The Inequality of Success

Posted: Sep 17, 2013 9:36 AM
The Inequality of Success

One of the founding principles of our great republic is stated in the first line, second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal…” The idea of equality governs our interactions and expectations.

The simple truth of the matter is that all men (or women) are not created equal.

Because we are not all equivalent, there are certain facts that are unavoidable.

1) Some people are born with innate talents.

2) Some people are smarter than other.

3) Some people are born with more opportunities.

4) Some people have a greater drive to succeed.

However, we as humans living in America can overcome one of these inequities and not let the others limit ourselves.

Innate talents can be anything from artistic gifts to athletic prowess. Mozart was born with a gift for music. However, Mozart’s father pushed and pushed Mozart to practice and perform against his will. Despite his resistance and the eventual estrangement from his father, Mozart’s gift was honed and the joy of realizing the full potential of his talent gave us one of the most exalted composers in history. Mozart, and all others with inherent abilities, had to be pushed to become great--sometimes from within, and sometimes externally. Intrinsic aptitude can only get you so far, but it cannot guarantee success.

We cannot control what talents we have, only that we must recognize and nurture them in others and ourselves. We all have something we can do well, but we were not all meant to be great athletes, artists, or inventors. But developing our own particular talents to their maximum, we can find success and happiness even without fame and fortune.

The second inequality is intelligence. Some folks think that brainpower is the key to success. I know plenty of brilliant poor people and dumb rich people. Smarts has nothing to do with it. Sure brains give you an edge, but it is not the X factor of success. Dr. Ben Carson, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates and Elon Musk are not prodigies. Albert Einstein was a genius, but you do not need to discover the secrets of the universe to make a better life for yourself.

What is more important is the willingness to learn and continue to seek knowledge. You can have a room temperature IQ and learn how to start a business, provide a service, or create art.

We have all met people that were born on third and think they hit a triple, the old “silver spoon” syndrome. The wealth of their family gives them opportunities most can only dream of. Regardless of brains or talents, their chances of success are greater than most simply due to their greater access to resources.

However, silver spoons do not mean happiness and prosperity is assured. They must take the initiative to use those resources to become their own success. Too much time is wasted envying and vilifying such persons. They had no control over being born into such a life. To fritter away time resenting them is like hating a tiger because it was born with stripes.

The final inequality is the drive to succeed. The fact of the matter is that it is the only inequality everyone can change. The talented flop without motivation, geniuses fail without inspiration, and the scions flounder without ambition. The willingness to takes risks is paramount to success. Sometime you will fail, but failure is how we learn to triumph. The only sure way to lose is to do nothing.

By human nature we are generally lazy beings. We even work hard inventing things that make life easier—microwaves, cars, remote controls, etc. When the government or others offer free cash and goods for existing, it is hard to say no. Sure you may resent the giver or yourself, but you still take the freebies.

But you need to say no. Handouts take away drive and creativity. They act as shackles from success. You will never satiate your hate and jealousy by taking bribes.

What you can do is change your attitude. You do not have to be especially gifted, smart, or born into wealth; but you do need to be willing to fail, learn from your mistakes, and make sacrifices in order to achieve. You cannot make all A’s without studying, you cannot play Carnegie Hall without practice, you can not be Serena Williams at age 32 if you don't elevate your Tennis game,and you cannot hit a home run if you live in fear of striking out.

It all starts with 1 hour a day--one hour that you set aside to make a better you and push toward success. First, define your idea of success and what changes in yourself need to be made to get there, and then use that hour to work on the skills and knowledge necessary to get there. Even with a 9 to 5 job, or two jobs, or kids, you can find an hour. You may have to sacrifice sleep or socializing, but in the end you will gain a skill that finally gives you a path to the success you seek.

The world is not fair, but you cannot let that stop you. We are not all equal, but instead of decrying that inequality, we must embrace that it is what makes us special. We cannot change the talents, intellect, or circumstances of our births but we can work to overcome sloth. The only thing you have to lose is failure.