Debunking the myth of “self-made”

Myers Barnes self-made new home salesI admit that I get irritated when I see careless ideas communicated. “Free gift” shows up almost daily. I don’t know about you, but I believe a gift, by its very nature, is free. And then there are more dangerous language misuses that cause people to believe that good fortune is created in a vacuum and just suddenly happens. So, let me clear up some confusion by debunking the myths of “self-made”.

You don’t do it alone.

You hear about the self-made millionaires. Do you really believe they achieved financial wealth with no help whatsoever? Did no one help them along the way? 

Look more closely at Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Oprah Winfrey, and Mark Cuban. As a child, Buffett sold chewing gum and soda bottles. At the age of 12, Cuban sold garbage bags in order to raise enough money to buy basketball shoes. Today, he owns an NBA team.

Were they “self-made”? No. They were highly motivated from a young age and didn’t let obstacles push them back. But they also had the wisdom to know that they needed to bring in others, to build a support network of people who not only brought their unique skills and resources to the connection, but shared the same core values.

When you lead a team and your outcomes earn you a promotion, did you do it yourself? Did the members of your team contribute to the win? Of course, they did. Don’t forget that. You are not a leader if you do not have people who will follow. You do not have people who will follow you if they don’t believe in you. 

The successful people have had family members, teachers, mentors, friends, and colleagues who each played a part in the achievement. You get help from another student and pass a test that you thought you’d fail. A teacher recognizes your effort and gives you encouragement to get involved. You join a club that shares your passion. Your group goes out and helps people in the community. You don’t know it, but one of those people you helped uses your gift of kindness to change the path of his life. It might seem small, but each effort builds you up. 

Your life is like a pyramid. The stronger and broader your base, the higher you go.

How do you get to the top of that pyramid? You don’t just keep leaping up, over and over, with hopes you’ll eventually jump high enough to grab the top. Instead, realizing you can’t do it alone,you get others to hoist you higher and higher.

Reaching up and reaching back

Once you reach that pinnacle, you reach back and offer a hand to those who helped you. I’m not talking about a handout. Share the wealth in a more lasting way. “Give a man fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Give back. The billionaires I mentioned do it. They are generous philanthropists of money, time, and knowledge. They recognize the worth of all the help they received along the way—the many people who gave them a hand when they needed it—and they’re paying it back.

Who are the people in your network who contribute to your success, even in a small way? And are you continually building your team? Are you strengthening their skills while also bringing in new team members?

Leadership stems from success—and vice versa. Nurture the next leaders in your organization. Pull them up that pyramid. There’s always room at the top.


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