Regaining American Exceptionalism — Part I: Successful Victims

This is the first column in what will be a two-part series, taken from the book, “Hope is Not a Strategy:  Leadership Lessons from the Obama Presidency,” which I co-authored with John Mariotti, another contributor to The Brenner Brief.  The book was an Amazon best-seller.

D.M. Lukas is an author, entrepreneur and contributor to The Brenner Brief.

D.M. Lukas is an author, entrepreneur and contributor to The Brenner Brief.

It is sad, but the persevering, winning attitude that has made Americans what we are is on the decline in our society.  The earlier generations of Americans from the Revolutionary War to the Civil War times to WWII Era Americans had a sense of pride, a sense of winning — at all costs.  That may be why, especially in the case of the latter, that they have been called the “Greatest Generation.” It may be no coincidence that as that generation has begun to fade from our society, the sense of winning and pride has faded as well.

What has replaced it and is becoming more prevalent is a sense of entitlement, mediocrity and an extreme fear of failure.  This is evidenced by the fact that, more and more, we see instances of not awarding grades in school, not keeping score in athletic contests, celebrating finishing fourth and lower, and not even deciding winners (and losers) at all.

While this may say sound like a clever way to help boost self-esteem, many times boosting self-esteem has been used as the excuse for the rewarding of mediocrity. It may, in fact, be contributing to and conditioning us to strive for lower standards, mediocre results and finding still more excuses for why people cannot — or more importantly, will not — work to reach their true potential.

In many ways, excuses have replaced the spirit in the American people.

Too often these days, it is easier to get what you want (or at least feel like it emotionally) by becoming a victim rather than taking the risks and leaving your comfort-zone to actually achieve more and strive for something better.

Failure is rejected in our society.  Instead it should be embraced and recognized as a rite of passage to a higher-level of achievement.  The worst part of this is that low achievement really is becoming the new norm for many in American society.

It has become socially acceptable to “play the role” of the victim.

Notice that I said, “play the role.”  I did not say that people are victims, because 99 percent of the time they are not.  They have a lot of control over their situation, but are unwilling to do what they know must be done — the extra work and sacrifice. As stated previously, it is now easier and has become socially acceptable to just “play the role” of the victim.  So what are the clues that someone is “playing the role” of the victim?

In his book, Secrets of the Millionaire Mind, T. Harv Eker narrowed them to down to three:

  1. Justifying: People will rationalize and justify their situation or why they are not where they want to be any way they can.
  2. Blame: People will blame everyone and everything, except themselves, for why they are where they are.
  3. Complaining: They complain and focus on the negativity in their lives and that is what they get from it — negative results.

Perhaps it is not coincidental that we see all three of these exhibited by the leaders of our country, thus making them seem to be “ok.”  They are not “ok!”

But, the funny thing is that if you asked someone to name a “successful victim,” they most likely would have no answer.  Yet, many people, some in high places, believe they can become successful through playing the victim role!

The psychology of Americans using excuses as a way to shirk responsibilities is growing in our society.  Consider the commonly heard phrases (excuses): “You can’t fight the tide,” “It is what it is,” “We will just have to deal with it,” and the granddaddy of them all, “Don’t blame me, it’s not my fault.”

Well, there is still a group of Americans out here that believe we can change this mentality and it starts with one person at a time, beginning with you — and me.  We can influence our destiny, and we do, every day, by our actions and inactions, or decisions and indecision.

So, how do you change — more importantly, help others to change — so that we can bring back the American characteristics that made us exceptional?   We will cover this in part two tomorrow.


  1. […] This is part two in the series taken from the book, “Hope is Not a Strategy:  Leadership Lessons from the Obama Presidency.” Read Part I from yesterday regarding “successful victims.” […]

  2. […] Regaining American Exceptionalism – Part I: Successful Victims ( […]

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