We own our own lives. Every action, thought, choice, decision, or path we take is of our own doing. At the same time, each of us is subject to the ever- present challenges and forces external to our own existence.
So is there a meritocracy? Or is there simply luck? The simple truth is that both are true. If you are faster you will win the race. If you are taller, you will win the rebound. Or will you? As much as height improves your chances of being a basketball success, a quick review will turn up dozens of height- challenged basketball successes. Similar efforts can generate lists of business successes who started out dirt poor, literary giants with poor education, and other heroes who had no business succeeding.
So what is the point of this? The clear take-away from this paradox is this: we can choose to improve our circumstances no matter what the situation. And that is the greatest truth. We cannot possibly dictate the circumstances that created our existence, but we can absolutely dictate our respond to those circumstances. Instead of glowering at the unfair past that dumped us where we now stand, we can turn to face the future and make it our own.
Walt Disney’s father discouraged his cartooning and drawing. Disney’s first business partner stole his first cartoon character, and poached every one of his employees except Ub Iwwerks, his first hire. Despite these challenges, he persevered, kept moving forward, and made his life his own. Beethoven went deaf. But instead of choosing another career, he stuck with music and composition, and wrote nearly 100 more compositions before he died. Michael Jordan was kicked off of his high school basketball team because he wasn’t good enough. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, he used the frustration of denial to motivate his practice.
Everyone has valid excuses to fail. But the paradox of success is recognizing those reasons, and either addressing them, solving them, or simply ignoring them. Our lot is miserably unfair. Forgive the past. It cannot be changed. Face the future; it flows towards you now.