Success, choices and other lies

Aug 20, 2016 · 4 min read

Success! More than anything, that's what you desire. You measure your value as a person, the value of your business and the value of your choices in the terms of success. Sometimes it's about money, sometimes it's about health, sometimes it's about the impact you make. Choices, they must lead to success.

Success, choices and other lies -- Mervi Emilia

Fake it 'til you make it. Not the first time you heard that , is it? Pop that phrase in to your preferred search engine and you get loads of articles about how to become a success by following the philosophy. No wonder. There are many psychological effects in the play. According to some studies, people gain influence by acting confident and dominant. Think about halo effect, in which the overall impression of a person, product, business or other entity affects our perception of their character or properties. For example, if a person is attractive you may think they are also kind or intelligent, and if you find them unattractive you also think they are unkind or stupid.

Success is easy to fake, and it's as easy to take someone as unsuccessful, judging by their appearance or other superficial factors. There's a very popular advice about growing an email list: Show the numbers. If people see how popular your list is, they will join it too. But nobody really stops you from giving some faked number in order to gain more subscribers. This has led me to suspect the sincerity of those who give some number in their why-to-join prompts. "Join 1800 other creatives like you" could mean 18 subscribers, as far as I know. Who will ever know?

Success is not a fixed variable. Everyone has their own definition to success, often influenced by how others define it. As an example, success at work or business can mean a huge income, and advancing in the career or fame. It can also mean being able to sustain a lifestyle and being comfortable. When I talk about success and when you hear me talk about it, the meaning of the word changed on the way. You may consider another person unsuccessful, based on your definition of success, while that other person sees herself very successful, based on her definition. It's about the point of view. Succeeding in one thing doesn't make you a success in all the other things. You can be successful at Twitter, but at the same time be highly unsuccessful at selling stuff on Etsy. Success in one part of life or work doesn't correlate to other parts of life or work. You cannot deduce someone's success at another thing from their success in one thing. This also applies to your own success. Being a successful blogger doesn't make you a successful web designer, nor it tells about how you will succeed in romance. Being successful today doesn't mean you will be successful tomorrow.

It's impossible to control other people and their choices. That is, you cannot be ensure success by using certain wording or colours, posting certain type of photos on Instagram, writing the right kind of Tweets or even composing the perfect blog posts. Those who claim otherwise are jumping to conclusions based on usually very small amount of causal evidence. They think that some change or decision they made directly affected the outcome. In reality there are many other, often unknown factors leading to the "success". You can't presume someone's success (at something) from outside. This is because you don't know all the facts and you don't know what is the definition of success in this case for this person. How vast is the readership of your blog blog can't be known from the amount of comments, or the number of Bloglovin' followers (especially when, as NPR has noticed, majority of your online audience is silent).

The choices you make aren't as reasonable you like to think. Most choices are based on the choices by other people. This is why a blog post that appears successful (has lots of comments, is often shared, etc.) gets your attention and engagement. Similarly if an Instagram account appears successful, and especially if people you follow also follow it, you are likely to follow that account. On the other hand, the apparent success may turn you down. Because you see other people liking something, you choose not to. You do this thinking you are making a personal, uninfluenced choice. You aren't. You are influenced by the choices of others, even when you choose to do the opposite than the others. Thus, while choices cannot be controlled, they can be influenced. Influence is very different than control. Furthermore, other people's choices are hardly ever about you. When someone decides to follow or unfollow you, comment, like or share your content, or otherwise engage with your online presence, they don't do it for you. They do it for themselves. An unfollow is not about you, nor it's even about your content. It's about the person who unfollowed. The advice titled with "why I didn't follow you" or "why I didn't read your blog post" is irrelevant, because that is all about the me of the story, and you cannot control their choices. The choices, for which they hardly know the real reasons.

The so called self-made people have a tendency of saying funny things about their success. They think they can trace their success back to certain choices they made, as well as they think that making those same choices would inevitably lead to success again. They don't take into account that there were other people, circumstances, economical factors, political situations and then some, which controlled their choices as well as controlled the outcome of their choices. Sometimes it happens. Sometimes you follow a step-by-step guide and, like magic, it all comes together. And then again, sometimes it doesn't. Life (and business) is much more complicated and much simpler than following a step-by-step guide.

What's your definition of success?

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