Your success isn’t your fault

Last week I wrote on failure. I got some interesting responses to the idea that the best way to stop beating yourself up for your failures is to not take credit for your successes. I want to expand on that a little.

I believe whatever success I’ve had actually has very little to do with me.

Circumstances: I’ve been brought up in white, middle class Australia, in the most affluent time in history, had a great education, got pretty good genes, won the parent lottery, and in pretty much every way had the deck stacked in my favour.

Pathology: My core belief that I’m not good enough has resulted in a pathological (OK, perhaps not technically accurate use of pathology in a medical sense, but I like it in this model) need to prove myself.  

Neurosis: I’m neurotic about being on time and that’s evolved to being the same way about keeping my word.


I believe that it’s this combination of my circumstances, pathology and neurosis that has determined my successes and failures … and I can’t take credit (or blame) for any of them.

It would be very easy to create a different belief system where I take the credit for any success. We hear “you just have to believe in yourself and you can achieve anything” (often from the successful athlete with the perfect storm of height, fast twitch muscles and eyesight to make it then attributing success to belief). Or that success comes down to intelligence, or work ethic, and that these are traits we can take credit for.  

I build my belief system on what is useful rather than what is true. And in this case I think the first version is more useful. It helps me to be more humble when I’m winning and less fragile when I’m not.