The first and the most important thing I will say is that the following text has not been written by me. I found this little gem on a reddit post posted by /u/photonasty. I feel that this is something many of us know, inherently, but do not realise until someone puts it to us in the form of words.
Self-made billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg and J.K. Rowling are essentially unicorns. Do they exist? Certainly. There are always people of exceptional talent and drive, who also happen to get lucky along the way. (Sorry guys, but along with ability and effort, there’s an element of randomness. Everyone wants a sense of power and control within their own lives, so I think for many people, it’s hard to admit that. We don’t want to admit that some things are beyond our control, like “being in the right place at the right time.”)
Personally, I could never run a company, let alone found one. That isn’t my skill set, and that’s fine. I’d be thrilled with a high-five-figure salary at a job “making someone else rich”– as long as I am allowed to have a life outside of work, and not required to work unfeasible hours without any extra benefits for doing so.
It’s okay not to be the next Zuckerberg or Rowling. It’s okay to be “average” in your capabilities. It’s also okay to be motivated more toward a comfortable and stable income level, rather than a desire to be the best, or to have the most, or to make it to “the top.”
There’s a quote from Fight Club. I know it’s trite, but I think that underneath the adolescent hyperbole, there’s a bit of truth in it:
“We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”
We judge the social and personal “value” of a person, in our society, by their net worth. This represents, to us, a measure of social status. It represents what we all want: to be loved. To be accepted. To be respected. It’s a basic human need for validation of our own personhood; but this isn’t the way to go about it.
You can be a valid human being, a person of dignity and worth, regardless of whether you’re a millionaire or not. You don’t have to be the Best of the Best. You don’t have to be in the 0.01% of income levels. You don’t have to change the world. You don’t have to be remembered in a thousand years. Live your life and enjoy it. Bond with the people around you, and bring mutual joy into one another’s lives. Do valuable “work” to both contribute to society, and to support yourself; but engage in life as well. Hobbies, interests, reading, films, art– whatever drives you.
The problem is that, in my ill-informed opinion, it would tentatively seem like “the system,” as it stands, is screwing over the average person. That’s people like you and me. That’s Sheila the recent marketing graduate, Bob in accounting, Bill the HVAC repair technician, Joe the big-box store manager. It is making it difficult for us to live enriching lives. We have trouble getting jobs. When we do get jobs, they work us to the bone– and we gladly accept that, because the alternative is the grim reality of contemporary unemployment. The longer you’re unemployed, the harder it becomes to get a job. Underemployment can work against you, as well. Some of us can freelance, but that doesn’t translate to every profession or skill set. I can copywrite from my living room, but this doesn’t apply at all to an unemployed nurse or mechanic.
We do not all need to be billionaires. We do not all need to aspire to that. There’s nothing wrong with that aspiration, so long as it’s tempered with a healthy degree of realism. What we, as the “99%,” need, is to be able to live. To support ourselves and our families, if we have them. To do this without spending so much time at the office, that when we’re forced into early retirement at age 55 to make room for younger, cheaper workers, we wonder where our lives went.
I don’t have solutions for these overarching social and economic problems. The only advice I can offer anyone, is not to let yourself lose sight of your own value, decency, and dignity. No matter how poor you are, or how futile your hard work seems to be, you are a human being, and your existence is a miracle of the goddamn universe. You’re not a failure because you don’t have the personality, connections, talents, or tremendous luck to be like Zuckerberg. You’re not a failure because economic conditions have made it so devastatingly hard for most people to find a job, let alone a job in their field. Respect yourself. Don’t look for validation of your own innate value from external measurements, like class, status, or the endless accumulation of weath. You have every right to exist. You did not choose to be here.
Do your best at what you want to do. Put yourself out there. If you want a six-figure career path, do your damnedest to get there, if that’s what fulfills and excites you. But do not hate yourself if your best isn’t enough, because of forces and factors that you don’t necessarily have any control over. Not everyone will own a company, or be a multimillionaire. Define success on your own terms.
Liked this post! Why not follow me in Twitter or Facebook?
I have helped many startups in building their products and I would be happy to have a chat with you about your idea. Catch me on twitter at @akhilrex