If we try to be at least directionally accurate, eventually things will turn out well.
How we view success in America seems to have come down to a directionally accurate fork in the road; a decision of either because or despite.
Are some Americans rich and successful because they live in America? Or are they rich and successful despite living in America?
Most rich people aren’t hanging out at the spa all day nor are most non rich people hanging out in front of an open fire hydrant spraying water on a summer day.
The majority of successful and wealthy people in America work long and hard, often under stress.
But so do lots of other people and each is rewarded for how well their talents line up with what the marketplace values (at a certain time and place). Is a successful stock trader making 50 times more than a soldier deep in Afghanistan working 50 times harder?
Warren Buffett, the capitalist and Billionaire, has said:
“If you stick me down in the middle of Bangladesh or Peru or someplace, you find out how much this talent is going to produce in the wrong kind of soil … I work in a market system that happens to reward what I do very well — disproportionately well.”
Buffett thinks keeping huge amounts of money isn’t healthy for the American system and often speaks out for a more fair system.
Stephen King, the author, is also rich, and has this to say (which I’ve shortened):
“Nobody wants you to (apologize for being rich), Mitt (Romney). What some of us want, …is for you to acknowledge that you couldn’t have made it in America without America. That you were fortunate enough to be born in a country where upward mobility is possible… but where the channels making such upward mobility possible are being increasingly clogged.”
If you think the system we function in enables us to get where we’ve gotten then you’re probably keen to perpetuate that system and maybe try to improve its fairness.
Or, if you think our success has little to do with the system we’re living in, you’ll likely try to stifle attempts at maintaining a system that aims to help more people to do better.
It’s important to be directionally accurate even if we don’t get some of the specifics right.