Does hard work actually get you anywhere?

Exploring the science behind luck, success and hard work in North America

There’s no way to achieve your financial goals without working hard. North Americans understand this fairly well—I think our economic system reward the hardest of the hardest-working individuals, which is partly legitimate.

However, luck and privilege are too often left behind when thinking about financial success. This shows when people approve right-wing economic policies such as austerity and major investments in the corporate sector. It seems absurd to me that in an already competitive society full of social inequalities, we want to advantage privileged people even more.

If we truly acknowledged external factors to financial success in Quebec, for instance, the Government of Quebec would not have invested billions of dollars in Bombardier while cutting in education. The year 2012 reminds us that protesting can turn things around. But the silent majority speaks volumes right now.

Although I am opposed to economic inequalities, I will define financial success, for the purpose of this piece, as earning significantly more money than the average Canadian or American person. This is not an easy project for everyone to undertake. The reason I think hard work is not enough is because no one can truly control his or her financial future.

The American Dream, the term coined by James Truslow Adams in 1931, proclaims: “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.”

In this definition lies the tacit assumption that hard work can get anyone anywhere. However, whether it is in the US or in Canada, attending the right schools and having the right friends, just to name a few, are likely to get someone further than just working hard.

What happens to those who also work hard but don’t have the same opportunities? They suffer from right-wing economic policies. With austerity and investment of tax money in the private sector, they end up living in world in which they cannot even afford basic necessities. Education and health services become market values, which increases already existing inequalities.

Social environment, education and the events that occur during our life—whether they’re positive and negative—shape how we manage our life. Additionally, many people contribute to our personal developmentteachers, parents and friends have an enormous impact on us. Thus it enables some to get where they want, while it disables others.

This is not even considering the fact that what most people want to do with their lives just pays average, if not less. Therefore, shaping our economic policies as if individuals were the sole determiners in their financial success is completely unfair.

It’s like giving all the credit to a chef for an extraordinary meal, never mentioning the farmer’s effort for delivering impeccably fresh produce. I believe we should take this into account when we position ourselves on the political spectrum.

We can afford to provide everyone who works hard with equal chances to be financially successful. Or at least we can make sure the lives of people who haven’t had great opportunities don’t get harder because of right-wing economic policies.

Being a Canadian or American citizen is a privilege in itself. It is unreasonable that one can have succeeded financially without the help of anyone, whether it is speaking about economic situation, social environment, and so forth.

People who struggle in life cannot be the sole responsible of their condition, just as the ones who are financially satisfied. If we acknowledge privilege factors, by opposing right-wing policies that just make rich people richer, then we will enable more hard-workers to reach financial success.

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