwed-up life. What determines this quality of life is a complex story but in the American society it has historically been the need to maintain power. Success means power in America and has to be regulated. That is why America has a social stratification pyramid. 5% of 400 million live at the top and the bottom levels of lower-lower class and upper-lower class holds literally more than half of the population. The power principle demand that. Are we afraid of success? Yes. We are raised to be afraid of anything outside of our experience boundaries. Something very bad can happen if we venture out there. Yes. A more successful life is out there by having the right experiences but instead of guidance we are more likely to run into fake guides and signs misdirecting us. A few hundred years from today, people will be learning about the history and how during the 20th and 21st century the United States had all the resources to provide outstanding quality of life to all of its citizens and ensured with all its means only a handful (5%) attain success in order to remain the evil that it is. Evil is great in many ways.

*This post belongs to this week’s edition of Wine by Cush Magazine blog and published early in World of Cush also.

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