Due credit

I like what Seth Godin posted this morning about how Mark Zuckerberg’s success with Facebook gets chalked up to chance exceptionality.

As Seth suggests, it’s easier to think that we don’t have much control over who’s wildly successful and who’s not – that some of us are just brilliant and/or lucky and some are not.  Whether or not you think Mark Zuckerberg’s done a good job, he’s been successful at what he’s done, and there are certainly two ways to think about his success.  The easy way is that he’s brilliant and privileged and that the two joined forces to produce a mega-success.  The tougher way (the one that’s much more empowering) is that he took what he had to work with in the way of education and intellect and creativity and then took a bunch of risks, made a bunch of sacrifices, and a lot of it has ultimately turned out well for him.  We don’t see any of that when we’re gazing from the outside upon success (or failure).  We don’t know what went into it, and we get to choose what to make of it and how it might inspire or inform our own actions (including and maybe especially those we take or don’t take in support of kids’ interests, preferences, and choices).  If we recognize that (as Seth points out) the path to success is made up of lots and lots and lots of choices, we’ll know that we have more sway when it comes to how things turn out than we might think in our less courageous moments.

Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers and David Shenk’s The Genius in All of Us are great (extensive) reads on this topic – how what we’re born with, what we’re born into, and then what we do with the combination of the two can determine how things go for us.