The myth of being “self-made” and the importance of giving

If you think your position in life wasn’t given to you, think again … I’m not saying you didn’t ALSO work for it, but there is no such thing as an entirely “self-made” man or woman, it is a myth.

The fact is, your start in life was given to you, it did not take skill or effort of any kind to be randomly born into your circumstances, so the entirety of the opportunities that came from your upbringing were almost if not entirely given to you by those circumstances, which is not to say you didn’t also work for them … but the circumstance wouldn’t have happened at all had you been born into a different neighbourhood or country – with rare exception – but even in which exceptions, it would still be an opportunity given to you by someone to break the trend of circumstances you would otherwise be subjected to.

This is particularly true when you’re younger, but even as you get older and start to identify opportunities that you fight for, you access and probability of success is partly due to the start you got in life ( which was given to you ), &/or someone making the decision to give you what you seek.

A job is given to you. You might inherit it, you might be given it by preferential treatment, or you might 100% earn it … but in all cases it was given, and even where you earned it, you did so by leveraging past opportunity, which was increasingly given as you go back in time to childhood.

As you got older, the wealthier your start in life – and the better paying the circumstances you find along the way – the more you owe your new successes to that privilege, and to those earlier opportunities ( that were effectively or significantly given to you ). Someone with less wealth would not even be able to access such an opportunity, let alone have a good probability of success without vastly more effort than it took for you ( and sometimes impossible by additional effort alone, as they don’t have your history of resource access for the attempt ).

ALL SUCCESS IS OWED TO PAST SUCCESS, THEREFORE ALL SUCCESS AT LEAST BEGINS WITH SOMETHING THAT WAS GIVEN … everyone thinks they work hard, but do not forget that those with less than you work harder, under more difficult circumstances, under more pressure and stress per unit of reward, and for less total reward.

THE EXCEPTIONS TO THIS ARE RARE because someone who starts life in poverty, with nothing, will likely end their life in poverty, with nothing … the probability of improvement from any one moment to the next, is significantly due to resource access in the present – this is inescapable, it remains true even when you’re rich, it’s just that now the odds are playing in your favour. So for those who have nothing at time t1, they will probably still have less at times t2, t3, …, tN.

  • ie: how are you going to achieve the escape velocity required to leave the gravity-well of poverty, if you haven’t got the resources required for the acceleration necessary for your mass?

This is not rocket science, but the rocket science analogy is a good one, because poverty is indeed like a gravity well, it sucks you down, and what people of privilege don’t see is that they’re looking at it from the perspective of space, where gravity-wells can be used to slingshot yourself to greater speeds … so the very thing trapping one person in poverty cannot be seen for what it is by the person of privilege, or if they do see it and say nothing, it means they’re well aware of its consequences for the poor, and they mistakenly believe that the only way to maintain the freedom they feel themselves, is to maintain the prison they create for others.

Now … I AM NOT SAYING that you should not be proud of your achievements, I’m just saying you need to remember that every other person in the world is capable of the equivalent achievements for their own dreams IF ( AND ONLY IF ) they’re given a minimum critical threshold of resources required for a significant probability of success, whereby it only remains for them to do the work, and where they are not actively sabotaged by the malice of others, or undermined by other misfortune beyond their control.

IN OTHER WORDS: those “magical laws of attraction” you were taught – by which you justify both your own privilege and the suffering of others – cannot overrule the underlying nature of reality – ie: that if you do not have, then either it must be given, or you must take, and if you take ( by force ), then you may very well be the cause of suffering for someone else.

If the world is full of people who take by force, then the ecology of the planet will suffer ( as it is doing ), and society will suffer ( as it is doing ). You may think it’s necessary but it isn’t, and all you’re doing is ensuring a worse civilisation and planet for everyone, including your friends, yourself, your spouse, children, and your grandchildren.

So for those whom already have, and who know others who have, you really need to find ways to use what you have, to find more people who have, and set up a means of giving; because those who have not, cannot get there to where they want to go, unless someone gives them the resources they require for access to opportunity ( including sometimes the opportunity itself ), and for a non-zero chance of success at that opportunity.

What I have learned about life and society, is that this is not happening to any significant degree … not in Australia anyway … the amount of giving is tiny, barely noticeable, and nowhere near enough to solve the problems we face. It is also because a lot of the giving that does go on is poorly directed, managed, and utilised – ie: it achieves very little actual change per unit of input resource.

THEREFORE: you must be smarter about using what you have to benefit others, and smarter about using it to access others who also have, in order to bring them to greater giving.

This is not for the sake of some religious sentiment about the good of giving, or about winning a place in an afterlife … it is about something far more practical than that … it is about the fact that right now on this planet there are in excess of 7 billion mobile organic sentient supercomputers in the form of human beings, most of whom cannot ( or cannot easily ) access the opportunity they’re worthy of, they’re stuck. Their socioeconomic position is so entrenched, that the probability of escape from it might as well be nil … it’s worse for some than others, but hard on all.

This suffering isn’t necessary, it can be solved … and it can be solved by creating a new economic paradigm that can interact with the existing one, while working to replace it over time, but without being significantly undermined by that interaction; an economic paradigm that operates on completely different principles, which does not entrench authority or power, which does not give unfair advantage, does not cause death, destruction, exploitation, pollution, or waste … a system that will allow us to live on this planet comfortably, sustainably, and indefinitely, such that we become worthy as a species of colonising other planets.

This alternative economic paradigm will maximise opportunity for all, maximise resource availability and access, and maximise both artistic and technological development and expression – BUT – without redundant, meaningless, pointless consumerism.

It all starts right now with the choices we make, but some of us have our choices seriously restricted by circumstances and resources. So don’t offer us advice we didn’t ask for UNLESS it will directly significantly improve those circumstances and that resource access. Give us the benefit of the doubt that we know what to do if we just get a real opportunity to do it. Offer to help, offer to give of yourself, your time, your skills, your money, your equipment, your space/venue.

Whatever you have, find the person whose project will bring the greatest change in resource access to the greatest number of people, or will cause the greatest reduction in deleterious ecological and/or social consequences of existing events, or will cause the greatest increase in beneficial ecological and/or social consequences of existing or new events.

I would of course like to put my own work forward of being worthy of that giving, and I am ready to build and test a prototype of some elements of my work if I can just get the resources I need to do so … BUT IF NOT ME at least think on what I’ve said, and give your help to someone.

Also published on Medium.

Leave a Reply