Successful Illusion

Successful Illusion

Millennial men are earning less than any generation before them – to the tune of £12,500 (around $15,600) a year. Over £1,000 a month less than men before them, by the time they’re 30.

Meanwhile, we keep hearing that “the economy is rallying – house prices are up!”

Whoever decided to use house prices as a measure of a successful economy was either a consummate shyster, or completely naive, to the extent that they should be nowhere near any kind of role which involves making important decisions and announcements.

For a start, it isn’t “house prices” that are being used – although this is what we’re told – but rather the mortgage market.

In short, we measure the “health” of an economy by the inherently unhealthy habit of debt.

This illusion of success is portrayed as: “More people are being approved for loans, therefore people are earning more, which proves the economy is flourishing.”

No.

The reason more people are approved for loans is because people have more loans – try getting even a small, short-term loan, or a catalogue, when you have never previously borrowed money. It’s nearly impossible. Yet, once you have a history of borrowing money, people will fall over themselves to lend you more. It’s the same mentality that has friends more willing to lend money to their well-off companions who’re “in a spot of bother” , for something those friends could easily do without, than to their unemployed friends who need that money for essentials.  If you have money, people will give you more. If you have debt, people will give you more.

If you have nothing – that’s your life, now and forever, unless you get exceptionally lucky.

When you run an economy – or a business, or your personal life – on someone else’s money, any success you have is only ever an illusion. However impressive, it can never be more than a glittering image, because it has been built on inherently unstable foundations.

Success that is built on what you have, and not a penny more, is less impressive, less spectacular, less far reaching. It rarely makes the headlines of even your local paper, let alone attracting national or international attention, yet it is more enduring.

Your duty, first and foremost, whether you’re leading your family or running a company, is to be enduring.

Debt is not enduring, and neither are the illusions it helps create.  Borrowed money means borrowed time. When you use only what money you have, however, you have all the time in the world to create something that will last. Something enduring.

Creative negativity is enduring. The things that go wrong for people tend to be repeating patterns, and tend to happen because of inherent flaws or inabilities in those individuals . Therefore, when you use your failures as the foundation of future success, you’re more likely to create an enduring, if not particularly spectacular, result, because, rather than trying to construct something entirely from scratch, you’re simply adding on to a strong, set pattern that’s already there, and changing its composition very slightly.

The illusion we have come to call success starts with the premise that “of course I’ll need to borrow money.”

Creative negativity starts with the thought of “If I use what I have, I will only ever lose that which, over time, I can regain.” Starting with nothing forces you to be both creative and  negative – you can’t afford dreams and ideals. You just have to get something, anything, done, with whatever you have to hand. You work around problems that other people use money to solve, and therefore gain more skills – and skills are what people may, one day, pay you for.

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Negative Charge

The day before Good Friday, Thursday, March 24th 2016, I closed the door on the business my wife and I had been running for the last time.

We’d failed. We hadn’t been able to make it work.

Since then,  I’ve “not been doing anything” – or, as I see it, I’ve been doing everything – everything that  needs to be done to restore my equilibrium, my sense of self, so that, whatever I choose to do next at the very least won’t fail because I’m still in the same mindset I was when I left a business I loved, and had done everything in my power to avoid losing.

I have a set of cards by Eckhart Tolle, with “inspirational quotes” on each. The card I pulled just now, at random, reads

“Whenever you notice that some form of negativity has arisen within you, look on it not as a failure, but as a helpful signal that is telling you ‘wake up. Get out of your mind. Be present.’ ”

It often takes a “failure” of some kind to wake us up to what we were doing wrong – it takes the negative charge of the emotional exhaustion that comes in the wake of a loss, any kind of loss, to reveal the core emotions, energy, and strength that will lead us, eventually, to success. That’s why it’s so important to take that time – however long you need – after a loss, of whatever scale, to just be, to let the wheels of your mind spin, recover your self – the strengths, energy, and emotions that will bring you success, and to identify the sphere in which you will succeed.

Purple Success

…”in previous times, to call someone “successful” was as nonsensical as calling them purple.” (Jacques Ellul, quoting Eric Fromm in “New Philosopher, Feb-Apr 2016)

Success. Everyone wants it, we’ll pay to learn how to (potentially) get it, we’re mocked if we don’t have it – but it’s an illusion, an invention. It’s not a part of some undeniable “natural order”, it’s not “inherent to the human condition.” It doesn’t really exist at all – but we allow the pretence of it to make us feel bad, to make us feel less than human, to tell us that we’re not good enough. To tell us we “can’t be negative.”

The thing is, success is a sociologically-constructed state. Negativity is feelings. And, although they can’t be analysed, put under a microscope, cut up, poked and prodded, feelings are real. Sociologically-constructed states are not.

Stop worrying that you’re not some artificial state. Start enjoying the fact that you’re feelings, that you’re real.