No One Is Truly “Self-Made”

No One Is Truly "Self-Made"

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Every time I converse with someone about how he or she got to the position he or she is at, I hear generally the same message: “I worked my tail off in my 20’s and did it by myself.” Usually, “did it by myself” means the person had no financial help from parents, or the person started a business with very little capital. “Did it by myself” usually means “self-made”. But saying someone is self-made would mean the individual deserves praise for all his or her achievements. I’m not discrediting the person’s hard work, but I disagree that success is the result of one person’s hard work.

Let’s say, for example, you’re a hard worker starting a life-coaching business. You don’t have parents or friends who are well connected in the life-coaching industry, you don’t have any capital to contribute to administrative and operating costs, and don’t have partners in the business. Let’s also say, however, your business became very successful (however you’d like to define that) two years later. Any reasonable person may assume these circumstances and outcomes qualify someone to label his or herself as “self-made”. Below, I’ll tell you why it doesn’t.

  1. You don’t have parents or friends who are well connected in the life-coaching industry BUT:
    Being the hard worker you are, you connected with fans through Instagram and grew a large following. Your fans believe in you and are inspired by you, and they buy your products. You were thus able to meet other life coaches who maybe gave you some tips along your journey. Sure, you took the initiative to make the Instagram account and curate your channel, but without people demanding your content and other life coaches giving you tips, you wouldn’t have the success you do now.
  2. You don’t have any capital to contribute to administrative and operating costs BUT:
    Someone discovers you on Instagram and wants to invest money into your business because he believes you have the ability to provide a hefty return. You worked hard to grow that Instagram following, but someone believed in your mission enough to give you money for it. Or, maybe you worked a 9-5 to save up for the costs. I’m sure you told some co-workers, who were excited about your journey. In the process of earning money to put into the business, you met people who gave you the confidence to pursue it. When it comes to starting a successful business, sometimes all you need (mentally) is for people to believe in you.
  3. You don’t have partners in the business BUT:
    You must delegate work to other life coaches (employees) to appeal to different clients’ personalities. What would happen to the sales, and therefore the success, of your business if these employees weren’t inspirational and engaging? You hired and pay these employees, but they help generate the revenue that allows you to pay them and to expand your business.

These circumstances that make someone assume an individual is “self-made”, are hidden with help from other people. Sure, you were the person who took initiative and your hard work helped you get to where you are now. But there were people along the way who helped, to some capacity – whether the help was believing in you, investing in your business, generating revenue, supporting your mission, or simply giving you advice.

So, what’s the takeaway here? The takeaway is to remember to thank the people who have helped you along your journey because they have contributed to your success in ways you might not realize. You are self-starting and hard-working, but you are not self-made – no one is.


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Acorns Co-Founder Walter Cruttenden

Walter Cruttenden is a financial markets innovator, an active founder investor in growth companies that serve a social need – and passionate about history and

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