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I don’t normally speak much about my personal life, or social issues unless they somehow tie back to technology. But I feel this is something that I must share with you my dear readers.

Recently, my friend and former boss wrote a blog post stressing that the only thing holding a person back from what he wants in life is the amount of effort he is willing to put into achieving his goals:

Natural ability is a myth.  With the exception of physical limitations, all ability is gained through practice.  No infant is born with the innate ability to walk.  No musician picks up an instrument for the first time and performs a flawless number.  Everything ‘great’ is preceded by countless not-so-great attempts…

I hear complaints from people about the state of their lives, every argument of which never focuses on their lack of effort.  It is always the result of some innocuous outside influence.  Bunk.  People who work hard, achieve more.  Good things happen to good people who work hard…

I have to challenge Brian a bit on that one. The premise of his assertion is that everyone has equal footing during the formative years of their lives. However, there are significant differences between the early opportunities afforded to those with means and those without. For an obvious example, I’m sure few people would argue with me that most suburban school districts with a large tax base have a significantly better educational system than most inner city school districts. There are also decisions that one’s parents could make that impact a person’s formational development.

To put it simply, if you grow up poor, you’re going to have more work ahead of you than not. How easy is it to concentrate on school work when your stomach is rumbling through out the day. Let’s not mention dealing with kids teasing you because your shoes are so old the soles are flapping and they can see your toes sticking out from your socks.  And of course because you’re going to a poorly-funded school, you’re learning from books that were outdated before you were born, from a teacher who knows less about proper grammar than your two year-old sister.

I have a number of childhood friends who grew up in the same conditions as I did. They definitely worked as hard as me if not harder. But because my family wanted better for me, my mom and great aunt saved up enough to send me to private school for the last two years of grammar school. My new school was two blocks away from the old one but it might as well have been a thousand miles! Through that school, I was able to get a scholarship for a good high school. After that, it was all about my own effort. But if it weren’t for my mom (and Great Aunt) sacrificing so that I could go to a private school, I doubt I’d be where I am today.

I’ve always felt an obligation to give back and help the next Mike Brown achieve his potential. I haven’t always fulfilled that obligation like I should. We as a nation have let down hundreds of thousands of Mike Browns with a pathetic educational system. With a healthcare system that makes parents have to decide between taking their children to the hospital or putting food on the table. While CEOs drive corporations into the ground…and our economy, they get to fall gently to a ground with a 20 Million dollar golden parachute, ON TOP OF THE SALARY THEY GOT DURING THEIR TENURE! (Let’s not mention how that 20 Million could have probably saved half of the layoffs the company “had” to make to avert bankruptcy).  On the other hand there are 3.4 Million households (that’s households with an average of 2 people in them) who would be happy to get 20 thousand dollars!

And people are balking at a proposed 2% tax raise to help address this issue? Which by the way using the same statistics will impact less than 2% of the population! There’s a disproportionate amount of noise being raised by the 2%. If you don’t think that wealth has been redistributed before now…you’re kidding yourself. It’s just gone the wrong way. Billions of dollars in tax breaks for big corporations in the hopes that they will “stimulate the economy”. Want to talk about a welfare system? How about the law that was just signed that costs more than 2500 dollars per capita to bail out people who messed up on their own? 300 Million Americans 700 Billion dollars…it’s even worse when you take into effect that a good portion of the American populace aren’t working due to unemployment or because they’re too young or old to work. But we complain about our taxes going to help someone who was laid off from their job.

This is the kind of stuff that gets me infuriated. That people can parade their “Christian” values when it suits them, but when it comes to one of the most basic tenets of Christianity (“What so ever you do to the least of my people…”), they act like that part of the Bible isn’t applicable.

Let’s leave religion out of this altogether. As HUMANS we should be outraged that this happens. You can drive 15 minutes in Chicago and go from passing run down, over-priced tenements to condos that cost three quarters of a million dollars. I’m not saying that the people who worked hard to afford that 750 thousand dollar unit in a sky rise don’t deserve to enjoy the benefits of their hard work. But seriously, 2% of your income is barely going to be noticeable to you. Whereas it will make an incredible difference to so many others who live 15 minutes away.

