Success and the Rise of the “God-Like” Complex

Ask anyone who has reached the pinnacle of their profession as to what they attribute their success to, through professions ranging from sports to science, and what you should hear them say is that they attribute it to the non-stop dedication to getting better at whatever they do. The term “getting better” can be a synonym for practicing, learning, and other requirements to reach the pinnacle of anything. Although there are biological factors as well as birthplace factors, the most common trait amongst high achievers is a non-stop dedication to getting better.  But there will always exist a small group of individuals who look past the “blood, sweat and tears” and ordain themselves as “being chosen”.

As stupid as this “being chosen” idea sounds, it is the result of a “god-like” complex, and having to listen to these people talk about there incredulous achievements can be a doozy. Certain professions are more likely to have individuals promote the “god-like” complex, but the last place I ever expected to come across it was while watching a behind the scenes video about the Nobel Prize in Literature. In this video, Ellen Mattson, a writer and novelist and a member of Swedish Academy and Nobel Committee, makes a claim that nobody would expect to come out of anyone that has anything to do with the Nobel Prize.

One of the questions that is put forward to Mattson has to do with the criteria used to choose a Nobel Prize winner, “But the world is full of very good, excellent writers, and you need something more to be a laureate. It’s very difficult to explain what that is. It’s something you’re born with, I think. The romantics would call it a divine spark. For me, it’s a voice that I hear in the writing that I find within this particular writer’s work and nowhere else. It’s very difficult to explain what it is, but I always know when I find it. It’s something you’re born with. A talent that gives that extra dimension to that particular writer’s work.” Seriously, what on earth would lead anyone at Nobel to think that it made sense to promote this idea that people could be born with “it”? Perhaps a trip on ayahuasca?

Worst of all, the Nobel organization chose to champion this idea across their social platforms, which is how I came across it, but I wonder if any Nobel Prize winners share this sentiment. Mattson’s comments drove me to look over the past recipients of the Nobel Prize in Literature and one of the famous authors that stuck out was Ernest Hemmingway. Having read some of Hemmingway’s books, like “The Old Man and The Sea”, I was reminded that while his stories were quite creative, his writing was awfully wordy even though it was “grammatically correct”, but there was nothing “divine” about it. Quite frankly, after rereading “The Old Man and The Sea”, which I like because of how cool Denzel Washington made it sound in the 2014 film The Equalizer, I was left feeling unimpressed and like I could have done better, which is something I would never say when discussing an author like J.K. Rowling.

A glaring similarity among the majority of recipients of the Nobel Prize in Literature, especially true up until the 2000s, was that these writers came from privileged backgrounds, and that they were lucky enough to have been able to explore the world during a time where the world’s people were entirely disconnected from each others’ cultures and ways of life. These writers did not wake up and become good at writing, rather they spent a “lifetime” at getting better and experimenting with writing styles, and none of it was innate.

Nobody is born for a specific career path, even though they may have dormant abilities that may come by the way of factors including birthplace, biology, and wealth, and do not let anyone tell you otherwise. Better yet, the notion that someone can be born with a “divine spark” is quickly discredited when we look at the realities of life and how nothing is guaranteed, everything is earned, and that only hard work pays off.