It is a common truism that there is no successful man that does not have a successful woman behind him. To be sure, this is not literally true, but this statement (however irritating it might be in some circumstances) does showcase an important reality that success depends not merely on individual effort but also on a larger context of people who help encourage and enable success. Although this is a subject that would deserve its own book, and be well worth the effort for someone who was qualified to write about it, it would still be worthwhile to sketch at least some of the groups of people who need to want someone to be successful for them to be successful, even if by necessity this must be a very brief sketch.
First, we must want to be successful for ourselves. While it is true that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to be successful on one’s own efforts unaided by others, it is equally impossible to be successful without one’s own efforts. One can have every possible advantage of birth and positive environment, but without drive and self-discipline one will not be successful no matter what advantage and resources one has available. The historical record is full of leaders who have squandered immense resources as a result of their own weaknesses of character and integrity. Likewise, one can have the opportunities for success as well as plenty of encouragement for others, but if one will not act, one will not be successful. Before we can be successful we must want it for ourselves. To be sure, we can view success in a selfish way and be poisoned by ambition to such an extent that we lack ethics in our search for success, but if we have no drive at all we are hardly more moral than those who desire success by the wrong means.
Second, we must have a successful network of loved ones. Whether we have encouraging parents or friends or loved ones, or all of the above, we all need to have a network of people who wish for our success. At times we will need encouragement when we are down (and we should be willing to give this to others, as successful people will want to help others succeed as well, so this is a mutual matter), we will need good counsel in moments of difficulty or areas outside of our expertise, and we will need people who can help us with our natural weaknesses and shortcomings even as we do the same for them. This network of loved ones helps provide the resources necessary for all of them to succeed in a variety of ways–in love, in business, in education, and in providing accountability for success in one’s personal life.
Outside of this, having a successful community helps out a great deal. One’s success (and we are talking about morally upright success here) is greatly aided by having a larger society and community that has freedom of opportunity as well as social and legal norms that provide respect for law and property and people. This is not an easy matter, but success is enabled (or hindered) by a wide variety of cultural and societal norms. It is not without reason that throughout history the most ambitious people in struggling societies have generally sought to go to more hospitable areas for success, as they recognize the barriers that exist in their homelands. Those communities that allow for success are not those with the greatest needs, but rather those with the greatest opportunities and resources, an area where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, unless those who have wealth and success in a given society or institution seek to hoard it for themselves rather than keep those opportunities open to others and gain the benefits of that labor and striving.
Additionally, in order for one to be successful there must also be good mentors. What mentors can do is of vital importance to someone wishing to be successful. For one, they can provide a model of proper behavior for aspiring leaders, besides a practical resource when it comes to tips and advice and counsel. For another, a good mentor can provide opportunities for leadership abilities to be built and recognized and properly developed as part of an orderly plan for succession in one’s own institutions or provide a valuable resource for navigating institutional politics as well. Part of the reason that people do not succeed on their own efforts is that the barriers within many organizations and institutions to self-appointed leaders and pushy and ambitious people without the support of others is extremely high, so that in order for people to gain positions of leadership there must be a process of vetting as well as a great deal of trust and confidence from those who have already reached positions of leadership.
Even though not everyone is necessarily ambitious when it comes to titles or positions of authority, in order to achieve success, there is often a great deal of help that is required for someone to be successful. It tends to go without saying that when someone has achieved some success and is looking to build on that success that there are a lot of others who are necessary to that success. For example, a creative person or athlete needs a good business person to help manage the books effectively, as that is probably not a skill they will have developed on their own while they were honing their craft. Likewise, a pastor will need a good congregation (as well as good local leadership in that congregation) and a good family to keep one’s reputation intact. A corporate execute will need good assistance from secretaries and assistants and other support staff to keep those things going that are vital to success but that one cannot attend to with the other pressures of one’s position. Let us all hope to be successful, not just in terms of material goods and titles, but more importantly in terms of our character and the development of our talents to serve others and help them succeed as well. Let us also show appreciation to those who enable our success through their support and encouragement and the opportunities that they give, knowing that barriers to success are all too easy for others to place in our way.