Thursday, September 30, 2004

Doc On Life: I'm going to try to go back to school in January, but stories like this just depress me.

My brother, who's finishing up his degree and preparing for law school (Good luck on the LSAT this weekend, bro!) was talking about one of his classes.

The teacher said she was going to bust the myth that hard work leads to success. Just destroy it. And thereby, she felt, destroy the premise of capitalism and America.

Her arguments? The ones that completely proved everything about the philosophy of capitalism wrong?

1. Many women work very hard at home all their lives, and achieve no success.
2. A study once showed that 80% or more of workers got their jobs through a friend.

Ergo, hard work cannot possibly lead to success.

I don't know if this professor ever stuck her head into a logic class down the hall, but there's a few problems with her argument.

First, she doesn't create any definition for "success." She uses some sort of vague, hard-to-pin down arbitrary idea of success. If she'd had to create any solid definition of success at all, the whole argument would break down.

For example, if you were to have to define success in the phrase "Hard work leads to success," the most obvious definition, to me, would be "accomplishment of the thing you're working hard at." Suddenly, the argument that stay-at-home moms can't find any degree of success seems a little condescending.

As for the other argument, I had a friend of mine who used to work with, the network marketing company you used to see plastered across the side of really nice cars all over LA county.

Apparently, the kid who founded this company used to work in real estate. He was sitting in the barbershop one day and struck up a conversation with the guy sitting next to him. Turned out the guy sitting next to him was a foreign multi millionaire here in the US looking for properties for multi-million dollar warehouses.

He struck a deal with the guy. The next few years, he stayed at this guy's side, learned tremendous amounts about business and came away a millionaire. was the first company he founded after that.

So this was all luck, right? Right place, right time? Being there, as the film title suggests?

That's part of it. The other part was that he stepped up to the plate. He took advantage of the opportunity. He wasn't afraid of hard work.

If it had been me in that chair, idiot that I am, I probably would have thought, "Wow. I wish I were the guy doing his deals," and gone home and told my wife about how I'd met a millionaire that day. From there, it would have likely been business as usual.

Opportunity is being in the right place at the right time with the right attitude and the right skills. If you think that's luck, it's luck you have to work really hard to come by.

So yeah, lots of people get jobs from people they know, but it's based on the corollary that you can't get a job you don't know about. Obviously, you have two choices--you either find out about the job from a friend, or you go out and find what jobs are available. The fact that more people choose the former does not take away the validity of the latter.

I actually hired one of each, just yesterday. One heard about the job from a friend, who told her about it because she knew it was right for her. The other was knocking on doors of the places that she had the skills for. Both got the job because of who they were and what they'd done.

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