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Rethinking success: beyond the ‘self-made’ story

People TSACare
People TSACare

The allure of the ‘self-made’ success story captivates many. It’s often portrayed as an individual’s journey from leaving a 9 to 5 job that paid little and they hated to finding something they love and now earning more than ever before. It’s a celebration of the individual, of how hard work and perseverance pay off. And while hard work is essential, it rarely pays off in isolation. There’s always a bigger picture to every success story.


The power of right place, right time 

Do you need skills to succeed? Absolutely. Continuously honing them is crucial. Yet, having the opportunity to use your specific skills and interests often arises from being in the right place at the right time. Joining a company poised for growth or being part of a sector experiencing a surge in demand can dramatically influence your success path. 

Malcolm Gladwell, in discussing his book Outliers, highlights a fascinating pattern among some of Silicon Valley’s most influential figures, noting how their birth year positioned them perfectly for the personal computer revolution.  A coincidence underlining the significant impact of timing in achieving success.

The role of support networks

Behind every successful individual is a network of family, friends, mentors, leaders, and colleagues. This support system not only offers emotional encouragement but also provides the essential resources and opportunities for advancement. Whether it’s through educational investments from parents, business connections shared by friends, or the guidance received from mentors, each element plays a critical role in navigating the path to success. 

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, exemplifies the power of such networks. As detailed by Henry Blodget in New York Magazine, Zuckerberg became skilled in seeking guidance, surrounding himself with a “who’s who of advisers”, including Steve Jobs, Marc Andreessen, Don Graham, Reid Hoffman, Jim Breyer, and Peter Thiel. These advisers were instrumental in offering insights and advice that significantly influenced Zuckerberg’s decisions and direction. Described by one Silicon Valley veteran as “a sponge,” Zuckerberg’s inquisitiveness and willingness to ask, “What do you think about this? What do you know about that? Who’s good at that?” showcases the strength of embracing a broad support network. 

Zuckerberg’s method vividly demonstrates how essential a diverse advisory group is in shaping one’s success and serves as a powerful reminder that success is not solely the result of individual effort. Instead, it’s significantly enhanced by the collective insights, guidance, and encouragement from a wide-ranging group of people who can support you in achieving your goals.

Leveraging workplace opportunities 

The workplace offers abundant opportunities that can significantly impact our professional trajectory. Active participation in training programs, volunteering for new projects, and embracing networking opportunities within and outside the organisation are key strategies for growth. Each of these actions opens doors to new skills, knowledge, and connections, debunking the myth of individualism by highlighting how organisational resources and support play a critical role in personal achievements.

Watch & share on LinkedIn > Leadership Lounge with Blaine

Acknowledge socioeconomic factors 

Socioeconomic status undeniably shapes our opportunities and paths in life. Quality education, financial stability, and robust social networks are not equally accessible to everyone. Individuals from more privileged backgrounds, like Kim Kardashian, often have a head start in seizing opportunities and navigating their way to success. However, recognising the influence of socioeconomic factors doesn’t detract from the value of individual efforts. 

While these disparities present challenges, understanding and addressing them is crucial for devising effective strategies to overcome barriers. Taking advantage of available resources, such as scholarships, community programs, or workplace initiatives, can help even the playing field.

There’s No Lone Genius

Innovation and success are rarely the feats of lone individuals. Behind the scenes, there are teams, collaborations, and communities that contribute to what eventually becomes a ‘breakthrough’ or a ‘masterpiece’. From the engineers and designers behind the latest tech gadgets to the writers and editors shaping a best-selling novel, success is a collective effort. 

So, if you’re feeling like you’re yet to ‘make it’ or that the journey to success is feeling broken, don’t stress. Success is far more complex than the simplistic narrative of the ‘self-made’ individual. It’s a combination of hard work, timing, support networks, workplace opportunities, and a whole lot more. Acknowledge this and be empowered to adopt a more holistic approach. You don’t need to do this on your own.  Ask for help, put your hand up to take part, and get some great people around you. Together, we lift each other up.



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