Six steps to the wrong kind of success

February 5, 2014

Commenters complained head-shakingly yesterday that I was out of sorts about the climate. In the spirit of consistency, today I will (happily) deliver another dose of grumpy.

Sandwiched as we are now between the Super Bowl and the Winter Olympics, it seems like a god time to say winning is overrated. Rather it is a bad distortion of proper living. I recently ran across Arnold Schwarzenegger’s six rules for success. The list, well, it did not succeed.

Let me digest these six for you. 1,Trust yourself. 2, Break some rules. 3, Don’t be afraid to fail. 4, Don’t listen to naysayers. 5, Work your butt off. and 6, Give something back. A fine list, things I try to do myself but I still think it’s a big crock anyway. Where to start? The list itself. The idea of success as the goal has everything upside down. First it puts life in terms of success and failure. If you don’t end up a champion, then what are you? And it also implies that if you follow these steps rigorously enough, you CAN win, you WILL win. Suppose, and it’s not all that much of a supposition, every Olympic athlete followed these rules with the exact same level of commitment and effort. Would they all win a gold medal? Mathematically impossible. One would win, and he or she would give you the hard work yields victory speech. Luck rarely gets acknowledged. Including the luck of being born with lots of natural ability.

Nobody ‘wins’ at life. Life is a process of finding interesting and hopefully constructive things to do. Also, this success talk has just been a feeder ideology for the winner-take-all society we mistakenly constructed for ourselves and are now reaping the lack-of-rewards-for-the-losers of. Yes, losers. Sorry, you just weren’t willing to do those last two stomach crunches, so you lost. Try harder next life.

Lastly, let’s take a closer look at that step #2. ‘Break some rules.’ Which rule, exactly, do you suppose Mr. Pumping Iron broke to bulk up to those record-setting dimensions? Some might have a different word for that. The ‘cheating’ word. And how has this pioneering rule-breaking strategy played out for athletics as an honorable endeavor? I guess that would be rule 6. Mr. A. gave steroid abuse back to the rest of us. And our whole culture is on them.

Tom Toles is the editorial cartoonist for The Post and writes the Tom Toles blog.
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