Saturday, 5 May 2012

Excluding yourself

People can quip many reasons for not taking a career path or venture on.  Practically all of us have a list of success criteria conditioned into us based on a combination of that we read, watch and hear growing up.  These criteria are what we measure ourselves against before deciding on whether to travel down a path or not.  If we don't meet just a few of them we write our chances off almost immediately.  People - in their minds or aloud - quip reasons like:

 I didn't go to a prestigious high school.
 My parents aren't rich.
 I didn't go to an Ivy League university.
 I'm not based in Silicon Valley therefore cannot create a major internet site.

Most of the time you don't openly or consciously measure yourself against these factors: it's not as if you sit down and list such things on paper.  Most of the time these factors and criteria play in the back of one's head on an unconscious level.  But that's enough to stop you from doing something.  Fundamental decisions in life are mostly taken on an unconscious level in any case.  Consider:

 Francois Pinault (owner of Gucci and Puma among others) didn't only not go to a fancy school, he dropped out of high school altogether.  He is worth about $9 billion dollars today.
 Tim Cook (Apple CEO) went to Auburn University, a non-Ivy League public college.
 Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings director) was born to a factory worker and accounting clerk.
 Amazon.com was founded in and continues to be headquartered from Seattle.

We live in an exciting time because your school, background and location matter less and less.  Of course going to a good school and university are advantageous, and having rich parents does give you more options at the beginning of any career.  But the internet is democratizing everything and creating platforms for everyone to use.  Information is being exchanged more freely by the day and any person on the globe can be reached with ease.  MIT of all people is opening itself up, free of charge, to the world.  The walls of exclusivity are being broken.  Knowledge and people are more accessible than ever, and this spells more opportunity than ever (even if the playing field isn't perfectly level, which it probably never will be).

A trend may point toward something and that can influence your idea of what it takes to be successful (e.g. many successful tech startups happen to emanate from Stanford students), but these are trends, not rules.  Be careful not to turn a trend or statistic into a compulsory condition for your success.  Don't exclude yourself.  There's always a reason you can't do something remarkable.  But it is only in ignoring those very reasons that you become great.

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