I have an acquaintance, Dave, who has a net worth of tens of millions of dollars.
Dave and I have known each other for a very long time.
With so much history, one might assume that we are good friends, but in reality… we are not.
The fact that Dave and I aren’t good friends doesn’t really bother me. Dave doesn’t have any friends… he has business associates, employees, family, and acquaintances to whom he socializes with from time to time.
At the age of 53, he has been married four times and divorced three. Through his marriages he has fathered 3 children, all girls, whom he rarely sees.
Dave is consumed with making money. He is constantly thinking about the next big deal or making the next sale.
He can be charming when he wants something, but most of the time he is cantankerous, moody and down-right mean. His employees generally dislike him and he often complains that he is unable to find “good help”.
He often negotiates his business deals with clear winners and losers. If the deal is a win-win for both sides… then he believes that he left too much on the table.
Although Dave is only 53, he looks like he is 70. He rarely exercises and frequently drinks too much.
From time to time, Dave and I would meet for lunch.
At first, he seemed truly interested in what I was doing or what was happening in my life, but he quickly turned the subject to himself and his personal accomplishments.
He often repeated his worn narrative about how he had grown up in a poor home with parents who worked in menial jobs. They lived in a meager home with barely enough to eat…
He left home at 17… got a job… and worked his way through college... went to work for a large company… started his own business… which paved the road to real financial success.
He boasted that he was totally a self-made man who built a fortune with nobody’s help.
“From nothing to something”, he would often say.
About halfway through lunch, Dave’s mobile phone rang.
Looking down at the screen, he said, “I gotta take this”.
After listening for a very brief moment, he then proceeded to scream some profanities to the caller… hung up and told me that he needed to go back to his office to take care of a problem, and abruptly left the restaurant… no apology offered.
I sat at the table alone, miffed that I actually took some time out of my very busy schedule to meet with Dave in the first place.
As I drove back to my office, the thoughts of someone claiming to be a “self-made man” ruminated through my head.
How is it possible that anyone can claim that they had no help whatsoever?
…who changed their diapers, comforted them when they were crying, or fed them when they were hungry?
…who put a roof over their heads, food on the table and clothes on their backs?
…who taught them to read, write and perform mathematical computations?
…who wrote the text books, built the school, or paid the teachers’ wages?
…who provided them with medical care when they were sick?
…who gave them a job so that they could earn money to go to college?
…who took a chance and gave them their first opportunity right out of college?
…who came to work every day to help you create a successful company?
Let’s face it, no one ever accomplishes any level of success all by themselves… unless you’re a castaway on an island (and even then… success is generally measured in staying alive long enough to be rescued… undoubtedly by someone else).
Everyone, at one time or another, has relied on the help, generosity, and kindness of other people.
Without other people helping us, we would have never made it through even the first year of our lives.
The happiest people I know are not anything like Dave. They are forever grateful for all that they have.
Even though they might have had a rough time growing up, without much in the way of financial resources, or perhaps with a single-parent, or even with substance abuse… they are thankful for what they did have… friends, teachers, and mentors.
They were born in a country where everyone has a chance at opportunity no matter where you start from.
I am not so naïve that can’t acknowledge that some people have a greater head start than others… but life is a long race. I have repeatedly found that perseverance and attitude are greater predicters of success than any piece of paper from a prestigious university or a well-endowed trust fund.
Regularly practicing gratitude not only makes you a happier person, it also provides you a pathway to success.
When you’re grateful, you want to help others… who in turn will do whatever they can to help you.
Although we are ultimately responsible for the results in our lives, we are also dependent of the love, support, kindness, assistance, collaboration, trade, goodwill and effort of other people.
Without other people, we will never fully realize our dreams, ambitions and vision… to fulfill our purpose and mission… and to achieve our goals.
It is up to us to offer respect, thanks and gratitude to those who have sacrificed to help us along on our path…
We are all on our own special and unique journeys. These travels will ultimately take us to different places but at no time were we ever on the road alone.
It’s not too late to take a moment to reflect on those who have helped us along our way… to let them know that we are so appreciative that they were there with us at some point along our path… giving us encouragement, coaching and guidance… even if our roads have diverged over the years… we were once in good company with them at our sides…