Upward Mobility

I think I’m back into the groove of writing. So, after this post, things should … should … resume as I had planned months ago. We’ll see.

Upward mobility. A large percentage of United States citizens believe it’s a myth. To be honest, I am one of those people. I’m not a socialist who believes the solution to this problem is taking money from the rich and redistributing it; in fact, I think that idea is idiotic. I’m also not someone who is oblivious to the flaws of capitalism. No system, especially when enacted by humans, is perfect, but capitalism is the best system we’ve come up with so far, by far. In America, upward mobility is only possible when someone has the right people willing to take a chance with them. Charity is always given away no problem in this country, but when it comes to investing in people … yeah, only if you’re pretty much already rich, or (at the very least) you started off with adequate means.

Outlets claim that Jeff Bezos came from humble beginnings, and I suppose to an extent that’s true, but there’s a tiny little issue with his story. His parents gave him $300,000 (over a half-million dollars in today’s money) to start Amazon. Bezos claims this money was the majority of his parents’ life savings, and maybe that’s true, but even then, the fact remains that 1), most people still can’t save that kind of money in their lifetime for a number of reasons, and 2), even if they could, they wouldn’t risk it on anything. Bezos told early Amazon investors that the company had a 70% chance of failure. I think he even said this to his parents. So, let’s be realistic here: Bezos only got to where he is because he was lucky enough to have people who had the money he needed, and additionally lucky enough that they were willing to risk it on something he said was most likely going to fail.

That’s not the result of hard work, that’s luck. Sure, hard work came after luck cleared the path for him, but hard work did not grant him that first stepping stone. That was entirely luck. Now, to all the conservatives out there (because it’s always conservatives) who say that hard work can get you anywhere you want to go, just for once, I really want you to examine all the examples you give of when that pays off completely. Ask yourselves how often luck had nothing to do with it.

Speaking from personal experience, there are things undoubtedly weighing me down right now. Granted, these are things that wouldn’t weigh me down if I had taken every single step correctly along the way, but human beings rarely ever get every single thing correct in the first try. Do I make enough money to save up enough to invest in my own business? No. Maybe if I had the luxury of living with my parents and living rent-free … but I don’t. Not to mention, Californians keep infesting my state, making rent continue to skyrocket. I feel lucky just to be able to afford my own place. Maybe if I returned to being a welder, where I’m breathing vaporized metal every day of the week, and I’m at constant risk of death by falling objects, or falling from heights, or getting my eyes damaged every single day from arc flashes I (literally) don’t see coming. And even if I wanted to return to that job, my time with my daughter would be greatly reduced, and she’d have that work-obsessed father who’s never around.

I did get lucky in some ways. I was born very healthy, with no allergies, no mental illnesses (that I’m aware of), no disfigurements, no deficiencies… But what if I didn’t have luck in those ways? I know one way I was born unlucky was the parents I had – one of which never cared about his kids in the first place, and the other eventually decided she didn’t care anymore.

So yeah, upward mobility is possible through hard work alone if ALL your beginning circumstances are stable at the very least. But guess what? Most people don’t have that kind of luck, either. Yes, playing the lottery is basically throwing your money away, but I can understand why people do it. Most people don’t have luck to clear the path to success for them, and so they just hope they’ll get lucky in other ways.

Currently, I’m trying an experiment to see if upward mobility is possible for someone like me who doesn’t have the time or resources to do so. Something new has been added to the weights holding me back, and that is, in short, a massive consequence of marrying the wrong person, who I will be partially enslaved to, financially, for the next 16.5 years, just like she wanted. During my divorce trial (this is relevant), the judge openly showed a lack of desire to let my ex win anything, knowing full well my ex played a dirty game and was only after as much as she could get (she couldn’t demand alimony because we hadn’t been married long enough), but even then, the system forced the judge to give my ex some victory… Which brings up yet another thing that can inhibit people from gaining upward mobility: unfair laws. Ask anyone who’s gone to prison for smoking marijuana…

Unfair laws. I could go on and on about that…

People rarely know exactly what needs to be done to be successful the first time around, or any time around. People rarely have all the luck they need – physically, circumstantially, or legally – to be successful, even if they knew exactly what to do. Success is rarely easy, but sometimes, it’s not always even possible. Many people can’t afford to be the least distracted from simply surviving paycheck-to-paycheck.

Regardless of your circumstances, there’s one thing that always need to be in place to make upward mobility possible, whether in a fair capitalistic or a rigged capitalistic system like we have in America. That is: Having the right people around you. If you have the right people around you, who are willing to take a major risk with you, don’t overvalue their generosity. If you have the wrong people around you, get away.

1 Comment

  1. Good thoughts. The point you make about luck is something I cannot deny. At the same time, I keep asking myself, whether I should wait for that luck to come to my life as well or put in hard-work irrespective of what happens.


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