August 19, 2012

You didn't win that

Where's my cut?
Taking a page out of the Elizabeth Warren-President Obama handbook on success, it's time we apply their logic to a broader spectrum.  For those of you who missed it, the president took Massachusetts senatorial candidate Elizabeth Warren's argument about business owners not being responsible for their own success, and he ran with it.

Now maybe it makes sense to the president who seems to have a predilection for lifting speeches or ideas, this one included.  So maybe he should be forgiven because clearly, he didn't build that argument.  So his worldview truly conforms with what he is saying.  He really believes it.

But let's take that success measure he espouses and apply it to the rest of the country, not just business owners.

Michael Phelps - those gold medals, you didn't win them, someone else did that.

Sean Penn - those Academy Awards, you didn't win them, someone else did that.

Kanye West - that Grammy Award - you didn't earn that, someone else did.

Oprah Winfrey - that media empire - you didn't make it, someone else did that.

Fareed Zakaria - you didn't write that, someone else did. (Oh, wait...)

Chris Matthews - you didn't build that 6 person audience, someone else did.

John Stewart - you're not funny, someone else is.

Paul Krugman - you didn't invent tinfoil, you only wear the hat.

New York Yankees - you didn't win all those World Series, someone else did.

Socrates - You didn't teach those students, someone else did that.

Shakespeare - you didn't write all those great plays, someone else did that.  Ditto for you Francis Bacon.

Albert Einstein - you didn't come up with a theory of relativity, someone else did that.

Muhammad Ali - you didn't win all those fights, some guy named Cassius Clay did...

Thomas Edison - you didn't invent and patent a gazillion things, someone else did that.

America - you didn't win the Revolutionary War, someone else did that.

This list could go on forever, but there's a point.  Those people are regarded as successes for their own accomplishments and so should those who create thriving, successful businesses.  I don't recall Sean Penn thanking the fire department in any of his Academy Award acceptance speeches.  There should be no double standard but it seems like maybe they only want to apply that shared accomplishment caveat to businesses.

But if everyone is responsible for every success, then no one is really successful.  There are no heroes because there are no successes.  A success is defined as the achievement of an aim or purpose.  The purpose of building a road or having a fire department is not to make sure a bakery succeeds.  The purpose is to enable movement or prevent fires.  The establishment of those things have their own definitions of success.  They do not share in the success of the baker or the shoe store.

For those of us who live in the real world - Michael Jordan is indeed his own success and he deserves all the credit. Sure, his coach was an enabler, but if the success belongs to his coach then why wasn't he on those highlight reels making those amazing dunks.  I only remember seeing Jordan doing that.
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