I'm not sure any of us know exactly what has made us who we are, but it's an interesting topic to think about, and one I consider often as I want to share those things which have brought me success with my readers. Often the narratives are a little bit too convenient to believe that they represent the whole truth, so I'll share my own with the caveat that it's impossible for me to remove my subjective opinion.
I generally assume that the overwhelming majority of my success has nothing to do with things that I have done. I was born into a great country with a lot of opportunity and no war or famine. That's about as out of my control as it gets, but may be the greatest factor in any success I've had. How well would I have done if I was born into poverty in the middle of a war somewhere?
My parents, grandparents, and aunts and uncles have had a huge impact on my life. This one is a little bit harder to quantify, but having food or shelter was never something I had to think about, nor was having clothes or the ability to do activities with my friends. My family gives me a tremendous amount of love and encouragement, and every parenting book I've ever read has underlined how important that is.
I think that my success (and maybe your own), could be attributed 80-100% to factors completely out of my control. So while I think that it's important to be proud of one's achievments and success, it's disingenuous to not spread that credit around pretty widely.
Of the factors I'm in control of, I think that the biggest contributor to my success is my interest and willingness in making high quality independent decisions. I believe that I learned and refined this skll through Montessori schooling, my parents, my relatives, gambling, and pickup. If I were to boil decision-making down I'd say that it's about assessing which factors matter, weighing those factors, thinking about second and third order consequences, and compiling all of that information to make a concrete decision. I think that I'm fairly excellent at this, and it has paid massive dividends in my life.
Next I'd say that I've benefitted tremendously by surrounding myself with excellent people who are smart, positive, and good friends. It's easy to take friends for granted, but whenever I stop and think about how amazing my friends are, it's easy to imagine how much worse my life would be without them.
Last, I'd say that the third biggest factor is my (learned) ability to always be positive and to appreciate everything I have as much as is possible. I say that this is such a huge factor because it ends up being a multiplier on everything else. If you achieve something but only feel half of the benefits, was it really worth working so hard for it? If you learn to appreciate and to see the positive and minimize the negative, everything you have achieved or will achieve in the future will be significantly better.
Again, I have no idea how accurate my assessments are, but I think that most of my success was out of my control, and that decision making, friends, and positivity have been the three biggest factors that I had direct control over. Even if you aren't ridiculously lucky to have such a big head start as I had, you can and should still focus on those things you can control.
Photo is the road on the way to the ski mountain in Las Vegas. I can't wait to go skiing next season!
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You're attributing most of your success to nurture instead of nature. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and not assume it's false humility. But it's not a binary situation. It's nature AND nurture working hand-in-hand. Give someone with an IQ of 80 all of the benefits that you had (nurture-wise) and there will be a different outcome.
Then there's the counter-argument where very successful people who came from nothing attribute everything to their hard work and claim anyone can do what they can. But something about their brain allowed them to thrive despite their (lack of) nurture environment. And there's also the fact that adversity can bring out the best in people.
Deeply insightful posts as always. Thanks for sharing Tynan. So glad I found you through Food Startups Podcast. I agree with much of what you said, and share the same sentiment, especially growing up with immigrant parents from the global south. What if they hadn't decided (individually) to study in the USA for schooling? Where would I be? What would my opportunities look like? Though by main standards I am not successful, has taught me to have immense gratitude for just being born in this country. We have sooo many resources- and I'm not just talking about financial ones. The fact that we have strong foundational systems and municipal services like police, fire fighters, civil liberties- things that money can't buy. Even for the 1% in developing countries. Yes, our systems are flawed and many can argue, broken, at least we know that if you get in a car accident in the USA, you can call the police, and exchange insurance. If the driver flees, best believe the cops will be on the lookout. Where my parents are from, sometimes the police don't care and won't come unless you accept to give them a bribe. There laws are written but rarely observed, as who's keeping anyone accountable?
Anyway, thanks for dropping this gem and allowing us to ponder.
