I’m not surprised I got a question like this from Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC. Given the mindset of Mr. O’Donnell and most of his colleagues, it’s to be expected that he would cite my statement – that Occupy Wall Street protesters have only themselves to blame if they are unemployed or lacking wealth – and ask if I wanted to apologize for saying so.
Not a chance.
In fact, I would add this: Anyone who abandons these protests and tries taking my advice is almost certain to end up better off. That’s because it’s empowering to you when you stop blaming other people for your situation, and start taking responsibility for yourself.
Another name the OWS protesters use for themselves is the 99 percent. This is in contrast to the 1 percent of the population whose greater wealth they resent. Their premise is that the 1 percent has been exploiting them, and now the 99 percent is fighting back.
No one has to tell me about the challenges involved with pursuing success when you are born without a lot of advantages, or to a family without a lot of money. That is the story of my life. I achieved success in business because I worked hard, studied hard, set goals, honed my strategy, weathered setbacks and kept at it no matter what. Sometimes those setbacks occurred because, at least it seemed to me, someone didn’t treat me fairly. But I quickly learned that this, too, is part of life. Complaining about it won’t help you. Devising strategies to overcome it will.
Pursuing a strategy for personal success is very much like the work a CEO does. A good CEO has to recognize the right opportunities and develop strategies to take advantage of them. There are always problems along the way, of course, so a good CEO has to identify the right problems and work on them effectively so as to overcome them and claim the desired reward.
In my book, “CEO of Self,” I explain that each individual has to run his or her own life in much the same way. One of the most important things an individual must master is the understanding of how one accesses opportunity. Even in a poor economy made worse by absurd government economic policies, this is still America and there are still many opportunities. There should be far more, but there are many.
The person whose strategy is to wave a protest sign and complain about the success of others is not going to be successful at accessing that opportunity. Even at the times in my life when I struggled, I did not embrace the delusion that I lacked what I wanted because someone else had too much. I recognized that a person with wealth was the very person who could offer me an opportunity.
But I learned as I progressed in my career that you’re not going to get an opportunity just because you need it, or think you’re entitled to it. You’re going to get an opportunity because there’s something you can offer that person of wealth, or that big capitalist corporation, that makes it a mutually beneficial arrangement for both parties. Maybe there’s a skill or knowledge you can offer that person or organization, which will make them more profitable, and make their investment in you a wise one for them. But before you can even try to access opportunity in this way – which is to say, the right way – you have to understand how and why people earn wealth.
The people protesting on Wall Street this week give no indication that they understand this. They don’t understand that investors and corporations have to put capital at risk, work hard, make good decisions and bring products and services to market that people consider worth their money to buy. They don’t understand that you don’t earn until you first effectively serve.
When I say they should blame themselves for their status, they may not realize it, but I’m really putting the power in their hands. You can wave signs and make demands, but there’s no reason anyone will want to give you an opportunity if that’s all you do – especially when the message you send to those who could give you an opportunity is that you resent them.
If you haven’t succeeded to the extent that you’ve hoped, take the blame. And as you do, take responsibility for your own life. And understand that by setting the right goals, doing the right things, developing the right habits and focusing on the right problems, you have it within your power to achieve more than you’ve ever imagined.
But if you insist on blaming others, then you put the power of your life in their hands. What can you do then? Carry a sign? Hope the government will make things better for you?
Good luck with that. I tried to help you by encouraging you to blame yourself. The best thing you can ever do for yourself is to take that advice.
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