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Effort does not equal success

Res Stecker

I really like money. I am not afraid to say so. I am a materialistic individual who measures his success by what I can gather. And I believe that many people are like me, it’s a natural human characteristic, but some people like to ignore and reject their materialism.

However, one of the problems of being materialistic is the necessity of gathering more “stuff”. And even once I have bought or attained more “stuff” my materialistic nature is still not satiated, the feeling that I need more and more is something that I cannot get away from. Some people say this is a defining characteristic of my generation, as if somehow it hasn’t been present since man fought over who got the sharpest rock in the tribe.


Still, even though I have been extremely fortunate in my life thus far to be where I am, I still recognize that I have a long way to go if I want to be considered a “successful American”. In this great nation, there is a myth that persists that if one simply tries, they will succeed…..

What a total crock of crap.

All people may be created equal in the eyes of the law, but in nature that is far from reality. Some people are naturally endowed with incredible gifts of the body or mind, as we all witnessed when 52 men took the field this past Sunday. Those people represent an incredibly small percentage of the population, and while they have succeeded, thousands more have failed on the same path. Did those failures necessarily work less or put in less effort? Absolutely not, but they put all their eggs into the football career basket and could end up bagging groceries for the rest of their life because they never learned any other skill.

While football is a micro example of the myth, it does provide a looking glass into just what effort and trying will actually get you. I was lucky to be born in a lower middle class white family in the United States of America. This fact predisposed me to certain life choices and abilities. I grew up knowing I wanted to go to University, and I did not have any difficulty doing so. Sure I tried in High School some, but a 4.0 GPA was an expectation, not a hope. Thus I had natural given abilities to get me to where I am, these were supplemented with my efforts, but without my background nature and my nurturing, I would not be where I am today.

Many people are not as fortunate as I was to grow up in a suburban community that was safe and intellectually stimulating. Certainly not around the world, and not in America either. It is a fact that people from poorer communities have less of a chance of getting a college education, or ever moving out of the income level they were born into. Is it because these people are lazy or less capable of hard work? Some people may make that argument, but it is largely untrue. Social scientists can back up this study with numerical patterns and years of case studies, but since I have neither the understanding of the discipline nor the page space, I will instead leave you with a thought.

If you try to the best of your ability and still fail, does that mean that you did not try hard enough? By having our media and culture perpetrate the myth that if you try, if you just pull yourself up by your bootstraps, then you will succeed, we are telling people that they are somehow deficient in their efforts. This absolutely has a negative psychological effect on people that are disadvantaged from the moment they are born, when compared to those better off living in luxury.

Our society tells people that success rests on them alone, and while no one can succeed if they are not willing to help themselves, they also cannot succeed without other people. There is no such thing as a self-made man. Everyone gets help at some point, just some people are lucky enough to find the right help. Thus we should amend the original myth to this: If you try, and are a very lucky individual, you will succeed, materialistically anyway.

And besides, it is incredibly difficult to pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you are not paid enough to afford putting shoes where bootstraps should be.

Res Stecker is a senior international studies major who enjoys reveling in his cynicism. Responses can be sent to


In Brief:

It doesn’t matter how hard you try, that does not make you successful

There are certain factors that predispose people to success- if you try and do not succeed, that doesn’t mean you didn’t try hard enough

There is no such things as a self-made man; everyone gets help at some point.

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