The Meritocracy Myth: Why “Success” Is More Complicated Than You Think
The following is an excerpt, Chapter 5, of my new book — Real Help: An Honest Guide to Self-Improvement
“If one puts an infinite number of monkeys in front of (strongly built) typewriters and lets them clap away, there is a certainty that one of them [will] come out with an exact version of the ‘Iliad.’” — Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Usually, around this point in the book, the author will tell you about their heroic journey to success. They’ll talk about how they always believed in themselves, never quit, and made it to the top through pure hard work without a shred of luck. “If I can do it, you can do it!”
Too bad that’s not true.
At least, it’s not all the way true. Of course, when you’re in the advice-giving business, you have to make suggestions. The people that do have odds of helping you become successful. But that’s the best you can give anyone. You can’t guarantee anything.
Yet, there are people who do. This ethos makes people feel jaded about self-help.
In your mind you think “How the hell can you guarantee my success? You don’t even know me. On top of that, you probably got lucky!”
Over time, I’ve learned to honor the role luck played in my life. Yes, I worked hard, damn hard, but I’ve had a ton of lucky breaks. A friend asked me to write for his website, thus giving me a window of opportunity to jump through. I didn’t start “on my own.”
I luckily found a writing mentor early on in my career. I started writing in one of the greatest and most opportunistic periods for indie writers in the history of writing. Many things lined up. So let me quell your feeling that some people just get lucky in life. They do. I did. Your best chance at success is to figure out how to engineer luck.
The first step involves taking your eye off the magical fairy-tale level of success because it’s essentially improbable for most people. Some levels of success and reward just doesn’t seem fair. Sure, Jeff Bezos is a smart guy, but does he really deserve to have a net worth of…