skip to Main Content

Beware the subjective imperative

I define a “subjective imperative” as any insight or technique which worked effectively for someone and is then packaged and presented as if it were a universally applicable axiom of success that everyone else MUST obey if they also wish to be successful.

In other words, “subjective imperative” is a fancy way of saying “because it worked for so and so, this is what you must do if you want to be happy, spiritual, rich, successful, or whatever.”

I recently watched a youtube video by a successful entrepreneur. Some of the viewers expressed confusion as to whether or not the advice offered could work for them. As a response to those concerns, one commenter wrote the following;

“people want successful people to give them a formula….like A-B-C and there ya go. ain’t happening, never has. The greats jumped in and followed their inner guidance….no one makes it this big purely by mentally following a system (even if they think they did)….we are multi-dimensional beings and find our own unique ways, by mind, gut and heart. Listen to him, listen to what resonates, move on and live your life.”

We can all learn something about happiness and success from each other, but ultimately everyone has to perform the task of translating information into terms that make sense to them and transforming advice into tools that work for them.

We live at a time when there are more voices than ever before, pontificating on what it takes to make it in life. As an avid learner, I love the options for self-education that are created by such an environment. However, an abundance of information makes it all the more necessary for each person to stay attuned to their own internal navigation.

Most successful people started off doing something that was so unprecedented, that there was no roadmap for them to follow.

Oprah didn’t get her business ideas from the Oprah show, “O” magazine, or the Oprah Network, because those roadmaps didn’t exist until she created them. Michael Jordan didn’t have a Michael Jordan to copy because his roadmap didn’t exist until he created it. Suze Orman didn’t call in to the Suze Orman show to find out how to become financially independent, because her roadmap didn’t exist until she created it. Bill Gates didn’t have a copy of “How I started IBM” lying around in his garage, because that roadmap didn’t exist until he created it.

Buddha wasn’t able to turn on the television set and listen to spiritual teachers illuminate the noble eightfold path, because that roadmap didn’t exist until he unearthed it from his own soul. Rosa Parks didn’t have a roadmap either. She just had a passion that compelled her to do something that no one had ever done before and it changed an entire nation. Grandma Moses, one of the most recognized figures in folk art, had a roadmap, but when arthritis rendered her physically unable to continue in her embroidery profession, she had to throw that roadmap out, reinvent herself, and create a new path.

Like most successful creators, these individuals were all people who followed their emotional guidance, improvised as they went along, adapted to surprises that popped up along the way, bounced back from failures, kept the faith, and stayed the course until they realized their dreams or fulfilled their callings.

Never let someone else’s path become a philosophy of life that you aren’t free to deviate from. No matter how much respect you have for a great achiever, remember that their greatness was the product of self-authenticity and nothing else.

In your pursuit and practice of “the good life”, learn from anyone who’s talking, but never let it drown out the sound of your inner voice.


T.K Coleman

This Post Has 6 Comments
  1. “followed their inner guidance”

    the more I listen and follow inner guidance – what I call my inner Goddess – the more awesome my life gets and the more wonderful interactions w/ lovely women I have – life is beautiful when we follow our inner wisdom <3

    1. “life is beautiful when we follow our inner wisdom”

      Aint that the truth? Right on, Kate. This has been my experience as well. It’s always good to hear from a fellow soul that’s enjoying the benefits of its own inner guidance. Thanks so much for sharing.



    1. Hi Ron,

      Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to offer your feedback.

      I’m on the same page as you and I totally get what you’re saying.

      It’s funny because in all honesty, I wasn’t thinking of wealth as the main factor when I listed those examples. I was actually thinking about how they all demonstrated creativity and faith in the pursuit of their convictions. For example, Michael Jordan’s historical success as an athlete, for me, has little to do with his subsequent wealth and much more to do with his life long buddha-like commitment to exploring, embracing, and expressing the truth of his own being.

      I believe that success is the state in which an individual, or group of individuals, commit to the recognition, development, and expression of their Authentic Self.

      As I wrote in the post, “No matter how much respect you have for a great achiever, remember that their greatness was the product of self-authenticity and nothing else.”

      You are 100% correct to include Buddha as an example of someone who is successful and who didn’t have a roadmap either. Furthermore, unlike the examples we are discussing, there is also more to success than having a recognizable name or a famous story. One of the most successful guys I know is a cook at Applebees in West Michigan. He will probably never be as famous as Buddha or Oprah, but he’s a greater inspiration to me than the both of them.

      Nevertheless, it does happen to be the case that all my examples happen to be wealthy people. That little fact could be misleading and it could imply that success equates with money which is not an ideology I endorse.

      Thanks to you, I’ve updated the post to also include a few non-wealthy examples too.

      I guess feedback really does make everything better. At least when it’s as intelligently and respectfully communicated as yours. Thanks again, Ron.



  2. This is my favorite post so far. I am mentoring a young man, Arsenio. And i am always suggesting he reads about how others, before him, accomplished great things. Not for the blueprint, but to come to realize all the greats had the same amount of time in the day as we do and to read their stories, is to deepen our innovation! Beautiful!!

    1. Hi Tara,

      Thanks for sharing that with me. Please tell Arsenio that I think you’re 100% correct. One of my favorite quotes comes from Peter Daniels “In the course of your lifetime, read 1,000 biographies because in doing so, you will build a vast vocabulary of overcoming incredible odds.” I love studying the lives of others too, for the same reasons you stated.



Leave a Reply

Back To Top