The utter failure of successful icons
When we say that success will never come to those who don’t try or to those who don’t show up, we aren’t lying. It’s completely true that not being at the right place at the right time with the right upbringing and the right pedigree (read: race, class, gender (read: white, rich, male)) will leave any given individual in the dust when it comes to success.
But we do love a good hero. In sports, we think we can all be Lebron James or Michael Jordan, Tom Brady or John Elway or Jim Brown, Serena William, Wayne Gretzky, Pele, or Barry Bonds – and we never get it through our thick skulls that they are the very pinnacle, the very razors edge of greatness with thousands of so-called failures lined up behind them, as far as the eye can see. In theater, in politics, in academia in any sphere whatsoever that we value and appreciate – we are told to behold the inevitable one guy or one woman who has, by the unrelenting power of probability, occupied the spot of ultimate success. Behold, and wonder and worship!
They are really only heros because we compare ourselves to them.
And it is a continuum, and we pick our points of worship accordingly. Proximity of aquaintaince has some effect on whether we esteem one person over another, to a degree. While the very top is secure in it’s position, a statistically greater person could be dislodged in our favor with someone we actually ‘know’, shook hand with or met somwhere along the line.
But I digress.
Tell me! What is the value of a woman who succeeds at a given effort level over another woman who does not succeed despite having the same moxie? What of the ten women who do not succeed? Did they not work just as hard? Could it be that they worked harder to no avail? Perhaps it is all an accident of the bus schedule or a driver who couldn’t be bothered with using a signal, thus creating confusion and therefore, indecisions – slowness.. a missed light. Mayhap, the lilting language of one’s easy upbringing betrays a sense of confidence not-earned but inherited that makes all the difference. Had any one of the ten other women been afforded the upbringing that allowed for european vacations each year as they grew into womenhood, perhaps the force of ‘what is rightful’ would have won the day for them as well, or for them, at all.
But these are messy intagangeables that get in the way of our hero worship. It gets in the way of our deep love of awarding and attributing success to those who show ‘merit’, chutzpah, grit.. and our deep love of this cannot abide any hint of advantage, privelege or even cheating.
And they’re happy to tell us all the way to success; their sentances all begin with ‘Just..’