I could go on with this post but I’m sure at this point, I’m preaching to the choir. There are people who have already made up their minds. But I can tell you that as a beneficiary of the federal welfare program when I was growing up, you have my heartfelt thanks.

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5 Comments

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I work so hard to explain to people the benefit of providing social welfare programs. I keep hearing the same old stereotypes about generational welfare and garbage like that. I always find it funny that people can balk at providing a small amount of their income to help the poorest and lower middle class while they have no problem spending tons of money on 4 year universities. If you really think about it, very few people go to 4 year universities so should we close them? Of course not. Not every single program benefits every person directly but it doesn\’t need to. That\’s not the point.

  2. I feel where you are coming from, and I think you make some very good points.  Do you agree that natural ability plays little or no part and some people with high natural ability and sufficiently funded up bringing are just lazy if they are not very successful?  I think that comment might come from an individual that is very successful, and also is more talented than most.  I’m just implying that attitude and aptitude are pretty close to a 50/50 mix in the cake batter of success.  There may be some cases where attitude makes up for a lack of aptitude, and the inverse. There might be some psyco babble ideas to explain this mind set, but I\’m no expert.  I just want to state one thing, it\’s easy to take such a view, if you think the people you consider below you to be less than you, or are overall not worth caring about b/c you can’t optimize the best parts of the people…

  3. I think it\’s a mixture of ability, effort, and luck. For some people it\’s pure luck, being at the right place at the right time. For some people it\’s raw talent. And others stick their nose to the grindstone and make it through pure effort. In the majority of cases it\’s a blend of the three.
     
    I firmly believe that some people have a natural affinity for certain pursuits. I\’m drawn to technology like a moth to a flame, and that passion makes the effort it takes to improve my skills easier. When it comes to athleticism, yes I enjoy playing basketball…but not enough to practice taking free throws until my arms fall off.
     
    My father-in-law is a musical wizard…he plays the keyboard, bass, and guitar. He has written hundreds of compositions. He stays up late at night playing his keyboard with his headset on, composing new music.
     
    THAT is what makes the difference…finding something that you are so passionate about that you are compelled to keep improving constantly. Bringing it back home to technology, this is the difference between the people who can\’t be dragged away from their computer, and those who can\’t wait for 5 o\’clock to come around so they can call it a day. I constantly tell people that I feel like the luckiest person on earth that I get paid (very well) to do something that I\’d do for free anyway.

  4. Let us imagine for a moment, a world where laziness achieves nothing.  Oh, wait that is our world.  While I don\’t disagree with the points you make, my post was simply to say that you get what you work for. 
    We could all sit around and wait for the world to correct its injustices, but we will be waiting a long time.  Instead, take responsibility for your life, your decisions, and your situation, whatever these might be.  The only way out of a difficult situation is through dedication and hard work. 
    I\’m not saying that social programs and benefits are a horrible thing.  I\’m simply saying don\’t rely on society to give you a hand. 
    My point is that if you don\’t do everything you can to achieve whatever goal it is you have, you have no right to complain.  If you choose to be an artist, recognize that you will be paid poorly.  If you choose to spend every waking moment being a great parent, then take solace in knowing that you are most likely going to succeed at the most important job you will ever have.  If you choose to be lazy, then be happy with the fact that you have no responsibility, but I then have no responsibility for your welfare either.
    I see a world where genuine personal responsibility is becoming rarer, and that is what infuriates me.

  5. Brian, I think we are talking about two different points. Like I said, I agree that once you\’ve gotten the opportunity if you don\’t bust your butt to make the most of it…you have no one to blame but yourself. I agree that I see so many people who expect everything to be handed to them…and that\’s not how things work. But on the flip side there are genuine cases where no matter how hard you try, it\’s like running on a treadmill, you\’re going nowhere fast.


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