Most people spend their entire lives waiting, hoping, expecting something good to happen. That’s a great way to waste your life and end up bitter and broke.

Sure, some do the best with what they have. They get married and have a family. Find a job that pays the bills. Work hard to make a living and save a little for retirement.

Others don’t fare so well. They see friends doing well and wonder what happened to their piece of American pie. They imagine others had advantages they didn’t have like privilege and connections. They become jealous, angry, and bitter with age.

Back in the day, you really couldn’t hide from that sort of thing. Thoreau wrote that most people “lead lives of quiet desperation.” Back then, there just weren’t many things to distract you from the realities of life.

That’s no longer the case. Now everyone can spend their days on social media, binging on TV and YouTube videos, playing video games, texting, and of course, eating and shopping. The distractions are seemingly endless. But sooner or later, reality has a way of penetrating the façade.

Karl Marx said, “Religion is the opium of the people.” Now it’s Facebook, Dancing With the Stars, PewDiePie, Xbox, McDonalds, and Amazon. That’s the new religion.

And you know what? I don’t blame folks for trying to escape reality. It’s a hell of a lot more fun than sitting around feeling sorry for yourself. It’s also a hell of a lot easier than picking yourself up, taking some risks, and actually doing something to improve your life.

Many of us wonder why our culture is deteriorating. Why the gap between the haves and have-nots is growing. Why common sense and personal responsibility are in such short supply. Why so many of our leaders no longer bother to tell the truth or hold themselves accountable.

Isn’t it obvious? Nobody’s paying attention. People are either working too hard or too distracted to notice anything more than sensational sound bites. And our ballooning federal, state, and local governments are regulating and taxing the hell out of the former while providing a nice, comfy, ever-growing safety net for the latter.

That would be a recipe for disaster if some of us didn’t realize that sitting around waiting, hoping, expecting something good to happen was a bad idea. If some of us didn’t realize that, for things to change, you actually have to do something different. That nothing ever happens unless you take action.

With the masses locked in their day-to-day inertia or giving into one form of addiction or another, it’s never been easier to shine. To get ahead. To really make something of yourself.

While the number of ways to go nowhere has certainly exploded, so have the opportunities for people who want something more for themselves and their families. Who want to leave this world in a better place than they found it.

Interestingly enough, the recipe for getting ahead hasn’t changed much over the years. Maybe the mechanics are a little different, but the strategies are the same. The way those who started from nothing fight for a better life, take risks, make their own luck, take the initiative, capitalize on opportunity, and accomplish great things hasn’t changed one bit.

You only get one shot at this, and in my experience, success is never an accident. It’s a choice. Choose success.

For more on choosing success, order Real Leaders Don’t Follow or learn more here.  

Edited version of original Critical Thinking column on

Image credit Kevin O’Mara via Flickr

  • Danny

    Success is a choice because everything is a decision. The sole root cause for poverty is that poor people make the same bad decisions over and over. That is why giving them money does not lift them out of poverty. Most of them still make the same bad decision, and the money they could have used to enable them to change things, runs out. Failing at something doesn’t make one a failure. One is a failure when they give up or never try. Poor people use their poverty as an excuse not to try. Before I get hate mail for saying that, there are exceptions for those who are disabled so badly, they can’t function, and we have to take care of them. No one disagrees with that. But our war veterans, and others, have shown us even disabilities do not have to stop one from being successful.

    The points made in the article are not philosophical. They represent how reality works.

    I do not meet very many of my generation, boomers, who are deadbeats. I think that is because our fathers were WWII veterans, or their dads stayed home and built an industrial complex to supply our armies and those of England, Russia, and other allies. They were a get it done generation, and when the war was over they came home and started businesses and built their own success at whatever they did. My dad enlisted at 17 and he never finished high school. His highest education was the 10th grade. Yet he built his own company. While he did not have millionaire level of success, he provided a very good upper middle class living for his family, which to him represented success. So yeah, I am fortunate to have grown up with such a good role model, and I chose to follow the same path. So can you!

    • WMC

      “Success is a choice because everything is a decision”. What a great line that captures it all! Having been exposed to great things over the same decades you suggest, I understand your thinking and agree with you entirely! Can we even attempt to imagine if a leader of a country said this line and a mass of the people understood what it meant? The concept, as presented in your sentence above, is a scary concept for many many people. Perhaps, within THAT lies the problem. To be able to think creatively and to utilize ‘whatever’ as tools to reach a specific end, is likely a complete ‘thought process / action process’ that is –and shall remain– a mystery to too many people. Hence, the outcome.