Why this is a delusion and what you can do to counter it.
We gravitate towards successful people because they never cease to amaze us. Their “grass to grace” tales are always exciting as they rekindle the flame of hope in many fainting hearts. For these same reasons, we all look up to them as our role models.
Supposedly, all it takes is for you to ogle up to the rich and the famous in the glitterati. Someone repeatedly enjoins you to follow their footsteps, act like them, request for their advice, (of course never their money) imitate them, and voila, success lands on your laps. You’re now like them.
Does it always work that way? That this is a fallacy, you have proved repeatedly even without my trying to point out why this is so. The irony is that this fallacy is hard to spot because of the myriads of selfless philanthropists, mentors, and builder-uppers out there working hard to save us and our planet from our self-destructive bends.
Why is this a fallacy?
1. Birds of different feathers don’t mingle.
Often the rich do not want to have anything to do with the poor. Through the ages, men of goodwill and selfless philanthropists, men like Bill Gates and others have upheld the society. Recently, Forbes magazine reported about Chuck Feeney, the billionaire who preferred to die broke but not before giving all his billions away to charity (while still alive). The magazine reported that Mr. Feeney finally achieved his goal — of becoming broke for charity.
Indeed, Mr. Feeney has done more than his fair share of shouldering the world’s burdens. Still, I would have preferred that he keep on multiplying his money so that the world can benefit more from the wealth of his generous heart.
Birds of the same feather fly together. This brings to focus the common reality that the man at the bottom of the well may not be able to draw himself out of the hole he fell into. He needs those standing on the secured grounds by the hole he is gaping up at throwing him a rescue rope.
2. Know your level don’t cross your boundary.
In relational dynamics, wealth gives the high and mighty power and authority. With power also comes what psychologist Geert Hofstede called Power Distance Index (PDI). As further popularized by Malcolm Gladwell, PDI refers to the relationship between those in power and their subordinates. It is “a measuring system concerned with attitudes towards hierarchy, specifically with how much a particular culture values and respects authority.”
In societies with high PDI, people live in hierarchies and everyone knows and tend to keep to their places. PDI is always at play in relationships between the high and the low and unless the former deliberately steps down to reach the lowly, it is futile to try to attract the attention of the rich.
3. The wider the wealth differentials, the wider the interpersonal relationships gap.
Again, using the birds of the same feather analogy, the man at the top of the ladder often does not want the chap at the base to pull him down. Where possible, the high and mighty will always prefer to maintain the status quo. No less is this more so than especially if reaching out to the down and out will whither down their position, even if by just a little notch.
Author, Christopher Ryan referred to it as the Rich Asshole Syndrome – the tendency to distance yourself from people with whom you have a large wealth differential. This dynamic is at play when some of your former friends swept you aside at first signs that ‘levels have changed” with you at the receiving end.
What will your friends, your community, and the larger world see of you when you finally get there?
Many rich and influential people are only interested in building empires around themselves. These days, the rich endlessly manipulated social media. For many, all that is needed is an increase in web clicks and social media followership to boost their bank accounts.
Check it, many of those whom you follow on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Medium have no time for you. Granted, their times are invaluable and many of them rightfully labor for and deserve those trailer loads of dollars in their account. The more you understand this, the less likely you will be used as cannon fodder for boosting somebody else’s social media ratings and bank account at your own expense.
What can you do about it? What are you going to do about it?
Yes, you can do a lot to step up the ante in your favor. No, we are not talking of class wars or the unjust transfer or redistribution of wealth at the expense of the rich to the benefit of the down and out.
“In life, nothing and nobody will help you until you start helping yourself.” The great abolitionist Frederick Douglass (1818–1895), after his torturous escape from slavery, took on his quest of emancipating other slaves. Hear him.
The general sentiment of mankind is that a man who will not fight for himself, when he has the means of doing so, is not worth being fought for by others, and this sentiment is just. For a man who does not value freedom for himself will… Click To Tweet
The general sentiment of mankind is that a man who will not fight for himself, when he has the means of doing so, is not worth being fought for by others, and this sentiment is just. For a man who does not value freedom for himself will not value it for others.
No man is an island. By all means, connect with them so long as you do not lose your soul in the bargain. By all means, do not connect on empty. Have something to offer by bringing something useful to the bargain. Friendship with no mutual benefits does not thrive or last.
The only reason people become natural friends is that the partners have some mutually beneficial exchanges and gains from the relationship. These values and benefits come in many forms and not just in monetary gains. These benefits could be material or psychological – shared interests, trustworthiness, similar hobbies, and others. You have gifts to unleash on the world as well.
To paraphrase Seth Godin’s Tribes in one statement, Go out and build your own tribe.
You do this by reaching out to others, but not only for the goal of promoting your self-interests. Take part in social events and other community programs. Use LinkedIn and other social media platforms.
Some of those rich and famous are not completely out of touch or out of reach either. Build bridges of human connection to join others of like minds. And while at it, always remember that people will quickly sense and immediately drift away from the “gold digger”. Vulnerability is part of the game, you must never be afraid to come out of your shell. Connect, comment and recommend. Click To Tweet
Practice what you preach.
Actions speak louder than words. Stop talking and start doing. Walk the walk you talk. Put your words into actions, showing others you meant what you said by actively doing it yourself. Just keep on at the game. Come someday, your time will come for you to shine. And you’ll be fine with or with no celebrity or higher echelons’ endorsement.
Here are your takeaways;
Connecting with the rich and famous with the expectation of enhancing or assuring your likelihood of success is a farce for these reasons:
- Power Distance Index dynamics build walls of separation between the high and the lowly.
- Birds of the same feathers flock together and many rich will prefer the status quo even at the expense of the downtrodden.
You can turn the odds in your favor by doing these and more:
- Realize that nobody will help you until you help yourself.
- In all relationships, always strive to bring something to the table. Build your own “tribe” and always walk the walk you talk.
Copyright 2011 by © Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success, Black Ray Books
- Copyright 2019 by © Christopher Ryan, Civilized to Death: The Price of Progress, Simon and Schuster.
- Copyright 2008 by © Seth Godin, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, Penguin