We praise successful people as ‘exceptional’, and we dismiss ‘normal’ behavior as beneath our high standards.
What we should do: elevate the average by making ‘normal’ behavior more rewarding.
Changing our society is inevitable, and we are plagued by many injustices – yet the need to maintain what precious balance we have is dramatically underrated.
Successful people are treated as exceptional even when their success happens *despite* their behavior, or from lucky breaks, or from intimidation and fraud. (See: ‘Trump, Donald’ for examples of all three.)
We dismiss or condemn ‘normal’ behavior, even when it directly benefits us. Our own lives are made possible by ‘normal’ systems we might happily condemn or dismantle.
(‘Normal’ here only applies to level of achievement. Traits unrelated to personal choice – e.g. race, or sexual preference – are not changed by punishments or rewards, and the attempt to do so can only be harmful.)
The more rewarding ‘normal’ behavior is, the more people will support a high standard of ‘normalcy’.
That idea seems threatening, because we don’t want ‘normal’ people to feel entitled to ‘exceptional’ rewards. We can’t afford to reward employees disproportionately, can we?
The problem is: we already do. Many companies give disproportionate rewards to their employees, but we ignore them – because the disproportionate rewards are given disproportionately to executives.
Praising success encourages the image of success, but it discourages the behaviors which make real success possible.
Successful companies cut the wages of average employees, but grant absurd bonuses to CEOs.
In a telling irony, unsuccessful companies do the same thing.
This common mistake has become a national crisis with the election of Donald Trump, whose business strategy has been to defraud and bully his vendors and contractors into paying his bills. (Remember “We’ll build a wall and make Mexico pay for it”?)
As we respond to immediate threats to our government, environment, and citizenry, we must also correct for the habits which brought us to this cliff.
This brings me back to the book “Mindset”, which explains these ideas on a personal level.
We can praise our children not for being “smart” or “talented” or “athletic” or “creative” or “pretty” or “artistic”, but for putting in the hard work which produces those results.
But we can also elevate society by rewarding ‘normal’ behavior – even over ‘successful’ or ‘exceptional’ behavior.
It’s more than wealth the Internet economy has concentrated in the hands of a few. The feeling of success, of playing a meaningful role in the future, has been lifted away from many Americans.
Adolf Hitler rose to power by making even the most unskilled workers feel they were part of a successful movement, regardless of the costs ultimately paid.
In large and small ways, we must ensure that every citizen feels rewarded and respected for their efforts. If we don’t do this…someone else will.