A brilliant prof of mine while in business school once said, “To be a ‘self made man’ you must first create the universe.”

Anyone who tells you with a straight face that they received no help to build themselves into what they are today is delusional.  Most likely they are not thinking in the same context, but I think you’ll find that most people of significant means tend to assume their actions have caused them to do well and that the environment (or luck, as it were) they were placed in had very little, or at least much less, to do with their success.

Most of us are either victims or benefactors of circumstance.  Regardless of how bad your Oliver Twist simile of a childhood went, most of the world actually has it much worse.  When I was growing up, I saw how little our family had compared to many of the “rich” kids in our classes.  Once you actually see how many people have practically zero chance to become educated and build a better life for themselves in the world, you snap out of that woe is me mentality.  I know very well there are areas in the United States that are pretty damn rough, and difficult to “make it” in.  But the bottom line is that here you have a much better chance of building a good livelihood than in most other places in the world.

The problem for most people who have the aforementioned “delusions” is that they usually bust their ass for many years to get to their current position.  Over the span of time, they come to forget that living in a society that allows them education and relative safety is a given.  It’s not like that everywhere.  They come to forget that people, many people, helped them along the way in the form of teaching, advice, labor and friendship.  These things are not just valuable, they are absolutely crucial to building enterprise of any sort.

What’s more, you shouldn’t WANT to be a self made man.  There’s no additional strength in saying you did something on your own.  I’d much rather be able to say, when all is said and done, that I worked with a team of people that made everything I accomplished possible.  That it was us, not I, who did it…together.  I’d rather have the friendships and knowledge lent from so many different perspectives over time, than simply assume it was because of my own meager ability and “greatness.”

Life is about working with people and building things together.  That’s what we should be focused on.