8 myths the corporate world sells about success and happiness

Money isn’t everything. Love is all you need. 

These lovely sentiments are things we know in our hearts to be true, and yet nearly every single person in the world spends a good portion of their life at work, trying to break off a piece of that cheddar.

Heck, I’m working right now, and you probably are, too, so don’t let your boss catch you reading this!

Actually, that’s exactly the point. Your boss is part of the system of corporations that controls the waking hours of most people in the world.

So, let’s take a look at eight myths the corporate world sells about success and happiness in order to grease the wheels and keep us all running around like rats in a cage.

Or hamsters. Hamsters are cuter.

1) Money makes you happy.

The argument for this myth is that being broke never made anyone happy.

And having money rarely makes anyone sad.

But the association between money and happiness isn’t as clear-cut as big business would like you to think.

According to the Harvard Business Review, there’s a very weak association between money and job satisfaction, for example, and people who make less money report similar satisfaction rates to people who make a lot more.

There’s also the example of lottery winners who report happiness at winning the lottery but years later are broke or bankrupt. For many, the money puts strain on relationships and adds new pressures to their lives.

But the corporate world doesn’t want you to worry your purty little head about any of that. 

They just want to dangle a carrot in front of you and hope that’s enough to keep you working in the rat race.

2) Power and money mean success.

Popular media and advertising are plastered with images of people who look rich, powerful, and successful.

The formula?

First, you get the promotion, then you get more money, then you get the happiness.

Power is associated with moving up the corporate ladder and having control over decisions and the people under you.

In short, having authoritative control over others means you’re successful.

But can’t success be measured in other ways?

To me, success means completing tasks to the best of my ability. It means having a happy home life and a solid relationship with my partner. It means having time to do the things I love.

The corporate world needs to perpetuate the myth that you need to move up to feel successful. 

You can only be a success if you have people below you who, obviously, aren’t as successful as you.

I don’t know about you, but to me, there’s a whole lot missing in that philosophy of happiness!

3) Nice guys finish last.

Why do we like to say this?

Probably because it’s almost a mantra in the corporate world.

Think about a business that can either lay off hundreds of workers or turn a lower profit for their shareholders than last quarter.

All businesses are encouraged to think only about economic motivations and keep human factors out of their equations.

So, which choice would most businesses make?

If that’s the overarching feeling of the system, then it’s best if we all adopt that value system, too, isn’t it?

Shouldn’t we all stab each other in the back at every opportunity and climb over each other to get to the top?

How else are we going to be happy – by being nice to each other?

Something about this whole idea just doesn’t add up.

4) You have freedom.

We’re all so used to the idea that democracy is of paramount importance in our governments and institutions.

So why is it that nearly all of us work in corporations with essentially fascist structures?

They control where we spend our time, what we wear, and even when we eat and use the toilet.

In his video about work, Ideapod co-founder Justin Brown dives into the ideas of legendary linguist and political commentator Noam Chomsky on work and corporations.

In two separate but related videos, Chomsky explains how the top-down structure of nearly all corporations is fascist, and yet we voluntarily commit huge parts of our lives to living within them.

The big myth that corporations sell is that if you don’t like it, you’re welcome to leave.

However, in Chomsky’s view, that apparent freedom is actually just a choice between working within the system or starving.

Not so pleasant, is it?

So, is there another option, one that Chomsky doesn’t mention? Brown believes there is a real way to get out of the rat race and offers some real, practical advice on how to take the next step.

5) It’s a dog-eat-dog world.

I will admit that when I was younger, I thought the expression was “doggie-dog” world.

I thought it had something to do with Snoop, but what I eventually found out was that this is one of those expressions people use to justify being horrible to each other.

And that makes it one of the corporate world’s favorite myths to use to motivate people.

Essentially, everyone’s out to get each other, so you may as well be cutthroat in your dealings with everyone else in order to produce the best results. 

Don’t worry about making friends or being kid to anyone else because, given the opportunity, they’ll screw you over in a second.

It makes sense that corporations push this mentality because that’s how they behave.

They hire people for as little as possible, replace them with anyone who will do the job for less without hesitation, and reward anyone who climbs up the ladder, even if they step on other people’s backs to do so.

Well, I’ve got news for you nasty corporations – I’ve lived in Bangkok, aka Street Dog Central, and I’ve never seen dogs eat each other. 

They’ll fight and defend their turf, but a pack eats, sleeps, and plays together, and they generally look a lot happier than people working in cubicles do.

6) Competition is paramount.

How many times have you heard people say that competition is essential to a healthy economy?

This White House piece goes so far as to hold up competition as something akin to a fundamental part of the American way of life.

What does this even mean? 

According to economic theory, businesses that have competitors will provide better products and lower prices and become more efficient.

Sounds great, but don’t forget that this is only theory, and in practice, cooperation is a hugely important factor in business as well.

And in fact, the corporate world uses both of these ideas to drive workers.

Now, collaborate to do this team project.

Now compete to get this promotion.

Once again, we’re encouraged to do whatever it takes to get ahead of the competition, even if the competition is a coworker.

The only way you’ll be fulfilled is if you can win that promotion and show you’re better than everyone else.

Hmm, can you see anything wrong with that? 

7) The harder you work, the better everything will be.

This is pretty much the so-called Protestant work ethic in a distorted form.

That work ethic, promoting discipline and diligence in doing good work for the benefit of your family and community, has been hijacked by the corporate world.

While it’s still presented in the same, the real push is to have people work hard for the benefit of their corporation. Hopefully, some personal benefits will also trickle down to the workers, but that’s not the main aim here.

The main aim is to make profits for the corporation, and people who work hard and make personal sacrifices for the good of the company are held up as heroes and Employees of the Month.

But are they happier?

I was Employee of the Month once, and I got my name on a plaque.

True bliss.

8) There’s only one system.

When everyone believes that there’s only one system to work in, no one is going to be thinking about trying to find a way out or an alternative.

That’s what the corporate world wants you to think – that this is just how things are.

You get an education so you can get a job, so you can work for a business, and that’s that.

So you’d better just do your best within those boundaries.

But what about starting your own business, freelancing, working from home, barter, intentional communities, cooperatives, and all the other lesser-known options out there?

They’d rather you didn’t look into those, thanks.

As Justin Brown points out in his video, no one tells you how controlled the corporate system is when you first start working.

So if you’re thinking of getting out, try this advice from the great writer Tom Robbins: Call up your boss and say, “Listen, I’ve been sick ever since I started working here, but today I’m well, and I won’t be in anymore.”

Marcel Deer

Marcel Deer

Marcel is a journalist, gamer, and entrepreneur. When not obsessing over his man cave or the latest tech, he’s failing helplessly at training his obnoxious rescue dog ‘Boogies’.

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