Success Depends On How You Define It

Success Depends On How You Define It

What passes for success in the world today is preying on people’s fears for personal gain. Creating fear in the minds of customers, and then promising them a way out, is the universally approved strategy for profits and manipulation of all kinds. Every gun-wielding criminal knows all too well that fear disarms people and causes them to become passive and compliant. Business knows this also.

So what separates the criminal version from the business version? Apparently, just the choice of hardware. Those around for the Enron scandal saw first-hand how one of the country’s most “successful” businesses manipulated the entire energy market by convincing people and other companies (made up of people) to pay massive amounts of money for what was, essentially, smoke and mirrors.

They claimed in their PR releases and marketing messages that they had “inside  information” that the country was about to run out of energy because of all the new computers that were being plugged in around that time, and we were all about to be plunged into cold darkness without their help. They even orchestrated some actual blackouts as “proof” of this assertion. This practice continued even as the business model was collapsing in scandal and financial ruin. In the process it took thousands of individual retirement accounts held by far more honest people down with it. 

All the while Enron was being congratulated by government officials and other captains of industry for their leadership and, yes, success. The primary theme of this scam — with only minor variations — exists as normal business practice to this day. When the next crop of business “success stories” are revealed as fear-mongering scams all involved will shake their heads in mock disbelief and claim they had no idea this was happening under their very noses.

This is important because being rich has always been available to anyone willing to sell the lives of others down the river for their own financial gain. And, in this country at least, they will be called “successful” for it. There are, of course, other ways to make money, but all of them require someone to be fully in touch with their humanity — as in art, music, and other acts of creation — which is a frightening prospect to our business sense that values efficiency and bottom-line correctness.

What are claimed to be effective and reproducible money-making strategies are inevitably just ways to capitalize on the fears of others, and touting some product or service as protection from those fears. This manipulation requires marketing language that turns life into a competition pitting every individual or group against other individuals or groups, and then claiming to offer what you or your group needs to dominate the “enemy.”

This time-honored strategy involves the presenting of secret information that indicates the world and all the people in it are out to destroy you and the vision for your life. Then, convincing these now-fearful people that they are not smart enough or strong enough to defeat their faceless foes. So, the only way out becomes paying for protection from a horrible fate. This is the subtext of all marketing language, and autocrats everywhere. For those of us who believe it, this is a terrible way to live; it’s a life of anxiety and cynicism. But that’s your problem, not theirs.

Manipulation has now wormed its way into the realm of personal development — specifically, success-help advice — as the enlightened way to scam others for profit. Example: there’s a woman on YouTube who has a tremendous following for her teachings on “manifestation”. Manifestation is the oh-so enlightened version of success for those who really just want to be rich, but also want to claim they have risen above the manipulation of others necessary to get there. Who needs it when you can just manifest?

This particular YouTuber sells “masterclasses” in manifestation principles, and one of her latest videos claims that she, herself, is “manifesting” tremendous sales of these courses that has resulted in a huge financial windfall for her. This is presented as evidence of successful manifesting. Do you see any irony in that?

The legitimate form of “sales” is an unspoken contract between buyer and seller in which they both agree that the value of something is equal or greater than the price being charged, and that the purchase is discretionary. Likewise, legitimate success in any business depends on that same agreement. 

On that basis, huge sales numbers mean only that what you are selling holds significant value for greater numbers of people. Any significant and profitable sales volume that is the result of this agreement, and occurs in the absence of any manipulation, would be the result of that value, not anything called manifestation.

But, by claiming that she is “manifesting” her huge sales numbers she was inadvertently admitting that she was manipulating her clients into buying something whether or not it had any value to them. That’s a remarkable admission, but I’m sure the irony of it has not occurred to her. And, more importantly, it has not occurred to her clients. Apparently we have all become accepting of being manipulated when the result of it is called success. 

She apparently sees no conflict between enlightened manifestation and the manipulation of people for personal gain. But I do; and I hope that you do also. To miss this fact is to be a target for this manipulation. And, so it goes in modern-day America where you get to scam your way to success. And we wonder why there’s so much fraud and deception in business today.

These are but a few examples of what has become the de facto standard for business in this capitalist economy, where preying on people’s fears has reached the mainstream of commerce and, more disturbingly, the mainstream of success. The only way back from this is for each of us to be more clear on what we consider to be legitimate success. Profiting from the manipulation of others fails my test. I hope it fails yours as well.

Published by Dave Young