19 August 2016

Success and Circumstances

Is the gap between circumstances & success wider for the one from a disadvantaged family? Is the jump higher & stronger, if as a child you grew up in a less fortunate family? 

There are, I believe, three kinds of situations.The first is when I belong to an eminent family & have gone beyond their name & fame & scaled greater heights than them professionally.  Situation number one: “We are great. But I am greater.”  The family is great but the individual is greater. A study by John Hopkins University explains that “affluent students experience the luxury of their families’ safety nets, & can explore varied careers, thus attracting new money.” There are greater chances of upward mobility if children are exposed to resources reserved for the rich like better schooling & safer neighborhoods. The wealthier or born to influential parents have a direction, a life path carved out, all they need to do is walk on it, stay focused & deliver results. Look at Mukesh Ambani. 

However, even in such families, not everyone excels. Situation number 2.    “We are great. But I am a nobody”. This is when we belong to an illustrious family but have not been able to make a name for ourselves. We are materially blessed. We have everything at our disposal but no drive. Is the pressure to perform greater with such kids? I feel the children belonging to rich, powerful & socially well-known families feel the pressure to outperform. Failure is not an option for them. Success at an accelerated pace is the norm or expected outcome. Some deliver & fall into the first situation. Some can’t take the pressure, wilt & fall in this situation. These kids might look at  the life of an achiever with derision because they have seen the cost at which the success was achieved. There are those repulsed by the thought of the endless struggle & 24/7 commitment to work with no time for family that they would rather choose to stay away from the rat race. The search for their own space & identity takes them longer than what their families would appreciate & the world has patience for. Abhishek Bacchan caught between two legendary actors as parents & a supremely successful wife is a classic example. 

“We are nobody. But I am somebody”. This is when we belong to an unknown, ordinary family & go out there, stripped of everything but sheer hard work. I am biased in my view that children belonging to limited resources have a harder time making a name for themselves than those who are born with a silver spoon. The John Hopkins study states that “Low-income families focus on immediate needs, such as food & transportation; rich families invest more on future-oriented purchases” It’s a hard life, the doing everything from scratch. Our skewed education system too sometimes fails the worthy ones. There are countless examples of meritorious students unable to go for coaching classes or enter premier institutes due to lack of financial backing. But it’s also equally true that these kids understand that they need to make the best of what is available. There is no point blaming the system. After all, the same system produced a Ramanujam, an Abdul Kalam & a Jack Ma. So what distinguished them & other numerous achievers from “we are nobody” family but “I am somebody today” is an urge to prove, to achieve, to excel. Their unbridled passion & determination is a definite success marker.

Robin Sharma puts it succinctly in his book “The Leader who had no Title”: “Each of us is born into genius. Sadly, most of us die amid mediocrity. The best you can do is all you can do.” We need to shine by doing Seriously Exceptional Work (SEW). Between the 3 categories, what differentiates them is the proverbial fire in the belly. Success has more to do with our compulsions to excel than our circumstances. If you have a place to go & want to go there badly enough, you will pave your path.