The selfishness of stardom

Here’s a video in which Arnold Schwarzenegger describes how he won at bodybuilding. His best friend was the front-runner, and The Terminator screwed the guy with “wrong advices”.

If you watch the whole thing, you’ll see what it takes to be the best. You’ll need to be ruthless, selfish and devoid of any concern for others. You’ll calculate ways to defeat the competition using any means necessary.

Of course, you’re gonna have to work hard, too.

There were 50 bodybuilders as big and toned as Arnold, but only one was willing to claw above the others to get ahead. You can always get new friends when you’re rich and famous.

That’s why you, dear reader, won’t ever walk a red carpet. Your success will be limited (maybe) to owning a small company that turns a profit, and possibly when you’re 60, you have a million dollars in the bank.

You won’t become a star. Not because you don’t have the talent, or the work ethic, or the skills, or the education: but because you aren’t a cutthroat narcissist. (“Narcissist” was my second-choice word there.)

The Trumps and Schwarzeneggers and Lance Armstrongs of the world have talent, and they worked hard, but no more so than a million other people. What sets them apart is something I don’t have. I’m not sure I want it.

Social animals evolved to discourage that gene. I suspect in other species, the selfish and greedy ones are left alone to die early.

Not us. Not anymore. Now we celebrate it, and we look up to them as gods. We’re teaching our kids that a success is someone who makes millions without working. That talent isn’t worth as much as self- promotion and doing whatever it takes to stack the Benjamins.

In one way, it’s not a new thing. Edison tried everything to ruin Westinghouse and his superior AC electric. The Wright brothers weren’t the first, but when donating the Flyer to the Smithsonian, it was contractual for the USA to always call Wilbur and Orville ‘pioneers.’

But those early megalomaniacs believed in getting fame while producing value for the rest of us. It wasn’t entirely selfish.

Now? It’s me, me, me. What can I get for me? Move the company overseas so that I make 10 percent more? Done.

You get the idea.

So as a business owner, or rising middle manager, you’re going to have to decide. If you want to be huge, you’ll need to ignore any instinct you have for humanity. Lie, cheat and steal your way up the ladder because we care only that you win – not how you do it.

And if you want, try this: Make your billions and become a star, then use a portion to get back some good will. Yes, you can buy a good reputation once you make it to the top.

Decide it’s okay to stockpile water during a drought in case the rain never comes; you’ll make a handsome profit.

Or let the people bail you out so you can start hoarding aluminum to drive up the price, like Goldman Sachs is doing.  Make your billions. Retire. Then show how good you are by donating a wing to a hospital.

But you won’t do that, will you? You’ll continue being a thoughtful, caring human being; a little person — because you’re weak.

I pity you and those pathetic children you’re raising to care about more than just themselves. I laugh because you’ll never be more than just a decent human being.

And neither will I.