The Myth of Rags to Riches

“There were others who had forced their way to the top from the lowest rung by the aid of their bootstraps.” -James Joyce (“Ulysses”, 1922)

Last weekend I went to see the film everyone has raved about “The Social Network”. The film was definitely a good film for entertainment purposes. The story follows Mark Zuckerberg development of Facebook and his rise to be the youngest billionaire in the world. The story attempted to show the many changes Facebook went through to become a household name.  The film tried to show Zuckerberg as kind of a “Rags to Riches” story (taking Facebook from his dorm to worth 15 billion). One of the things that the film shows but doesn’t truly express is the opportunities afford Zuckerberg to come up with Facebook. He was a Harvard student and had a partner/friend who had a bit of money from his family to invest. Zuckerberg wasn’t handed Facebook on a silver platter but he did have a lot more opportunity than a kid named Tyrone Williams in Detroit. One underlying ideal that stuck out to me that I have begun to realize over the past years. This is the myth of true Rags to Riches Stories.

We have all heard of the story before. Man lives in a car for two years and develops a concept or project that ends up making him a millionaire. We have seen this story before in the media, television, and movies. It makes it seem like all I need to do is work real hard and I will make it like Jadakiss said. The question is can just hard work create a rags to riches story and what is a rags to riches story?

Rags to riches refers to any situation in which a person rises from poverty to wealth, or sometimes from obscurity to fame. Excluding someone being drafted to play a professional sport or winning the lottery (which are damn near synonymous) the idea that going from totally nothing to a lot of something is very far and few. The idea of Rags to Riches is an American myth pimped out to the proletariat. The notion that if you work real real real hard that you will be able to sit at the same table with the American Aristocracy is something constantly preached directly or indirectly. Most of us in school were taught that we need to work hard and all of our dreams will come true like it’s a Disney movie and we are named Cinderella.

I’m sure there are people who have a story about their grandpa, uncle, friend of the family, or dad who was able to go against all odds in Flint, Michigan and own his own company. The thing about these accomplishments are that for every rags to riches story you will have 10 other people who died working hard not able to fulfill any of their dreams.

The founding fathers of this country instilled that any man who is willing to work hard will be able to receive success in this country. The glaring reason left out of this philosophy is that many of the founding fathers owned slaves. This access to free labor most American’s were not privy too. So, it was easy for them to say pull yourself up by your boot straps and you will be able to make it.

People may choose to believe this or not but, there has and always will be an invisible caste system in America. One of the signature ideas in capitalism is that there has to be a loser to an extent because of “fair market” and “competition”. Think of it like this everyone can’t be the CEO of Microsoft someone has to clean the toilets at Microsoft too, right?

The principle of Rags to Riches is like the idiom of the “carrot and stick“. Carrot and stick is an idiom that refers to a policy of offering a combination of rewards and punishment to induce behavior. Some claim that this usage of phrase is erroneous, and that in fact comes from the figure of a carrot on a stick. In this case, the driver would tie a carrot on a string to a long stick and dangle it in front of the donkey, just out of its reach. As the donkey moved forward to get the carrot, it pulled the cart and the driver so that the carrot would always remain out of reach.

The truth is that strictly working hard every day will not necessarily make you a success in this world. There are so many factors that go into the rags to riches story.  Many times when we speak about this phenomenon we focus on the exception and not the rule. We continuously look at the story of the guy who was living in his car that would go on to find a Fortune 500 company. We neglect to realize all the factors that went into making him that success. Factors such as: Risk Taking, Networking Capability, Family Legacy, societal links, and the ability to have cunning/saviness.

Rags to Riches Tv logoEven if you weren’t able to have one of the things that can help you achieve this success do not get discouraged or down. Because more or less the key factor in many of these rags to riches stories is their ability to have vision to see more than just what was in front of them and working not just hard but intelligently. The belief that just working hard will bring you out of the slums or into financial prowess is only projected to the poor and middle-class. The impression of just simply working hard has restricted the premise of free-thinking. This is because this free think is one of the undeniable the models you must follow to achieve success. The less free thinking people we have in this world the more people will be able to be controlled by the aristocracy.

Recognize that the Rags to the Riches belief could be a myth and understand the carrot and stick society tries to put in front us.  At the same time do not let anyone steal your dreams and always be a vessel of free thinking and thought because that will be where success will truly birth itself.  The whole purpose of this blog “From Ashy to Classy” is my venue of my voyage to break the societal confines and express free thought. Sky is the limit but you can limit your ascent if you can’t recognize what fuel you need to use.

Do You Think the “Rags to Riches Story” is it true or a Societal Myth??

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18 responses to “The Myth of Rags to Riches

  1. Great post D!! Hmmm…I believe in the Rags to Riches Story only in some cases. I definitely agree with you in that having resources and connections can aid you on your way to the top. I’m definitely more of an advocate of “free thought” versus hard work. When one is able to use his mind toward whatever his job is be it something Entrepreneurial or that CEO job at some large corporation, being able to use your mind will give you personal satisfaction, liberty, and allow you to keep your job. “Carrot and Stick” is something that runs rampant in this country. Even with the top paid athletes I would say…if the 20 something young men are not using their brains or someone else’s brain enough to know to invest that money into something long-term…then all they’re doing is playing into the carrot and stick. “Do what we say…play how we say”…and all your needs will be met. Catch 22, but a person who’s never had anything will do what they have to do to get something…whether it’s playing Sambo or working toward their dreams…If we don’t learn a way out of the Matrix (become free thinkers who can create a way to obtain wealth vs thinking it has to come from a 9-5) then I know that personally I won’t be happy. Maybe some are happy with their cushy 9-5, but to each his or her own!

  2. You droppin knowledge here! Most folks don’t understand the concept of thinking outside the box and working smarter not harder is the way to achieve real success!

  3. I understand your perspective. But, how can you be a free thinker when your kids need food to eat. Its real easy to be a free thinker when you are one of those “educated brothers”.

  4. Where is all this free though when your kids aren’t eating? Its easy to sit from your talented tenth position and say that free thought is the access to success.

    • you act as if being educated is a hard and arduous process. Its called read a goddamn book. Then another. And another. and keep fucking reading. And then make up your own decisions based upon the facts presented to you. Its called the talented tenth because only a tenth of us strive for knowledge. Its not anyone’s fault but their own that they rather do the pretty boy swag instead of read but their own.

      • Yeah but its just not as easy as reading a book. A book don’t feed your children and family. This pieace and you come off like you have all the answers when their is no concrete answers. Its very pompous on you and the writers part to assume such things

    • I will say this your statement is one of the reasons many people will stay where they are on the financial and social ladder. Yes, you may have to go the extra mile to get knowledge and think freely but that should never stop free and conscious thought from being done.

  5. this is a really well thought post, like it a lot.

    I think rags to riches enables people to become lazy, as though it can happen overnight.
    This post encourages people to think outside of the box like a previous commenter said, I like to think that one should have their own personal definition of success and aim for that. Rags to riches carried a feeling of ‘one size fits all’ in it.

  6. Mark Zuckerbegs Dad was a successful dentist and his mom was a doctor… He was a harvard student who had a roomate that made 300 grand trading oil futures over the summer…. definitely not rags to riches…. thats call ACCESS to riches… LOL

  7. The idea that to obtain is riches is best done by working intelligently, not necessarily hard is exactly what Rich Dad, Poor Dad is based on. Its a concept that is used by the wealthy to maintain wealth, and what isn’t presented to the middle and lower class because someone has to work for the wealthy. Great post D!

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