People like to talk about being “self-made,” and not owing their success to anyone but themselves.
I have come to believe there is no such thing as a totally “self-made person.” This idea that any of us succeed on our own is to my mind a bizarre and toxic artifact of hyper-individualistic societies such as we have in my country, the USA.
When I lived in Japan, I was impressed and humbled by the extent to which people were always thanking and giving credit to everyone who had helped them at various stages of life.
It took me a long time to realize how much I owe other people for everything good in my life. Ancestors, family, teachers, bosses, co-workers, friends, neighbors …
I can’t think of anything I’ve achieved in a bubble, “totally by myself” without anyone else’s help or beneficial influence — and that is OK with me!
This is not to understate or devalue the achievements of people who have overcome great adversity to get where they are.
But, the people around us are a huge factor in who we are and who we become.
In his fascinating bestseller Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell shows how the time and place in which we are born can be a far more powerful factor in our success, than any amount of personal talent or even diligent practice.
Gladwell’s list of the 70 richest people throughout history, which appears at the beginning of the book, was fascinating. (Cleopatra’s wealth dwarfed Rockefeller’s, among many other interesting finds.)
Out of the 70 people, 14 of them — 20 percent! — were born in the United States in a single decade in the early 1900s. Also, a disproportionate percentage of Silicon Valley moguls were born and grew up in a small geographic radius and unique social climate that featured opportunities most people never see.