I’m learning our heroes can have a very opposite effect on us than the one usually expected. And honestly, what could I have against heroes, determinism and success? How are they even in the same sentence?
Against heroes, determinism and success
Take this logical statement for instance. Starting at the premise that every single human being is flawed (we are never going to be performing at our potential at any given time; the potential is a vague and ultimately indeterminable place of idealism that we can never attain in it’s very definition, so we are constantly trying to elevate our heroes to a position that is, by definition, unattainable) and that we all have tendencies towards mental fallacies (we all have emotions that skew our perception; we are not able to objectively take in the world and function as a unbiased machine as seems to be the ideal for many, and the very reason they go into self-development in the first place [I know that that was the case for myself] .)
Taking this premise we can draw out that if all humans are flawed and all heroes are human we are logically left with the conclusion that all heroes are flawed. There is a reason that people say “Never meet your heroes” and that is because it brings to the forefront the flawed nature of humanity in our heroes. We see more than the persona they bring to our attention. Every single human has a persona (projection of identity) and ego (self-aware identity). That is the purpose of persona; it’s the thing that is projected, the thing that people want us to see. Every single hero of ours has a persona they want us to see.
Also a side note, but you are one of your own heroes. You have your projection – maybe you’re an anti-hero or you might think that you’re not that good (villain hero) but, ultimately you’re the main character of your story. You are the one that is the victim, or the hero, or the one that needs help, or the helper, or the villain.
Leaning back on that logical conclusion that all heroes are flawed, I want to bring to your attention why with our role models and heroes and people that we look up to we need to have an expectation that they will fail at some point in time. Whether it’s a mammoth failure where their entire life trajectory goes down the toilet, or possibly one slip-up that takes off the edge of either their reputation or their career, it’s to be expected. It is very possibly due to randomness, which is another topic that I will delve into more fully some day; randomness and the probability of things deliver many of the consequences we see and yet, with very little acknowledgment of their involvement.
To expect an illogical outcome from something just because it makes us feel good is something entirely illogical. Why do we expect our heroes to be perfect? It doesn’t make sense – we need to expect heroes to not be perfect; that is the logical take on it. Maybe.
Against heroes, determinism and success
Another thing about role models is that they shouldn’t be taken too seriously when revealed publicly. On the other hand, don’t say who you revere too lightly. Either way, you’ll be made to swallow your words. When a hero falls from a great height they bury themselves at our feet and can drag us down with them. A fall can bring down the most astute supporter, the most loyal follower. Be careful not to join them in their descent. Not everyone is going to leave a hungry and deep wake, but to some degree the follower will bear the brunt of their hero’s mistake.
I want to bring light to the amount of “heroes” and gurus, especially in online business and entrepreneurship. The authors of all these self-help books, the personas of all of these heroes, these authorities that I used to look up to – dead and buried. Once I thought “Hey, they’re going to get me out of my life. They are gonna get me out of this rat race; they’re gonna save me from myself and teach me how to manage my money into being a millionaire!” Yes! Sign me up! What are we waiting for????!
Self-development is a tricky and, occasionally, a dangerous game to play. It can be incredibly ineffective, which is ironic, since it is all about effectiveness. Most people have a work hard ethic – if you’re not successful it’s because you’re not working hard enough. HUSTLE culture!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The flip-side is the advice game. You’re not listening to the right people, you need better mentorship, better formulas, better strategies. As a whole, these lifestyle projections are not enough at solving the randomness of life.
I’m guilty of confirmation bias, engaging in determinism and the mistaking of luck as skill just as much as the next person. After all, I had the best teachers, the experts of delusion. I had Robert Kiyosaki. I had Napoleon Hill (God forbid I ever have to submit to his formula again).
These are the “leaders” that meet most new initiates in the areas of self development and entrepreneurship (which is the viral term now for bettering your financial life, or bettering your life especially through finances). These people are shallow and they completely disregard almost every science under the sun (plenty of others do it too; they aren’t alone), including (but not limited to) the study of randomness, the study of probability, biology, psychology, and physics. They disregard their luck and lucky advantages and they say that all they have is down to a formula, which you can have for only $1,997.
Often these people are unusually charismatic. They know how to talk, how to own a room, how to tell a story. There’s no logic, there’s no credibility or true reputation – it’s simply their persona projecting as heroes, people who can help us, lead us, encourage us. Yet we know, if we dig down into the heroes’ underlying character, we see the stripped version of themselves, the objective nature of their lives, achievements and behaviors. They hate this.
That’s why it’s never a smart move to look at your hero too closely (if you want to keep them as a hero). I’m not really addressing what to do with our discarded heroes, as that is another topic altogether, but for curiosity’s sake, let’s say I measure them against a humanistic standard of ethics and go from there.
