If you do X, you have it made!

I recently posted that the message “The road to hell is paved with good intentions!” is the most toxic of all.

The message “If you do X, you have it made!” is the second most toxic messages.

The first message is one toxic extreme. The second message is the other toxic extreme. Both of these messages undermine a sense of responsibility and accountability. The first destroys it rapidly. The second gradually erodes it away. The place to be is in the middle.

The message of “If you do X, you have it made!” sounds good at first but makes me feel worse in the long run. It’s short-term motivation at the expense of long-term motivation. Once I achieve X and find that I don’t have it made, it’s such a letdown. Feeling like I’ve been played doesn’t motivate me to do my best. This kind of message is like pumping up quarterly earnings while neglecting everything else.

That goal of X can be anything from thinking positive, earning good grades, earning a certain degree from a certain prestigious college/university, earning certain credentials, getting a certain job/promotion, meeting that milestone, or joining a certain country club. The dirty little secrets of life are:

  • There’s no such thing as “having it made”. If there were, it wouldn’t be such a good thing, because that would mean losing one’s sense of purpose. Lacking a sense of purpose is the ultimate demotivator. The people who are best in their fields may look like they “have it made”, but they didn’t become that way or stay that way by thinking they do.
  • There will always be uphill battles. Of course, some uphill battles are better to have than others. In the best case scenario, you trade in one uphill battle for a better one. Being finished with uphill battles and being finished with having to prove yourself means that the Grim Reaper has escorted you from the building.
  • If your job doesn’t involve uphill battles, then you’re redundant. The process of outsourcing your job to AI is underway.
  • Just because you work hard, follow the rules, and think good thoughts doesn’t mean that you’re doing quality work. Certain details have to be parsed just right. Yes, it can feel as if all the planets have to be properly aligned. There’s no substitute for things like resources, know-how, good planning, and good execution.
  • Thinking positive is good but is NOT the end-all and be-all. It’s all too easy to use it as an excuse to ignore festering issues. The abuse of positive thinking promotes the infamous Dunning-Kruger Effect. All too often, it’s easy to think positive when you’re too clueless to know what’s going on.
  • Don’t rely on feedback from the applause meter to decide what to do, because it’s a lagging indicator. There’s no substitute for having a solid internal sense of the quality of your work. Very often, the applause meter will be silent for a long time even in the very best case scenario. Conversely, there can also be a long time lag between screwing up and being pelted with tomatoes.

I’ve learned to avoid anyone with the message of “If you do X, you have it made!” This is why I prefer to stay away from motivational speakers, motivational posters, and the “self-improvement” improvement books filling libraries and bookstores.