Monday, April 1, 2013

Self-made Man

I came across this picture on Skoticus's blog the other day. It's entitled "Self-made man." 
It made me think. Is it really possible to be a self-made man (or woman)?

I realize it's not usually meant to mean that the person literally did it all alone—no one is that self-absorbed—but it does seem to be disingenuous to have so much focus on the person being made. There are a lot of forces at work there, after all.

How would the sculpture get started if it didn't at least have a chisel and hammer lain by it?
How would the entrepreneur be successful at selling his idea if people didn't buy it? If there was nothing to sell?

There can be no leaders in a vacuum—by definition, leaders lead people.  And those people are free to do as they will...and choose to give their attention or money—to give power—to their leader (whether a business leader, governmental leader, or leader in other contexts). Leaders are nothing without those they lead.

On the other hand, "self-made" people get places either because they preservere and knuckle down and do hard things and hope for a better future.

So what proportion is it from self-made to others-made?

Whatever the answer, I think it's great when people recognize their strengths and are grateful for them, and when they recognize that they've been helped along the way by other people.

A one-man circus is a lonely thing.


  1. You highlight some good issues here. I've noticed that some "self-made" people say things like, "If I could do it, other poor, disadvantaged people can do it too" and then attribute other people's failure to overcome their disadvantaged circumstances to lack of effort. They don't seem to recognize the luck and or help they had from others along the way to overcome their challenges. I think it's important to remember and thank the people who have helped us become who we are-- parents, teachers, friends, church leaders, etc.

    1. I feel the same—people should acknowledge the people who helped them get where they are. And I do think most people who could call themselves "self-made" actually did come from hard circumstances in some cases (ha--they actually call themselves "self-made," so in that sense they are labeling, or making themselves). But I don't think that means they can say that all people in hard circumstances are lazy or unmotivated. I don't know enough about how it works, but I imagine that disadvantaged people can't all pull themselves out of their circumstances—sometimes it's all a family can do financially is send one child to school.