Five Reasons Why You (or Anyone Else) Can't Claim that You're "Self-Made"

Jeevan Sivasubramaniam Posted by Jeevan Sivasubramaniam, Managing Director, Editorial, Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.



Five Reasons Why You (or Anyone Else) Can't Claim that You're  "Self-Made"

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In Brian Miller and Mike Lapham's new book, the authors argue how the myth of the self-made and successful American is not just damaging but in accurate. No one is self-made because at different crucial junctures, both government and society have contributed heavily to any individual's success.Here are just five examples of outside factors that are often overlooked but still crucial to the success of any person or venture:

Factor 1: Education. Business owners and everyone around them got a public education. Find me a successful business person who didn’t benefit from public preschool, grade school, high school, college, college loans, fellowships, graduate programs, or the GI Bill. Found one? Okay, let’s take a look at where the employees of that business got their education, or where that entrepreneur’s private school teachers got theirs. Who pays for all that public education? We all do. And we should make sure it’s the best it can be.

Factor 2: Stable Business Infrastructure. Any successful business in the US benefits from a stable legal and regulatory structure built over centuries. Just knowing, for example, that the products or services you buy are up to snuff, or that the contracts you sign will be enforced by the state and federal court system is priceless. Those are things that can’t be taken for granted in many other countries.

Factor 3: You are protected. Whether it's your business or yourself, you have certain protections. For yourself, there's protection against danger, violence, and mistreatment. For your business, there's national defense and local police protection of your company’s property, your workers, your vehicles, your products, etc. All those concerns have been outsourced - to the government.

Factor 4: Clean water and safe food. You can trust what you eat and drink. Government agencies certify foods to make sure they are suitable for consumption, set up stringent standards for maintaining quality and freshness, and enforce heavy penalties for those who don't follow them. The government checks to make sure that there aren’t dangerous levels of pollutants in the food, water, or soil so that you don't have to worry about them - this is something we take for granted, but pollutants in food and water cause a huge number of deaths in other countries.

Factor 5: Pre-existing privileges. Financial head starts in life, race and gender all contribute to success. Being born white, male, and to a wealthy/well-connected family have been reliable indicators of future success for centuries, at the expense of others who were not so lucky as to fit this demographic profile.

An honest accounting by any successful entrepreneur will include references to these factors, plus things like timing and just plain luck, all of which are beyond the individual’s control (and thus not the product of the entrepreneur’s hard work).