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John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, John Pierpont Morgan, and Cornelius Vanderbilt. Five different men who all share one characteristic: They all worked their asses off to build their empires (hell, JDR was operating a failing business at one point, but he worked hard enough to become the richest man in America). These men truly lived the American dream — a dream that is currently dying right before our eyes. Why is that? Because the general population now believes that those who are successful got that way because they were given everything on a silver platter, that working hard was not part of their success. It’s time we address this nonsensical notion as a country.
Everyone needs to sit down and quit complaining. One of the worst things you can do is a human being is make excuses for why you can’t be successful. Blaming some factor that is out of your control for keeping you down is utter and complete bullshit. If you say, “Well I can’t do X because of Y!” then what you’re really saying is: “I don’t have the work ethic to obtain X!” You are where you are because of the choices you made.
There is this common misconception that all members of fraternities and sororities are given everything they want in life, that we’re all spoiled rotten and selfish. The simple truth is that the majority of us most definitely don’t have everything handed to us. We have to work for ours, just like everyone else. I know for a fact that my family did, and I’m sure most of your families did as well. I watched my dad go to work from six in the morning until eight at night to provide for my mom, sister, and I. Was he just handed his upper management job? Tell him that he didn’t earn that position by working his ass off for fifteen years, and he’ll politely tell you that you’re a liar.
Listen, we all have shortcomings — some more than others — but that doesn’t mean that you, as an individual, can’t work hard to dig yourself out of whatever holes you’ve fallen into and overcome the obstacles of society and nature. I’ve seen it myself with some of my friends that hail from surrounding areas of poverty. They could have packed it in as a child and said they were just a product of their environment. Instead, they worked hard in school, got good jobs, and worked their way up from there. I’m talking about doctors, lawyers, and successful businessmen. There are thousands upon thousands of examples in this country of people pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. It is possible. Sure, there is a small percentage of people that do have everything handed to them and don’t have to work a day in their lives. Does that mean they are truly successful? I don’t think so — they are riding on the coattails of those that came before them.
In fact, the Harvard Business Review shows that most of family business decline in value as they go through generations.
According to the Family Business Institute, only 30% of these organizations last into a second generation, 12% remain viable into a third, and 3% operate into the fourth generation or beyond. Even those that do continue often see their value decline significantly when power changes hands at the top.
I’m not saying I’m perfect, either. I have my own flaws. I was born with two toes and two fingers, and at the young age of one, doctors took my big toes and made them into thumbs. It’s a goddamn miracle I can grip things. I was told I’d be lucky if I could run at all, much less do anything of importance in life. I could have easily given up and said, “Well, someone told me I can’t do something, so I guess they’re right.” That’s not how I am, though. I am here to prove people wrong, and that’s the attitude every underdog should have. I worked my tail off throughout my life to get to where I am today. Did I make the pros in baseball like I dreamed of as a child? No, but I can say that I played at a high level until I turned 23, which is more than I can say about a lot of people I know.
The message here is that life isn’t easy for, I’d bet, 99.9% of America. The only thing you’re guaranteed in life is a breath and a chance to make something of yourself. That’s what’s so great about this country. Even at a disadvantage, you can become successful. Stop blaming factors out of your control for your failures, when the only person you should be blaming is yourself. As one of my football coaches used to say: “If you think you can, you can; if you think you can’t, you’re right.”.