Sebastian Marshall, who is certainly not as well-known as he deserves, has a very, very good post outlining why “deserving” has nothing whatsoever to do with your success. I strongly suggest you read it.
We would like to believe that there’s some kind of divine meritocracy going on, that the cream rises, build a better mousetrap, etc, etc.
That’s only true within very narrow parameters. Kind of like the way that Newtonian physics don’t apply on a subatomic level. In the same way, within small, tightly defined situations, better people tend to succeed more than less-skilled people, but in the grand scheme of things, skill alone gets you diddly squat.
Now, I apologize if this is news to you, but you simply don’t control things to the extent that sheer betterness is going to ultimately see you through. Whether the betterness is in skill, perseverance, networking, “showing up”, there’s always an element of chance. A pretty big element, really. Anyone who tells you differently is deluded or selling something.
Two things about that, though.
1. Give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Since you can’t change a lot of stuff, there’s no use talking about it, no use thinking about it, and definitely no use bitching about it. Que sera, sera.
2. The MOST you can do is to put yourself in a position that when the dice roll your way, you can take advantage of it. “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” This means preparation, staying out of debt, planning for contingencies and keeping your eyes open. It’s not that hard, by itself. But getting discouraged makes it damn near impossible, so be upbeat. People who believe they’re lucky really do get lucky more often, and if 90% of people can believe they’re “above average”, you can damn well force yourself to believe you’re lucky.
Coming to terms with the idea that you can’t control things, through merit or anything else, can be incredibly freeing. There’s NOTHING more terrible than striving after something, but never achieving it. So if you let yourself off the hook, “Hey, I didn’t make my sales targets this month. But that doesn’t mean I’m lazy and incompetent!” you can do something really, really different with your focus.
“Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Once you’ve let go of the idea that any particular thing you ‘do’ is responsible for your success (fundamental attribution error), you realize that the goals you chased were proxies for other things you really wanted.
Sometimes, we don’t want to admit to them: “I want to make 200K a year so that I will be admired.”
Sometimes, we don’t know how to articulate them: “I want to be a real man.”
Sometimes, actually getting what we want is too hard, so we pick something else. “I want to make a real difference in the world… maybe one of my kids will invent a cure for cancer!”
But I think that beneath all of those goals is a single, unifying purpose:
There’s an unsurpassable feeling that comes with facing the world knowing that you. are. excellent.
I don’t mean in a Wayne’s World kind of way. I mean that, regardless of what things look like, what others think of you, or what you’re personally experiencing in your day-to-day life, you are exceptional, and getting better all the time.
It frees you from all the things you can’t control and it puts one, single, solitary thing in your purview: Your own attitudes and actions.
And if you can go to bed every night, satisfied with your effort, and determined to put in the same effort tomorrow, I can promise— your life will be vivid and fulfilling.
Deserve’s got nothing to do with your success or failure. You can choose to play by rules that mean you can’t help but win.
If you can go to bed every night, satisfied with your effort, and determined to put in the same effort tomorrow, I can promise— your life will be vivid and fulfilling.
Where are you struggling with the concept of ‘deserving’ and how can you let go of it?