I think you deserve more credit than you think. I had all the same benefits as a child but I am not nearly as successful or content with my life as you are and it's because I never really could figure out what I wanted to do or who I wanted to be. I could never see very clearly into the future so I did not make the correct decisions to take me to take me where I wanted to go. Because I did not KNOW where I wanted to go. Sadly, I still don't. ----- You have applied yourself in the pursuit of your 'vision', and you have achieved much. It is easy to select which road to take when your destination is clear. When your destination is not clear, your travel can be rather aimless and sometimes you have to back-track. YOU my friend, are NOT aimless. <3
"I could never see very clearly into the future so I did not make the correct decisions to take me to take me where I wanted to go. Because I did not KNOW where I wanted to go. Sadly, I still don't. "
Man seriously go sit with a friend/psychologist/w.e and figure out what you want to do or else you gotta repeat the exact same thing and be in the same spot in a decade
Thank you for that. It is very kind of you to encourage me. :o) But let me make two things clear. One, I did not have a BAD life. I have have had a better and more interesting life than frankly, most of the people that I know or even most of the people I meet day-to-day. But in my mind, life 'happened to me' more than I decided what to do, and I just got lucky. --- If I knew then what I know now, I feel I would be more goal oriented, much in the way that Tynan is, and my life would have been that much more fulfilling, as Tynan's seems to be. ---- I had a friend who knew since she was 14 that she wanted to be a Veterinarian. So she went to the college that would best facilitate that. I did not know what I wanted to 'be' when I started college, so location dictated where went, and then I ended up dropping out, because I stumbled upon a job that allowed me to live in Germany for a couple of years (which was great!!) But I never went back to college because I still did not know what ONE thing I wanted to 'be'. ---- And I have 'been' a lot of things (varied experiences) including a professional photographer and a radio DJ. I know how to sail, and I had my own boat for a while. ----- Secondly, I am currently at the end of my life and my health is declining. Translation: I am OLD. Certainly too old and too sick to decide now that I want to be a dolphin trainer. LOL. But like I said, I have done a lot things and been a lot of places, and I was smart enough not to make BAD decisions. But a good bit of my life was just fairly accidental, and it does give one pause for thought. :o)
Kathleen, it sounds to me like you had a great life and have done things many people would have liked to. I don't believe every single person has to have that ONE thing that directs their life. In fact, I think that may be rare. Most of us, change careers several times and that doesn't mean we didn't make an impact.
Personally I'd attribute your success to being first of all hard working and motivated and then secondly to being couragous, independent and rational in your decision making. And also to being born in good conditoins, but i think of the people from your background you're at least in the top 10% of success by measurement of fulfilment and happiness. You definetely deserve credit!
Love you man, keep up the good job
I land in Narita Airport, Japan, pull two thousand Yen out of the ATM, and get on the train for Tokyo. From memory I walk down familiar streets until I get to the New Zealand Embassy in northern Shibuya, where my friend Elliot lives. I haven't seen him in almost two years, and have only emailed a few times since then, but it's as if I never left. We joke around, walk to dinner, and make plans for the weekend.
The next day I pop my Japanese SIM card into my phone and call my friend Toby to let him know that I'm around. He tells me about a party he's throwing in Yoyogi park, so a couple other friends and I join him.
Nothing about these individual scenes is particularly noteworthy. That's the point. In various places around the world I have enough good friends that I can have a pretty normal life there while visiting.
It was a few years ago, and I walked into the dining hall and sat with my friends. Pretty routine day. I was a freshman, and my first year was winding down. I was one month into my new frat and life was good.
My friend, a class senator in student government, had a piece of paper laying on the table. I picked it up and read the big title "Run for Student Government", and I immediately joked that I was dropping everything to run for President. I was just joking of course; I had seen a bunch of other Baylor freshmen run for various positions earlier in the year during freshmen elections, and I had no interest in running.
But then my friend said bluntly, "No seriously you should totally do it. The current president is an idiot, and the senators don't like him. We need someone smart." (Note I think pretty highly of the other guy, these aren't my words) That got me thinking that it would be cool to put up a bunch of posters with my name on them around campus. See, I realized nobody gave a shit about it, and every campaign I had seen didn't take advantage of that fact.