The Myth of Meritocracy


via Mirriam-Webster

1. a popular belief or tradition that has grown up around something or someone
2. a usually traditional story of ostensibly historical events that serves to unfold part of the world view of a people or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon
3. an unfounded or false notion


Meritocracy is the idea that a person can achieve a position based on their ability or merit.  In other words, your skills and what you know and what you can do will far outweigh any other advantages that might be on your side.

Unfortunately, this is definitely a myth.  A  myth that is told over and over again like the legendary epic it is.  And that’s just it, it’s definitely nothing more than a legend.  Our society runs on the idea that anyone can make it and crawl out of the muck and make tons of money, find a sexual partner and make a home for ourselves.

Well, not exactly.

Sure, this is true sometimes.  And boy oh boy do we ever get to hear about how the fable sometimes comes to pass.   A cruel joke for most of us who still cling to the idea that hard work, education and skills will literally and figuratively pay off.


It starts early.  School taught us that if we did well and got some good grades, we’d get to go to university.  At university we will receive an education that will allow us to strike out and with our knowledge and skills achieve greatness!  What our school counselors, teachers and parents didn’t ever teach us was how it’s all bullshit.


There are two sides to the coin of success.  Influencing people who are already part of the power structures you wish to be also part of is done mostly through diplomacy.  Winning over hearts is just as important as winning over minds.

The two sides of the coin are:

1. Strong work ethic, being good at stuff and relevant knowledge.  Hard skills.

2. Influencing people, understanding power structures and playing along to whatever game you are inSoft skills

Kids and people today need to be taught or reminded that you will need to develop the ‘art of influencing’ to navigate the complex power structures that humans setup at work, school and life.

Being good at stuff is not enough.  The very fact that so many people are going to university and then returning home to work at low paying jobs that are not in their field of study is proof enough.

Go to any Starbucks and you will find kids who have Master’s degrees and yet no high paying job.

They followed along to the stories word for word and yet they are no closer to achieving their goals of a happy life with lots of money and whatever else they wanted.

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