Success is a lot more than just hard work
by Yahia El-Shall
Privilege is a key factor in "success" in the material world that measures achievement based on job title, salary, or other markers of status. While it may not be the only factor which contributes to success, I argue that without it (not the first to do so, of course), the likelihood of being successful is adversely affected.
A 2005 study by Ming Ming Chiu and Lawrence Khoo titled "Effects of Resources, Inequality, and Privilege Bias on Achievement: Country, School, and Student Level Analyses" examined how resources, distribution inequality, and biases toward privileged students affected academic performance. Fifteen-year-olds from 41 countries completed a questionnaire and tests in maths, reading, and science.
The results showed that students scored higher in ALL subjects when they had more resources in their country, family, or school.
I don't believe I need to argue or point to statistics indicating that better academic performance is correlated to higher levels of professional success. With that said, you may be wondering, why am I writing about this?
A few reasons:
1. Debunking the assertion that anybody can be successful by only working hard and persevering. You also need to be in the right place, at the right time, surrounded by the right people and that may have more weight in the equation of your success than your actual work.
2. Self reflection: For all of the relatively high levels of success I achieved academically as well as being educated in a country, school, and household with enough resources, I was not privileged to grow up in a supportive family environment. I was marked as gifted at a young age based on early IQ testing. I had a competitive drive that I've rarely seen in others. Yet, I came from a broken and mentally abusive home. Broken homes are highly correlated with broken dreams. I can testify to that.
3. Reflection on the lost generation in Syria: It is highly unlikely that 15 year old orphan Rami from Syria is going to found the next big successful technology company. That's not to say that amazing success stories won't rise from the rubble of the Syrian civil war, just that it is statistically improbable.
When privileged people are successful, they ought to be congratulated because privilege is not a guarantee of success. But let's not ignore the fact that they were given an easier road. Maybe Rami from Syria will never be a doctor like white Jacob from Chicago, but maybe he makes it out of Syria to Sweden, opens a sweets kiosk, and takes care of his 2 younger siblings from his earnings. Now that is an enviable success.