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No, You Aren’t Self Made (No One Else Is, Either)

The self-made entrepreneur is a myth that not only causes us to judge others, but to be blind to and to underutilize our own strengths and advantages

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BY Damon Brown - 07 Sep 2018

No, You Aren't Self Made (No One Else Is, Either)

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

The recent day job shaming trend pulls another misnomer to the surface: Some people make it independently because they are smarter, work harder or more capable. The secret is that no man is an island, and every bootstrapping entrepreneur you know has privilege and support. Some resources are more hidden then others, but everyone has their own Trader Joe's hookup.

You've got resources, too

Looking down on others with seemingly more resources doesn't work because it rarely points out someone else's flaws, but just our own blind spots. For instance, an creative with a day job may be judged by an actor without one, but the actor may have relatives within the film industry, an Ivy League education paid for by their parents, or other elements of invisible privilege that allow them to choose not to have a day job.

I talked about this in a previous Inc. column on the non-monetary wealth we all carry:

For instance, socialite Kylie Jenner's one brief social media post criticizing Snapchat's new design sent Snap's stock down 6 percent. Her infamous family may have money, but what people often marvel at is their social wealth. It is an entirely different kind of strength.

In another example, Black Girls Code is creating a pipeline of young women able to imagine, found and, yes, program their own future startups. They are building the wealth of independence. It is a generation that won't have to be dependent on outside (and often overpriced) coders to make their entrepreneurial dreams real.

In judging others, you are wasting your own strengths

You may own what sociologist call "social capital", the network power to get things done, or you may have independence capital, the ability to be agile enough to take advantage of opportunities before others do. Or you may just have a day job.

They are all advantages, and all of us have one or many. There is no self-made man or woman.

My long-time partner likes the traditional, stable career path, which kept me grounded as I found startup success. I got my Masters from Northwestern University shortly after I was legal to drink, which expanded my network and credibility from day one. I may have had financial ups and downs, but I've never really been broke broke - because I've owned wealth well beyond financial limits. That wealth has, and always will, allow me to generate income.

The problem doesn't come from taking the day job or using your network or having a complementary partner. No, the real trouble comes from not acknowledging the day job or the high-powered network or the supportive partner. I don't even mean in a gratefulness sense, which is important, too, but in a sense of self awareness. If you believe that you are making ends meet as a creative on your own grit alone, then you're in for a rude awakening when the day job ends or, worse, when you have the ego to quit it. In short, when we say we are self-made, not only are we judging others, but we're more apt to make foolish career decisions based on an untruth.

So, you likely aren't as well equipped as a rich, connected entrepreneur with a high-paying fallback plan. But, you likely aren't as ill equipped as a poor, isolated pauper trying to get through the next day, either.

You've just got some resources, just like everyone else. There are no excuses.

Just get started already.

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