How to Make Success Much Easier to Achieve
“I want you to read every book in the library”
Neither of my grandparents, my mom’s parents, could read or write all that well, barely. My grandfather worked in a factory and my grandmother stayed home.
My mom grew up in Milwaukee, WI, which is, to this day, the most segregated city in the United States. Her childhood years were in the heart of the civil rights era. She experienced real racism, not “micro-aggressions.” She grew up in a neighborhood that 99.5 percent of “woke” people wouldn’t even walk through.
Yet, she turned out just fine. From those circumstances, she graduated high school a year early, got a full scholarship to university, earned two master’s degrees, and helped give my brother and me a great life and childhood.
Wasn’t she, a black woman growing up in one of the worst cities for black people in America, supposed to be destined for failure?
Is her story some sort of miracle? Or is the answer much simpler than that?
One fun part about your parents getting older is that they start to open up more and tell you random stories about their life. Last night, my mom and I got to talking about the state of the city, the state of society, the state of people in general. We both agreed that many people just lack direction, values, guidance. There’s not the same sense of honor and duty to help future generations as there once was.
Then she told me the story of my grandfather taking her to the library. They had no real money. They couldn’t afford to send her to private schools with specialized educational programs. What is a struggling family to do about this situation? Simple. Get a library card.
My grandfather, who couldn’t read or write himself, understood the importance of education and passed it on to my mom. He told her that she was to “read every book in the library.”
“I took it literally,” my mom said. She chewed through as many books in the library as she possibly could and developed a reading habit from childhood that would last her whole life. She became successful.
And, even though I spent a good chunk of my life rejecting the good parenting I received, those lessons were passed onto me.
I was never raised to be a victim by either of my parents. They wanted to see us do better. Going backward wasn’t an option. Their parents did what they could with what they had to give their children a better shot at life, and they did the same for me.
This ethos of generational building and sacrifice has somehow been lost on us. Many people genuinely don’t understand how fortunate they are to have this foundation built for them.
Are there still problems and injustices in the world? Duh. But rather than sit around and wait for all the “isms” to get down to zero percent, I wake up extremely grateful that previous generations have laid the groundwork for me to become successful in a way they never could.
Regardless of who you are, where you come from, or what you look like, you live in a categorically better world that previous generations would kill to live in.
But you squander it.
“If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” Isaac Newton
Is the idea of the snowflake generation a little bit overblown? Absolutely. But sometimes I’m baffled by how people can be so pessimistic, sad, and outraged in the world we live in.
It’s not that hard to be successful. It’s all in your head. You could change your life. There are an infinite number of avenues available to you now. You have no excuse. I don’t care what you look like. I don’t care what your religion is. I don’t care about any traits other than what goes on in your mind.
If you live in a third world country, fine. But if you live in America or the West, period, please shut the hell up. Just stop. You are fine.
I was having a conversation with my uncle last night. He’s headed back home to Nigeria today. I talked to him about going there, coming home, what it would be like.
He said, “You’d come back with a totally different perspective. You’d be so grateful for what you have here in America.”
Maybe people in the West should be required to, you know, actually see the rest of the world. We have it so good here.
Do you know why some people from other countries come to America and succeed? Because they’re hungry. Because, from the outside looking in, they see how much of an advantage living here is.
You think you’re struggling somehow. Laughable. Fine, if you’re for some reason impoverished, this doesn’t apply to you. But I don’t have any sympathy for middle class people. Zero.
You don’t work hard enough. You’re not creative enough. You’re not grateful that you have theshoulders of giants to stand on.
Another story that’s a perfect microcosm for all this. When I was in college, my marketing professor talked about his experience teaching in Japan. The students would show up to school several hours before classes started to study and compare notes with each other.
One day, he decided to let the kids out of class early — something common in America and something American kids love.
The students looked at him confused, sullen even.
Why? They thought he was punishing them. They wondered what they did wrong to not have 100 percent of learning time available to them.
A story like that says it all.
It’s getting really touchy, really taboo to talk about culture. Honestly, in the back of my mind, while writing this, I’m wondering if this post will get ‘flagged’ for some reason.
I shouldn’t feel this way. Things shouldn’t be this way. But they are. What to do about it?
I wrote a chapter about this in my new book. A short synopsis — society will fracture into two camps of extreme optimism and extreme pessimism.
I’m on the optimist side. I understand the power of the internet, and I’m honestly shocked that it isn’t obvious to everyone how abundant the opportunities are thanks to this invention.
A big chunk of society is going into a nihilist tailspin — a one hundred percent psychological and cultural issue. Let them. Nothing you can to do to save them. They’re done for. Toast.
Focus on the opportunities available to you.
From the invention of agriculture, to the steam engine, to modern medicine, to the foundation of Western Civilization (yes, I know we broke some nasty dirty cruel eggs to get there, but we’re here), to the suffrage movement, to civil rights, to the invention of the internet, to now…
You’re playing the game on easy mode.
Stop complaining. It serves no one. It doesn’t help.
You have the keys to the kingdom.
Ayodeji is the Author of Real-Help: An Honest Guide to Self-Improvement