I want to elaborate on a concept from my “America Needs a New People-Perspective” article, in which I wrote about the toxic mythology of the Self-Made Man.
We need to stop fooling ourselves into believing community doesn’t matter. Men in particular are raised on the illusion of the Rugged Individual, a figure imbued with mythological levels of meaning in American society. This near-messianic being is the height of the male power fantasy: he succeeds alone in this world through a combination of intelligence, talent, and sheer force of will.
This is a tantalizing fantasy, of course. We want to achieve our goals, but have been taught that other people are usually the reason we don’t succeed. Under the doctrine of the Cult of Machismo, the individual is an isolated pillar of strength who never needs help and bests all competition. Other people are either obstacles to be conquered or tools to be used on the path to personal glory.
I’m sure there are guys brainwashed by the Machismo Cult reading this, and they’re already crowing that I’m a beta male cuck emasculated by whatever wave of “evil” feminism has supposedly subjugated the world this week. Calm down, brothers. Before the post-hypnotic suggestion you’re under makes you blurt out some prewritten dogma, I’m going to give you a way out.
Avoid the Exceptional Individual Trap
Men, I want you to take the intelligence, talent, and sheer force of will I mentioned earlier in this article and use it as intended: in collaboration with other human beings. You have those attributes in good supply, but you’re making life harder for yourself because you’re trying to do everything yourself. You’ve been duped!
It doesn’t matter if you’ve been taught the Self-Made Man illusion by an equally-duped and well-meaning mentor, or by someone who maliciously sold you on the impossibility of solo super success because they know you’ll crash and burn. The result will be the same: you run the high risk of being crushed under the weight of overwhelm and burnout that are part and parcel of trying to do it all yourself.
There’s a difference between individuality and individualism. The latter is a malignant form of individuality that causes us to self-isolate. The deified individual is a dead end, a shallow cult of personality and a form of idol worship. It is an empty temple to yourself with no worshippers but you. Its only purpose is ego-stroking. It’s mental masturbation.
You don’t have to go it alone. You don’t have to struggle in a vacuum. If you persist in believing that success is achieved only by “exceptional individuals,” you have set yourself a trap of wicked self-fulfilling prophecy. What happens to your drive and ambition when you meet with complications insurmountable by a lone wolf? Will that mean you aren’t exceptional after all?
Be a Self-Motivated Man
The Self-Made Man is an example of the cognitive bias known as the fundamental attribution error. When we see a successful person, we only see the individual. If we could see people from the past projected around the successful individual, we could more easily overcome our cognitive bias toward believing we are only the result of our own behaviors.
In reality, our success is a combination of individual initiative and support from others. All of us are helped by other people along the path of life. There are the parents who raise us, the teachers who educate, the banks who loan us money, the bosses who mentor and promote us, the colleagues who collaborate, the subordinates to whom we delegate, the doctors who heal us, the social programs that contribute to our development and provide safety nets, and so on.
Ultimately, we need to shift the self-made man to the self-motivated man. This represents a balance between the individual and the community. The individual can indeed be a leader, a visionary, the one who sets great things in motion. The individual can also put in a good amount of work to realize his vision. But eventually, we all get help from others. It’s inevitable.
So, instead of trying to be some legendary loner, try working with others. Provide inspiration, the guiding light. Be the first to roll up your sleeves and dive into the trenches. Then, invite others to follow your lead.
You know what I’m going to say next, don’t you? Self-motivation is part of the heroic mindset! Don’t follow the toxic religion of individualism. Just because others have chosen to be cynical about humanity doesn’t mean you have to follow suit.
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