A few days ago I saw something that shocked me.
I was walking near a large supermarket, when I saw a distraught young woman. She was very drunk and holding the remains of a beer six pack, and she kept shouting at people and falling down. I saw my neighbors passing her as they went for groceries, some with children, and I immediately took out my phone and called police 911.
The police dispatcher promised to send a car and I waited for a while, but that never happened. Thinking back, the woman became less drunk when she saw me on the phone. She walked in a straight line off the property and onto a public space.
I stayed shocked and appalled until the next day, when I realized that I and my neighbors had been scammed. The police weren’t interested, because they knew.
The young woman was just acting out in a public place, we may never know why, but she was not seriously drunk. My question now is, why did we believe her, at our local supermarket? How could a petty con artist get us all so upset?
The answer is, she sold us what we wanted to buy. She pretended to be completely helpless and lost, with no hope, and if we had approached her, she would have asked for something. She would give us the cult of the victim and we would be the solution. Something in us reverberated with her message.
It’s a common scam. We easily believe in problems with no solution. That makes us the solution; us and our money. And possibly we can believe in a world with less personal responsibility, which takes a load off of us. Maybe our problems don’t have solutions either, and we can all learn helplessness.
This weakness in us explains our failures. We easily buy into the cult of the victim.
I train people for professional success, as trainers, and I have a success exercise for you. On a piece of paper write the letter “P” on the left side and the letter “S” on the right and draw a line between them. “P” is “Problem” and “S” is “Success.” Cover the “S” with your right hand and you have a scam.
Our success always has a problem to escape from and success to discover, a shining city in a hill. Failure is when we only define the problem.
I talked to a pastor in a new church and he said his church was different from all the others. I think the church is struggling for that reason; they can’t tell us what positive success is. They are the first church of not-like-the-others.
I know natives in Canada who are looking for success for their people. Some find success too. For example, the Mikisew Cree First Nation owns an airline “Air Mikisew” and the Sawridge Cree First Nation owns a hotel chain with great buffets.
A large university has just announced a native studies course, and the focus is completely negative. Students learn about injustice and grievances, and nothing about success, which makes my native friends angry. They hate being defined by their problems, when they are searching for success.
I knew many radical socialists when I was younger, and I lost interest because they only complained about social problems and injustice. I never saw an attractive model for success.
In the past I worked as a school teacher in Africa, and I understand our western prejudice that Africa is nothing but problems that need our help. When children won’t eat, mothers tell them there are starving children in Africa who would love to have their meal. I was there and I know African children probably wouldn’t like that food either. Millions of people are working for success in Africa; an entire continent is not defined by its problems.
Two thousand years ago Jesus said “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). A lack of food is a problem, and a harvest is success. Successful projects operate between those two poles and successful people don’t look back.
The young woman at the supermarket was one of many who succeed by selling us failure