I recently received a comment from someone in my audience. I haven’t responded to it as of this moment, mainly because I’ve been thinking about one particular thing they said:
“The majority of people stay in the economic class they are born in, and when I see rich people I see people who were lucky in their parents; the majority of wealthy people in our country inherited it.”
This statement seems to be true, and it really got me thinking about the subject of success in general. When I read this, I recalled something that President Obama said when he was campaigning for reelection in 2012:
“If you’ve been successful, you didn’t get that on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, Well, it must be because I’m just so smart. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else… There are a whole bunch of hard-working people out there. If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help… If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.”
It’s an infamous quote that the right wing loved to take out of context, because that’s just what they do. I agree with this quote and it relates to why I’m a staunch liberal. I believe, and probably have my entire life, that everything you have in life, including life itself, came to you because someone helped you get it. No matter how highly you think of yourself, every single penny you have ever had only came to you because someone down the line helped you get it. And this is what I’d like to spend the article elaborating on.
Think about the comment one of my readers gave me, and think about the quote from Obama as you keep reading…
I’m sure you’ve all heard of the famous book To Kill A Mockingbird. The author, Harper Lee, worked as a reservations clerk at an airline in New York. She quit this job just to write this book. Normally, that would be a colossally stupid idea. Even she didn’t think the book would sell very many copies. But, you know what gave Harper Lee the ability to write this book? Her friends. Her friends collected their money and gave it to Lee as a Christmas gift in 1956, so that she could spend a whole year doing nothing but writing this book.
The richest man alive, Jeff Bezos (pictured above), who is now worth $140 billion, started Amazon.com thanks to his parents providing him with $300,000. Now, I don’t know about you, but I highly doubt the average person has parents who can just hand them a quarter-million dollars freely, or even would if they could. I think it’s safe to say Jeff Bezos was at least some kind of wealthy before he started Amazon.
I’ve looked into the early lives of many wealthy people, and they all read the same. They had a lot of money, and then they had a lot more money. The only example of a truly rags-to-riches story is that of JK Rowling, who wrote Harry Potter. But all she did was write a book series that happened to be highly successful. I’m sure we can all agree that that was more luck than hard work, or genius, or anything else. She wrote the first book at great personal risk, too. She quit her teaching job and lived off welfare, while being a single parent to a toddler, just to write the first book, which was rejected by publishers dozens of times. Again, very lucky that things worked out well.
Everybody is willing to help their neighbor survive, but it takes a certain kind of faith and support to help someone be able to thrive. It almost always requires risk, especially if you can’t start off with much.
It just seems to be the truth that 99.99% of the time, wealthy people come from wealthy people, or from someone who gambled everything and just got very, very lucky. This is particular true in the US, where there is the largest gap between the upper class and the other classes. In the US, it is much easier to rise from poverty to middle class than it is to rise from middle class to upper class.
Still, ultimately, when you simplify the facts about success, it comes down to who you have helping you. No matter who you are, you are only as successful as the people you are surrounded by.
Think of movies. Think of Avatar, the most successful movie of all time, as one example. That movie is utterly beautiful, and most people just watched it for the spectacle. When people think of Avatar, they think of James Cameron. But did James Cameron play every character? Did he personally render all of the special effects? Did he make all the animal and vehicle sounds in the movie? Of course not. James Cameron may have written and directed Avatar, but he himself is not the entire movie. He only guided the hundreds of people who worked on it, but at the end of the day, that movie is the creation of hundreds of people working together.
If you have everything you want, thank the people who helped you. If you are not successful, examine your own actions and examine the people you’re surrounded by. If you are not successful, either change yourself or leave the people slowing you down. Usually, you must do both.
I’m primarily talking about money in this article, but I’m also talking about success in general. Whether it’s with personal projects, or if you’re starting a business, you will not be successful without help. If you become successful, you owe gratitude to those who helped you.
That being said, if you’d like to help this blog and my own projects, become my patron at patreon.com/ThinkingMichael. I will be forever grateful for any support.