The title of this post draws inspiration from Chimamanda’s widely known talk – The Danger of a single story. In front of a TED Talks audience, she elaborated the dangers of stereotyping and wrong assumptions when dealing with people – things like assuming that every Mexican is a drug dealer or every African is an illiterate and blabla….
Many times we hear about success stories of individuals and companies – how they overcame challenges and fought
lions obstacles. Depending on where you are when you read or hear such stories, your reactions will vary from a tingling sensation to a slightly raised blood pressure; you tell yourself that you also can achieve that. “If Steve Jobs did it, then I can did it too” you say to yourself. The success story is not all you get in the package, it also comes with rules and tips and proven methods for success (or whatever synonym you deem fit). Like juice extracted from green leaves, people have squeezed off various principles from the biographies and success stories of accomplished individuals.
Unfortunately, motivational speakers/experts are the most guilty of the lot (followed closely by a people in the position to counsel *coughs*). The problem with the 10 Rules of
Failure Success is that there actually is no problem with it… until you begin to believe they are the only rules of success.
You see, most success stories or principles (depending on what you read) focus on certain aspects that fit the theme of what the writer/speaker is talking about. So for example, Mr Viva talks on leadership principles and decides to use Wall Mart as his case study. He talks about how the founder, (Sam Walton) relentlessly built the empire from the scratch, how his leadership inspired the executives under him to do exploits and blabla… you know the rest. Fact is he isn’t wrong. Truth though, is that these facts are in isolation and do not represent the whole picture of the success story. They don’t take into account that for Walmart to succeed, aggressive sales was needed, logistics and administration had to be sorted, supply chain had to be top notch, staffing and personnel morale needed a touch of finesse. Maybe the organization even needed to borrow money or get investors to help scale the business (as most businesses require). Of course, there will be no details of the secret handshakes and undercover deals that helped secure the top spot.
At the end of the leadership session, you are convinced that all you need to succeed in business and in life are leadership skills. So you go to set up a venture and gbam! you are in for a shocker. Things don’t go as expected because you suddenly realize that having a Twitter handle isn’t enough as you have only two followers who use the egg avatar and your selfies aren’t generating the amount of likes and regrams you thought you’d get.
It’s like assuming that your car is going to function properly because you bought petrol (gasoline) when it doesn’t yet have a battery or a functional radiator or fuel pump or brakes or gear box or (insert car part). The message is simple – there is no single route or requirement to success in life. Trying to copy and paste someone else’s strategy almost always backfires because you never get the full picture.
Let me reiterate that nobody tells you everything – either deliberately or by omission from memory (amnesia).
Am I saying that you shouldn’t listen to The Fundamental principles of Academic Excellence? No! What I’m saying is that bear in mind that there is always more to what you’re told and you should be willing to go the extra mile to discover those truths for yourself if you are to succeed. In the end, those who make waves are those that discover or create their own paths. The paths they create are what become the ‘Laws’ and ‘Principles’ that others study.
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Ifeoluwapo is a Medical Doctor, Brand Strategist, Blogger and Author of several hundred quotes (Daily Insights).
He is the author of Musings of An Analytical Mind and tweets from @hypoxia13