Against heroes, determinism and success
Most people would stop at this point and say, “You know what? I like being led into falsehoods. I like the perception that I have, because, you know, as long as I’m happy, as long as I’m doing well, that’s what matters.” Yeah, well, that’s great but I’ll put it back to you that it’s not your mindset or your perception that brings your success – it’s luck. It’s randomness. There are so many other people that have done exactly the same as you and have not had the same outcome. No one escapes the randomness of nature, and it sounds like you’re unprepared.
Because it’s worked out for you, you then attribute that luck to your formula, slathered in confirmation bias (and a handful of other fallacies). The fact that you did xyz gives you the expectation that if others do xyz, they’ll achieve the same results – this is completely illogical and goes against randomness and probability and the evidence of the real world. The thing to do at this point is to take a step back to understand that you are being fooled by randomness and fate, and your sphere of control is incredibly smaller than you first imagined.
Now I had quite a good introduction to the school of the law of Attraction, and to all of the purported formulas, strategies and you can change your life and become a millionaire mindset guides. That was my first education into self-development (other than my conservative religious upbringing). I used it as best as I could. Then I met an opposing school of thought – stoicism.
Stoicism affirms and acknowledges that nature is random; nature can take and give at any given point regardless of what you have or have not done, and you have no control over it at all. Stoicism teaches that you need to accept randomness to find contentment. If you are constantly trying to control the outcomes and constantly trying to predict and formulate a plan that gets you from a to b and then when you get to b you say, “It’s because I’m great, it’s because of my plan…”, you’re misled. You are just lucky your plan went to plan.
Nassim Taleb so eloquently says, Let me make it clear here: Of course chance favors the prepared! Hard work, showing up on time, wearing a clean (preferably white) shirt, using deodorant, and some such conventional things contribute to success—they are certainly necessary but may be insufficient as they do not cause success [Fooled by Randomness (p. 17). Penguin Books Ltd]. It’s not entirely and only randomness. You need to go and buy a lottery ticket before you win the lottery, but the chances of winning the lottery are so low that you know it’s incalculably impossible. Such as it is with success.
This is a fun essay to write, but am I even doing it correctly? I’m deviating from self-judgement today, and putting these thoughts to paper. That everything is so deterministic, everything is so absolute and confirmed in our minds; that everyone tries to formulate their lives – of these things I am the worst offender. Always having a plan, a strategy, a routine, with the expectation to go from a to b to c, never once considering the nature of life and its fickle ways.
If I don’t achieve c then I feel like I’ve failed. Just as much of a problem is when I do achieve c. I attribute the achievement to something realistically unrelated, yet which feeds into my confirmation loop, often backed up by my heroes’ stories, and most certainly the stories I tell myself. Needless to say, my heroes are definitely not the same people as they were several years ago (I am against heroes now, except for myself, who I spar with regularly).
In fact, I have come a very long way, distancing myself from the likes of Robert Kiyosaki, a MLM-hawking liar and fraud, people like the worshipped Napoleon Hill, a criminally-charged fraudster and conman, people like Tony Robbins, who is not necessarily a fraudster, but is nothing but a hero with no substance, spouting Hillian philosophy and NLP platitudes with a hustler’s energy.
People high up in the self-development club spout this deterministic nonsense, disregarding all other factors that contribute to cause and effect, ignoring reality and the objectivity of the very thing they claim to improve – life. Formulaic success is an oxymoron – it is usually pure mathematical luck.
I expect them to fail, anyone who’s persona I hold up to an unattainable ideal (I really think we should all stop doing this). I expect them to be human. I can’t expect anything less of myself or my heroes. So the joust is twofold; against the hero and against wearing blinders to chance and fate.
Learning is a lifetime evolution.The process of learning is realising you’re wrong, then hypothesizing new ideas, and testing those ideas as logically as possible, then learning again if and why you are wrong, and so on, over and over and over again. You could and should even start from the hypothesis that you are, indeed, mistaken in some way. Of course there are moments of feeling right – knowing that you’re right. But you should always be willing to challenge your ideas against the laws of ethics and logic, against the laws of mathematics and probability.
I also certainly am not throwing my hands up. Hey, the black swan of randomness has swooped down and looked upon me with favour, for now. I am loved by the gods of randomness, of no effort of my own. My efforts were like ash in the wind of probability, and yet I still won something. I will keep trying my luck – I have as high hopes (and chances) as the next average joe. The only difference is, I’ll attribute my wins to nature and chance and luck and fate (as well as my losses), rather than building them into my identity to form a fragile fallacious mindset that will have unsettling consequences. Also, I’m an anti-hero, and I’m ok being human.
Ok, so that’s the end of writing playtime. I think I will do more of this style just because it’s more fun and I write because it’s fun. It’s also to be taken as a literary art form – just a thought bubble delivered into the realm of the internet. Read Nassim Taleb’s unfathomably excellent book Fooled by Randomness. It’s absolutely fantastic and I do earn a commission if you purchase through my link so just be aware of that.