I remember the response I got from a good friend once when I asked if he was impressed by a younger coworker who had quickly risen to a high-level position. My friend responded, “No, not really. That’s all that was ever expected of him from the beginning.”
The guy in question grew up with a CEO father and was exposed to all that goes along with that life: Privilege, access to good schools, and the connections to help get his foot in the door and then propel him to the next level once inside. It was the only world he knew.
Of course, there are plenty of people with the same advantages who completely blow it. I’ve known a few myself. Still, like my friend from years ago, the cookie cutter success story never really appealed to me. It was just a little too…predictable.
What did appeal to me, and still does, is the underdog. The one who achieves the same results, or even better, but in spite of a challenging situation or past. The underdog.
Those who didn’t go to college right out of high school but either went back later as working adults or found ways to succeed without a degree.
The family that came to the US with nothing and opened a business that became incredibly successful.
The kids who grew up poor or were involved with drugs and gangs at an early age but turned things around and now live happy and healthy lives with kids of their own.
These people impress me. Their stories impress me. For many, there were significant hurdles to overcome just to be able to compete. Just to be able to stand in the same room as those who followed the tried and true path.
The underdog’s path is rarely convenient and pretty. In fact, it can be downright ugly.
But within that ugliness lies their secret weapon: A mental toughness and an ability to assess their situation and set in motion the changes necessary to turn things around.
We all took different routes that led us to where we are today. Those who hit a few potholes along the way, got some stitches, and maybe broke a few bones…they teach us that there’s more than one way to get to where we want to be. Their story is worth reading.