I often ask myself these sort of questions and the answer I come up with is always complicated. And that’s despite the fact that I have a good family, good friends, an incredible partner, and that I’ve got a very good idea of how I want to spend my time and energy.
What if I didn’t have all that? How much more complicated would the task of elevating myself be?
I was listening to Malcolm Gladwell’s appearance on the Longform podcast a few days ago. Of all the remarkable things he said, one stuck with me. Gladwell was describing some of the attitudes he’s come across whilst being amongst the rich and privileged. One idea these people cherish is that the poor and disadvantaged just need to work harder. That they need to put in more hours. That they need to stop complaining and start hustling.
Gladwell destroys that notion. He makes the point that, when you’re sitting at the bottom of the socio-economic scale, working harder doesn’t work. Mainly because there’s so much else going on. So much else to worry about.
Think about it.
On the poverty line, you spend most of your time trying to provide for yourself. And for a family if you have one. There’s no spare energy to read or to learn something that isn’t directly related to your ability to survive.
If that’s the position you’re in, then you probably have rocky relationships. Friends and family, rather than providing a foundation from which to shoot for the heights, just tear you down.
In fact, the entire culture you’re exposed to can do that. The disadvantaged are often the ones with the worst spending habits, and they’re usually the ones bombarded with the most damaging images and propaganda.
And then there’s health issues to compete with. And psychological traits and tendencies.
There’s more but I don’t want to go into it all. The reality is that all of this can combine to create a really difficult situation to extract yourself from.
So how do you do it? How can you fight against, and overcome, such overwhelming opposition?
I don’t know. I’ve never been in that position. I don’t know what it’s like to not know where the next meal is coming from. But I bet that if I was in that position, the ideals I aspire to and the strategies I’ve developed would be way, way harder to maintain.