3 Ways to Earn Success and Respect

America loves a Horatio Alger story. We are inspired most by stories of bootstrapping risk-takers who start with nothing but risk everything at a chance to have the American dream. Just this morning I read about Brian Chesky, the co-founder of Airbnb, the Web service where you can book rooms in private homes at a fraction of the cost of a hotel. As the hoodie-wearing 32-year-old related to the Wall Street Journal, he toiled away for years in obscurity in pursuit of his dream. Early on, his goal was just to become “Ramen profitable” – reflecting the break even point for the business if he and his co-founders just lived on Ramen noodles.

Stories like Chesky’s inspire us because they give us hope that you don’t have to be rich to get rich. They reinforce a core American belief that hard work and ingenuity are foundational to success. Chesky, the son of a social-worker, reminds us that your starting point doesn’t determine your ending point. The hardships and challenges of every man and woman can be converted to grit and determination that will fuel you toward success.

The hardships and challenges of every man and woman can be converted to grit and determination that will fuel you toward success.

A lot has been written about today’s culture of “entitlement.” There seems to be a gnawing sense that too many people are willing to get more than they give. This sense of entitlement transcends socio-economic status. Sports participation trophies are given to rich kids and poor kids.

The sad truth is there are many scammers out there – people, rich or poor, who feel no shame in getting something they didn’t earn or deserve. Unearned success is especially sad when it is handed to wealthy folks. I’ve known a number of next-generation scions who inherited huge businesses through no effort of their own. In almost every instance, these people would show up late to important meetings, skirt company rules, and not get their work done. Why? Because they could.

I’ve also worked with people who worked hard for everything they got. The hardships they endured early in life etched deeply marked goodness in their character. They are keenly aware of the importance of personal accountability, reliably, and a strong work ethic. They take nothing for granted. And they pay special attention to those who come from hardscrabble upbringings too.

You want to be successful? You want others to respect you? Earn it. Here’s how:

  • Carry your burdens with dignity. Ask, “What lessons have my hardships taught me, and how can I best put those lessons to work?”
  • Earn something new. It is better to be in a constant state of arrival than to have arrived. Pick a new goal that will require new skills, and keep on bootstrapping.
  • Remember your roots. Share your experiences and “war wounds” with others who are struggling. Always remember the little guy that you once were.

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Image credit: patrimonio / 123RF Stock Photo

Bill Treasurer is the author of Leaders Open Doors, which focuses on how leaders create growth through opportunity. Bill is also the author of Courage Goes to Work, an international bestselling book that introduces the concept of courage-building. He is also the author of Courageous Leadership: A Program for Using Courage to Transform the Workplace, an off-the-shelf training toolkit that organizations can use to build workplace courage. Bill has led courage-building workshops for, among others, NASA, Accenture, CNN, PNC Bank, SPANX, Hugo Boss, Saks Fifth Avenue, and the US Department of Veterans Affairs. To inquire about having Bill work with your organization, contact info@giantleapconsulting.com.

  • People who are grounded in their beliefs and work ethic will find success over the long haul. They are able to deal with crisis better and know how to bounce back when times get rough.

  • Marty Labrado

    I love how you touched on the entitlement mentality. Not many people would be so brave to talk about that, at least not in my experience when talking with others.

    Success knows no skin color, upbringing, religious background, or anything of that sort,

    Also, thanks for sharing that video with Ashton Kutcher. I was not expecting that. My favorite takeaway from that video was “Opportunities look a lot like hard work.”

  • Bill, Amen!

    As a continual user of AirBnB I appreciate his story and success even more. I myself have been too humbled to NOT enjoy the moment, and to not set new goals. I had to earn things the hard way, like any entrepreneur, and feel grateful for that because I appreciate where I am ;)

    Carrying burdens with dignity vibes with me; we can be bitter, or simply see the lesson in any apparent hardship to use the obstacle as a stepping stone.


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