This post is gonna get kind of ranty. Consider yourselves warned.
When you look at an iceberg, you’re seeing only a small portion of the whole iceberg above the water. In fact, it’s estimated that as much as 80-90% of an iceberg is below the surface of the water. You never see 80-90% of the iceberg. Success is much the same. When you look at someone who has achieved it, you’re only seeing a small portion of what’s behind it. You don’t see humble beginnings, taking chances and failing, bankruptcies, or wrong choices. So it’s easy to attribute someone’s success to “luck” or some other ridiculous excuse as to why they’re there and you’re not.
Luck happens when opportunity meets preparedness. Success is found traveling a narrow, difficult, and rarely traversed road. For this reason alone, not many people achieve true success. In the Declaration of Independence, we are guaranteed the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. What we are NOT guaranteed is happiness itself. If you choose to pursue it, you have the opportunity and the freedom to do so. But it does NOT mean that you’ll necessarily find it. I think a lot of people today feel like they have a right to happiness. But if it were handed to you without having to work for it, you would neither appreciate it nor place appropriate value on it. That’s why success and happiness must be worked for.
We look at others who are deemed successful – people like Bill Gates, Anne Mulcahy (former CEO of Xerox), Warren Buffet, Vera Wang, and others, and see what we consider finished products, people who’ve amassed incredible wealth and success in their careers. What we so often do not see are the years and years of learning, hardship, trial and error, and failure, which got these people to where they’re at. And what many so often sadly do is judge, and even resent, the success these people have achieved simply because they’ve achieved it, saying things like “They ought to be giving more to charity” or “It’s just wrong for someone to make that much money”.
Give me a freakin’ break. Take off your robe and put down your gavel and take a look in the mirror instead.
The only reason you say that is because it’s not YOU. If YOU were in that position of success, you would applaud the success of others instead of resenting it. The people who wag their fingers in the face of successful people and tell them how ‘selfish’ they are, how they aren’t ‘doing their part’ to give back to society, or that it’s a sin for someone to have so much, are probably not doing a whole lot themselves. The reason I say this is that every successful person I’ve ever met in my life knows how hard it is to work toward and reach goals, and they respect those who’ve set and achieved goals and found personal success. They don’t sit around coveting what others have or declaring that it’s not deserved; they go out and get it for themselves.
I’ll get really transparent here. The fact of the matter is that I’ve been at the low end of the totem pole. I’ve been in situations where I literally had $6 to my name, and that had to last me through the end of the month and had to put gas in my car to get to work and food on my plate. I’ve been in the situation where I racked up a large amount of credit card debt from making poor choices. I had academic scholarships to pay for my college tuition, but I had to work a full-time job all through school to pay for room and board because my mother had no income for the entire first year I was in school due to a serious work injury and Worker’s Comp’s refusal to handle the situation (another topic for another time). I’ve had to work two jobs, 16 hours a day, 6 days a week to save enough to move out on my own. I’ve had to couch-surf at my brother’s place because I couldn’t afford to rent my own apartment for two months after I moved to Cincinnati. And I am grateful for every single one of these difficult situations in my life because it made me appreciate reaching my goals that much more. I rose above my situations and found my own success. I’m not done yet, but I’m pretty damned proud of where I’ve gotten to today.
As a result, I am someone who believes that achievement, not entitlement, should be rewarded. This ‘Robin Hood’ mentality that so many have today I think is misguided. People who have taken steps to better their lifestyle and are currently in a place where they are seeing the fruits of their labor should not be penalized (like being taxed a third of their income) for doing so. None of us is guaranteed happiness. We’re guaranteed the right to pursue it. Some choose to pursue it, others don’t. And those who choose to pursue it are all at different points in their pursuit. Some are at the beginning and still struggling, but they have hope. Others have achieved some goals and should be allowed to enjoy what they’ve accomplished. I dislike when people take a look at, and then choose to criticize, an end product and don’t ever take into consideration the time and heartache that went into achieving that success. We all have to start somewhere.
The quote at the bottom of my email signature says ‘Remember where you came from, and always reach back.’ I have the honor and privilege of giving back from my own abundance to some wonderful causes that encourage and uplift people to help them get through tough times and achieve success again in their lives. I am inspired by people who struggle, and fail, but who get back up and make things work. I’ve worked very hard to get where I am and I will not apologize for what I have, nor will I be made to feel guilty for it either.
In my honest opinion, those who complain about how unfair it is for some people to achieve and be rewarded for that achievement while others struggle don’t have any aspirations of getting any further than where they are today and are just looking for someone to blame for their lack of drive. You cannot look at another’s success and judge them based only on what you see. Behind that success inevitably is a story of struggle, and a person who appreciates the hard work it took to get where they’re at, as well as a person who generally wants to assist others in finding similar success.
If you’re currently in that place where you’re struggling – keep moving forward. You’re going to fail sometimes, but you must get back up and continue. When you achieve your goals, the reward we be that much sweeter. And look to those who’ve achieved success not with resentment or jealousy, but as a source of inspiration. After all, they were once where you are.