Don’t Get Fooled Again

This is not a negative or a curmudgeonly post. I’m just trying to put things in perspective.

There’s a problem with much of the reporting that goes on in the U.S., and possibly the rest of the world. There’s no doubt a name for this kind of logical fallacy, but I don’t know it.

It’s the logical fallacy wherein you look at winners, and study what they have done to become winners, and then assume that doing those things will make you a winner, too. It won’t.

I first noticed this wrong-headed approach when watching sports on TV. The announcer goes into the winner’s locker room and asks them not only what it feels like, but what brought them to their winning status. It doesn’t matter what they say. You’re listening to the winner, so of course whatever he says can be considered a contributor to the winning effort.

Sometimes the winner will report that he practiced harder than everybody else. But what if he said he didn’t change his underwear for the whole season? Just ’cause he says it doesn’t make it true.

Then you get to other forms of success advice. Here’s one: “As I continue to study the attributes and characteristics of successful people I have found one common element over and over again.  That common element is the foundational proof of their entire success journey.  That element is their ability to be relentless in their success journey.  Successful women no matter what challenges they face are persistent about their purpose.”

The obvious takeaway is that relentless pursuit of success will bring you there. And sure, if you quit, you won’t reach your goal. But there are plenty of people who are relentless in their pursuit of success who nevertheless don’t win.

You see a lot of this in the entertainment business: people accepting Oscars and leaning into the microphone to say “Follow your dream. If you want it enough, you can have it.” Actually, that’s not true. There have been only 82 men and 82 women who have won Best Actor awards from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. I think you’ll agree with me that there have been a lot more than that who dreamed of it and wanted it.

In addition to dreaming and working relentlessly, and not changing your underwear, other pieces of advice include staying ready for opportunities that arise, visualize your success, set goals, and so forth, including such perennial stalwarts as:

Eat healthily
Exert  your leadership
Take action
Be bold
Be brave
Care about others
Be creative
Keep learning
Pay attention to detail
Pay attention to the big picture
Be determined
Be disciplined
Be Honest
Innovate
Be open-minded
Speak your mind
Take risks
and so on.

As I said, this is not a negative or a curmudgeonly post. I’m just trying to put things in perspective. And the perspective is this: Most of the time, it takes all these things to be a winner. But don’t be fooled into thinking that winning is ever guaranteed. There’s only one winner at a time, in most situations, and you can do everything right and still not win.

What’s the takeaway from all this? I’m not sure. It might be that playing to win is bound to bring disappointment, so it is likely to be more satisfying to play for enjoyment, and take winning as icing on your cake. Or it might be that an additional piece of advice is don’t get hurt by losing. Don’t let it sap your strength. Take other’s victories as your own encouragement, rather than as defeat, and — together with the sheer pleasure of taking part — you may have the “winning” formula that has nothing whatever to do with whether or not you ever win.

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