Beware of the “Chicken Little” Mindset
It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.
I recently came across a sentence that would make Bulwer-Lytton (or Chicken Little) proud:
“As in other dark eras of U.S. history, we may come to hold accountable the small percentage of Americans who do very well, the sun on their faces, while the rest of us stumble in fading daylight.”
Oh, the drama. Give the man a candle. I would have taken this for irony, except that it appeared toward the end of a nicely written opinion piece on the decline and fall of America. Let’s dissect this sentence from an entrepreneurial perspective and take a look at where this mindset will take a true believer.*
Dark era: If this is such a dark era, there’s hardly any point in doing anything. Since the sky is falling, we need to get under our desks and put hankies over our heads. That ought to help.
We: The universal, unidentified “we” implies that there’s a large group of people who share this viewpoint. Probably everyone, if you think about it. Therefore, it must be right.
Hold accountable: It’s funny, but the last time I checked, the only time I could realistically hold someone other than myself accountable is if I married them, birthed them, or paid them. However, if the writer is talking about giving people credit for what they’ve achieved, I’m all for it. Unfortunately, I have a lurking suspicion that he has something else in mind–namely, making sure that creative, industrious, and diligent people don’t enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Small percentage: It’s so hard to do well, that only a few can manage it. Therefore, it’s quite unlikely that an entrepreneur who is unwilling to sell his or her soul could possibly be successful, so it follows that only bad people are successful.
Do very well: There’s no definition provided, but a reasonable person might define it as doing better than average. This means about half the population is suspect, and needs to be squelched. You don’t want to be one of those “bad” ones, do you?
Sun on their faces: Fortunately, the sun shines upon the just and the unjust, so I accept this as poetic license.
Rest of us: Oh, the humanity! Even if half the population is doing better than average, that leaves the other half who is doing worse. Don’t ever forget it, and don’t let yourself be lured into the better-than-average half.
Stumble: Everyone’s doing so badly, you–yes, you–if you’re reading this and aren’t stumbling yet, need to feel very guilty.
Fading daylight: There’s little hope for anything positive, since the small percentage of those who are doing well have somehow cornered the market on creativity, initiative, diligence, perseverance, and other character qualities that lead to success.
Some people dream of success… while others wake up and work hard at it. ~Author Unknown
Think about this. What will happen if you truly believe these ideas? Many entrepreneurs, especially those of us who see what we do as a way to meet the needs of others, start a business with the handicap of feeling ambivalent about money and success. Ideas such as these permeate certain parts of our culture, so an entrepreneur who regards work as part of his or her life mission is often made to feel guilty for doing well.
No one wants to feel like a bad person, especially someone whose desire is to minister to others and make life better for a target audience. I’ve seen entrepreneurs who began to do very well unconsciously sabotage themselves in various ways in order to avoid the social and emotional price of being perceived as successful. Believing that only a small percentage of people can succeed, however absurd that belief, is a disincentive to even try. Believing that others will perceive you as a bad person if you do succeed is an even greater disincentive.
Success is Within Reach
If you create a business that meets a need for a well-targeted audience and you learn what you need to know in order to run it well, you are likely to “do very well.” Although there are economic challenges in this “dark era,” there are also boundless opportunities both traditional and online. Libraries and the internet are overflowing with valuable free information; biographies and news stories of entrepreneurs who succeed after starting with almost nothing are legion. You can do it too, if you’re willing to do the work.
The naysayers, critics, and Chicken Littles of the world sap motivation, drain courage, and lead to a fixation on expecting someone else to make your life better. When you blame someone else for your difficulties, you immediately give up the power to change your life. If you allow negative, anti-entrepreneurial ideas to influence your thinking, you might begin to feel that the government or someone else can or should be responsible for your success. If you do well, the naysayers will be there to try to make you feel guilty.
If you have any interest in doing well, I encourage you to spend time learning what you need to know and doing what you need to do with all the creativity, enthusiasm, diligence, and perseverance you can muster. Do your research and be brave enough to act. Spend your reading and thinking time with those who inspire and encourage you, rather than with the nattering nabobs of negativism. What you focus on increases, so focus on what matters most.
Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve before kings . . . (Proverbs 22:29)
*Please note: I am examining the ideas in this quote from an entrepreneurial perspective. The interpretations suggested are not intended to imply that the author holds a particular viewpoint, but are instead intended to show entrepreneurs the consequences of certain ways of thinking. The author is a competent writer with interesting ideas, and I always enjoy his essays, even when I disagree with positions he takes.