In one of my college management classes, we were taught that the mark of a good leader was that the people would say, “We did it ourselves!” However, I believe that concept can be carried too far.
Some people succeed because their parents were in the same industry. Actors beget actors, doctors beget doctors, and Ivy School graduates beget Ivy School admissions for their children.
I had a reasonable career—my family always a had a roof over their head in a good school district, and we never worried about eating. I worked hard, but there were many things for which I was not responsible that contributed to my success, so I would never consider myself a self-made man.
I worked full time and went to school, but I that would not have been enough to pay for college and graduate school. Instead, I got extra help from my employers who offered tuition reimbursement. I paid at the beginning of the school term. If I got an A in a course my employer reimbursed 90 percent of the tuition; a B was 80 percent; a C 60 percent; and nothing for a lower grade. Not only did it help financially but was a powerful incentive to apply myself.
Many successful entrepreneurs have similar support they rely on. Society provides transportation facilities, communications, utilities, and in some cases tax breaks. Yes, these people may have had a brilliant idea and brought that idea to fruition. However, they relied on many invisible supporters.
It’s sad that many are patting themselves on the back for being “self-made-men,” using tax dodges rather than reinvesting in the system that helped them succeed.