I personally feed off of the stories, irrespective of the arena, of those who started with nothing, but managed to reach heights previously unfathomable. I mean, we all love a good underdog story, right? Especially when this underdog accomplishes that which he or she set out to do. This story excites us; when read right, it motivates us, it inspires us.
They are inspirational because though individuals like Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, and the Beatles may seem to be self-made, once-in-a-lifetime geniuses, their humble beginnings remind us that they too are human, if at least once upon a time.
It is something of a requirement in hip-hop today that its artists be born and raised in the gutter, in abject poverty, so that they can paint a vivid picture of their time in the darkness before we confirm their arrival.
It needn’t be a rags-to-riches story, necessarily. A path taken to one’s personal success that is roundabout, and not straight, can be equally as motivating. Histories like those of Michael Jordan — who was cut from his high school ball team before going on to become the undisputed greatest of all time — and Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates — both of who dropped out of college to form two of the biggest technology platforms ever created, Facebook and Microsoft, respectively — are exemplars of what people are capable of, despite hardships or bends in the road.
Now there will always be those quick to remind us that we’re not all that special, to remind us that though Zuckerberg and Gates managed to build multi-billion dollar empires without college degrees, they in fact dropped out of Harvard and not ICDC college — no disrespect to that fine institution.
Don’t be afraid to look up
It all comes to perspective and framing. The further you differentiate yourself, distancing yourself from those whom you look up to, the further you inevitably push yourself away from the person you want to become; but if you find commonality — however minuscule — between you and those whom you seek to emulate, if you frame their stories in a manner consistent with your own, if nothing else, you’ll begin to look at your own trials, your own difficulties with a little more optimism. Sometimes, that’s really all it takes — a little perspective.