Working hard is a lot like playing the lottery - if you do it long enough and get really lucky, you can end up rich.
This is a pretty simple fact of life that seems completely lost on conservative critics of the "99%".
Herman Cain arrogantly chides the OWS protesters, saying "If you're not
rich and you don't have a job, blame yourself." He's feeding into that
ridiculous line of crap that everyone who is wealthy in this country
only got that way through their own, personal hard work and
determination. Yes, hard work can lead to success and certainly the
combination of a strong personal work ethic and relentless determination
will produce much more fruitful results for the average person than
sitting on your ass, waiting for a hand-out, but to act as if the only thing
that determines a person's likelihood for success or failure is how
hard they are willing to work is incredibly disingenuous and insulting
to every hard-working American who's not a millionaire.
look at the entertainment industry, for example. What's the difference
between a singer with a hit record and an amazingly talented singer
busting their ass in clubs and dive bars for just enough money to get to
the next gig? Luck, that's it. What's the difference between a pro
athlete and an incredibly talented kid who plays ball in his free time
while working a day job and living paycheck to paycheck? What's the
difference between a working actor and a waiter with a promotional kit
waiting for a big break? It's all luck.
Hard work is what prepares you to shine when you are blessed with the good fortune
to have an opportunity to prove yourself. I'm not dismissing the
importance of hard work or determination. However, without that
opportunity, all the hard work in the world is just spinning your
I have friends right now who are up before the
sun, home after it's dark, never take a sick day, never go home early,
never coast through a day of work. They've worked at their jobs for 10
to 20 years or more. They're considered invaluable in their
departments, people depend on them when they need something done and
done right. They have the most amazing work ethics I've ever seen in a
person and they make an average, middle-class salary and will never
become millionaires no matter how long they stay with that company, no
matter how much harder they work. If all it took was "hard work" and
"determination" to become rich and successful, I have friends right now
who would be millionaires. Instead, they're struggling to get by month
to month. Don't tell me it's all hard work and skill, because it's not.
said earlier that working hard is a lot like playing the lottery - and
if you're middle-class in America in 2011 and if your parents were
middle-class and you don't have a ton of money in the bank for some
reason and your parents couldn't afford to send you to one of the top,
prestigious colleges in the country, then you have just as much chance
of becoming a millionaire by "working hard" at your chosen career as you
do buying super lotto tickets every payday.
of a person from a middle-class family, who makes less than $60,000 per
year, achieving a net worth over $1 million before they retire is over
150,000 to 1. For people making under $30,000 per year, those odds are
almost 500,000 to 1. Basically, if you're poor to lower middle-class,
you have almost as much chance getting rich playing the lottery as you
do busting your ass day in and day out at your job.
not just about how hard you work and the insistence by many wealthy
conservatives to the contrary is perpetuating a fantasy world that
simply doesn't exist.
Like I said before, yes, hard
work is important. I want to be very clear when I say that I'm not
trying to downplay the importance of working hard and doing everything
you can to realize your dreams. As I mentioned earlier, hard work is
what prepares you to shine when you're given the opportunity. Every
person who worked hard, got a chance to prove themselves and rose to the
occasion is proof that hard work is an invaluable asset to someone
looking to achieve personal success. Likewise, the determination to
never give up on those dreams, to never take "no" for an answer and to
keep getting back up every time you get knocked down is an essential
part of being successful as well.
Going back to my
example earlier about the entertainment industry, a person who is
talented, works hard and never gives up will almost certainly hear a
thousand "nos" before they hear that one "yes". It's through hard work
and determination that they can keep going through rejection after
rejection, it's how they can keep getting better and better until
eventually they get the right opportunity to perform in front of the
right person and put on the right quality of show to get their big
break. After that, it's hard work and determination that gets them to
the top of their industry. I will never say that working hard and never
giving up aren't the bread and butter of achieving personal success.
luck is what determines who happens to come along and take a bite of
that sandwich you just made. Luck is what puts the right person in the
right place at the right time. Luck is why the guy who invented a
better mousetrap in Missouri managed to get a meeting with the
executives from DeCon and why the guy who invented an even better
mousetrap in Illinois is just really good at catching mice around his
house. Luck is why Bobby Flay is a household name, but Bobby Jones
isn't. Luck is why Herman Cain managed to rise from humble beginnings
to become a CEO, millionaire and presidential primary candidate and his
Yes, Herman Cain worked hard. Yes, he was determined. However, without the good fortune to be given an opportunity to
prove himself, he could very well be just another middle-aged black guy
working twice as hard as his white co-workers for less pay. Hard work
might get you through the door, but luck is why it was open just wide
enough to get your foot in there in the first place.
yes, I think that hard work and determination can make you successful.
Yes, I think that hard work and determination can make you rich. But,
let's be honest, without at least some degree of luck, that could be Joe
Schwartz who invented Facebook instead of Mark Zuckerberg. Without a
little luck, Lady Gaga might still be a chubby, average-looking girl
playing club gigs with her band. Without luck, Steve Jobs might not
have been put up for adoption and could have grown up to be a really
smart pencil pusher working for IBM, instead of the guy who competed
head-to-head with them and changed the world of computing forever.
Without luck, whoever you are reading this right now could have been
born the son of a poor nobody and grown up with no opportunity to become
wealthy and the lofty aspiration to just get a good, middle-class job
and hope you can work there until you retire, whenever that is.
Likewise, with luck, you could have been born the son or daughter of a
millionaire, gone to the best schools and had a whole host of
professional contacts lined up for you on graduation day so you could go
right to work in your chosen career field on a fast track to personal
success and fortune.
Hard work is the engine in the
car, determination is the gas that fuels it, but luck is the
streetlight. If it's green, then four wheels, no brakes. If it's red,
you just sit there, revving away all your gas and waiting.
feel that it's important to acknowledge this because it's insulting to
me to hear the arrogance of some conservatives who claim that a person's
lack of success is due to them being lazy or not working hard enough. I
also think it insults the intelligence to act as if your personal
success exists in a bubble, that it's entirely a product of your own
creation and that you owe nothing to no one else for being where you are
Every millionaire businessman is one bad business deal away from being out of work.
Every investor is one bad move away from being broke.
Every athlete is one injury away from early retirement.
Every artist is one bomb away from obscurity.
Every farmer is one drought away from bankruptcy.
Every doctor is one slip-up away from a malpractice suit.
Every pilot is one bad engine away from a disaster.
Every politician is one bad debate away from losing the race (Hi, Rick Perry!).
You can't "hard
work" your way out of that. You can't "determination" your way out of
that. Shit happens, sometimes it's good shit and sometimes it's just
(Bad luck is why my page froze up when I tried to paste this and I almost lost everything I had written. Good luck is how I was able to miraculously retrieve it from my browser history. Irony, indeed.)