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Itar-Tass, Russia

American Success: ‘If You’re
So Smart, Why Are You So Poor?’


By Evgenii Bazhanov

Do not listen to the blabbermouths — the advisers exhort — who claim that success does not always bring happiness. Maybe it does not bring happiness, but he who is unhappy while being successful certainly cannot be happy while being unsuccessful.

Translated By Aleksandra J. Chlon

2 November 2012

Edited by Kyrstie Lane


Russia - Itar-Tass - Original Article (Russian)

Americans aim to achieve success. From a young age children are taught the rules of the game in the adult world, and thanks to the combined effort of his parents, television and teachers, the young person beginning his independent life is perfectly armed with knowledge, at least when it comes to achieving success. And if we consider that many Americans gain work experience when they are teenagers, working as waiters, movers and gas station attendants during their vacations, then their knowledge is not limited to theory.

The main thing that a young man or woman learns is that money is omnipotent. Money is the measure of talent, diligence, success and, finally, of a person’s respectability. The American is convinced that a good guy cannot be a loser, and if somebody has not made a fortune, it is simply because he or she is lazy and stupid, and generally good-for-nothing. In short, the governing principle is: “If you’re so smart, why are you so poor?”

A study was carried out in an American school. Students were shown a film in which representatives of various professions talked about their work. The one who made the greatest impression on the children was a real estate agent. He showed the material wealth that he had acquired and boasted about his high salary. Least liked by the children was a sculptor who showed magnificent models of architecture.

For the young men and women who have left the classroom, publishers offer all kinds of aids that describe the best ways to achieve success. They begin with an appeal to the reader to convince himself that: first, showing greed is normal; secondly, manipulating people is praiseworthy; and thirdly, having careerist aspirations is natural. And most importantly, the young person is invited to assimilate this simple truth: to be rich is much better than to be poor.

Do not listen to the blabbermouths — the advisers exhort — who claim that success does not always bring happiness. Maybe it does not bring happiness, but he who is unhappy while being successful certainly cannot be happy while being unsuccessful. As to the ethical side of the question, what is emphasized is that a great number of people who are dishonest, two-faced and cruel become rich.

In order to be successful, psychologists suggest pretending that you are playing by rules set out by others, all the while secretly playing by your own. You have to seem loyal to your colleagues and flatter your boss as much as possible, because “a gram of hypocrisy is worth a kilogram of ambition.”

Those dreaming of success are given two strategies of affirming themselves within the collective: either make yourself the “lion,” boldly take initiative upon yourself and openly speak your mind about controversial problems, or act “fox-like,” on the sly, off-stage. “Lions” take control of people more often, however. There is a story about a clerk who decided to sign all documents himself, without asking for his supervisors’ endorsement. Strangely enough, his colleagues quickly got used to his arbitrary rule and they began bringing the bold clerk increasingly important documents to sign. In the end, people at the top of the company called him a promising employee — the “lion” had started to rise in the ranks.

The novice is always reminded about the constant need to move forward: The battle for success is like riding a bike. If you stop for even a moment, you will lose your balance.

You are advised not only to be energetic, but to look it as well. You must walk quickly and decidedly, keep your head high, tuck your stomach in. You must sit on a tiny and simple chair so that, instead of getting lost in its background, you stand out. You must bring your face close to your interlocutor when you talk and put your feet on the table because this emphasizes a man’s confidence in his own strengths. You must write in bad handwriting that will keep the attention of the reader for a long period of time.

It is important to arrive at the office as early as possible. Some businessmen manage to arrive even three or four hours early, and they even sleep in the hallway so as not to disturb the sleep of the other members of the household. The competition of who will show up to work earliest at times takes an unpleasant turn.

There is the story of a vice-president of a company who took on the habit of beginning his workday at six in the morning instead of nine. The president heard about this and, in fear of being replaced, began coming to work before 6:00 am. It was then the vice-president's turn to be scared. He thought that his boss was observing him, and he extended his work day by yet another hour. The president responded by coming in at 4:30 am. Soon, all the people at the top of the company were working hard from 4:30 am, and then even from 4:00 am. Only the technical personnel refused. And without them, the office could not function. A scandal erupted, then another, until finally nobody thought about work anymore — people were too carried away by the dispute. The president thought better of it and strictly forbade employees to show up for work before nine in the morning.

Handbooks teach fortune hunters thousands of other tricks: Do not speak in negative sentences; while performing or giving a speech, do not wave your arms; remain silent if you are not certain that your point of view will be understood.

Obviously, many of today’s Russian businessmen successfully use the aforementioned postulates. But it is doubtful whether they familiarize themselves with American literature on the subject. The market economy dictates behavioral norms. Besides, if anyone is interested in the theory, they have many an opus to choose from.



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One Response to “American Success: ‘If You’re
So Smart, Why Are You So Poor?’”

  1.  Vote: Add rating 0  Subtract rating 0   Sara Hunter Says:

    This is fas­ci­nat­ing. Thanks for the translation.

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