A few days ago, I watched a program about Cornelius Vanderbilt and his heirs. History has riveted me forever, part of my DNA. I’m a nerd, a topic of discussion for another day, but I digress. What captured my attention to indulge writing an article that mentioned Mr. Vanderbilt? Cornelius, the Commodore, grew up poor, and through sheer will and industriousness, he innovated, helping America move forward, creating an empire along the way.
Like many people who achieve such lofty heights, his ruthlessness was on display, doing everything to squash his competition.
I talk about this American giant, not to elevate his unscrupulous practices, but to emphasize his diligence and pursuit of excellence.
There are never guarantees, but his substantial risks provided Americans with an easier means of transportation across our great country.
This program prompted me to consider Mr. Vanderbilt and other innovators. What makes certain individuals work more than others?
Most people won’t reach the levels of people such as Cornelius Vanderbilt or present-day innovators like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, but can hard work offer success? The answer? Why not try?
Work has received short shrift, beginning at the end of the twentieth century.
Yes, many people celebrate assiduity and accomplishment, but what’s disturbing is, shortcuts, or a panacea are rising to avoid the bumpy journey toward success.
The Internet offers greater tools to cheat in class and work, viewed less harshly than long ago. Excuses abound for those who prefer dependency versus blood, sweat, and tears.
Years ago, I worked in a practice that provided a central means of communication.
One person operated it, but with growth, the demands became too much, requiring greater involvement of other colleagues. I suggested we rotate the duties.
Sympathetic people said no, believing certain individuals lacked the proper organizational skills to perform these tasks.
No one achieved less than a master’s degree. Soon, the entire practice took part without fanfare.
If you expect less, what do you get? Less? The answer depends on a person’s desire to succeed. Some individuals are motivated to prove detractors wrong, but for others, the message contributes to doubt and lack of will.
How to discern who pushes forward versus who surrenders is the million-dollar question, not a straightforward answer.
People from impoverished circumstances or those who’ve endured racism have and continue to ride the wave of success, despite these obstacles.
I’ve written a great deal about the dignity of work, including my mother, who worked until age 82. She celebrated work which provided her with connection, purpose, and independence. Also, through her and my father, I understood shortcuts don’t exist. Our family, lower middle class, didn’t envy those who weren’t. Instead, doggedness and achievement were emphasized, blood, sweat, and tears.
What made people of my parent’s generation recognize the attributes and dignity of work?
Perhaps, living through the depression, made them appreciate the ability of gainful employment, and providing for their family.
My parents were descendants of immigrants who came to America for opportunity.
They embraced the work ethic accompanying it delivered by our Puritan ancestors from long ago.
Now writing this article, I reflect on a new venture of which I’m embarking.
Learning and persistence are a given.
Also, rejection and opening oneself to criticism are unavoidable, hard pills to swallow but necessary.
Will I succeed?
Risk-taking requires understanding that guarantees are nonexistent, but based on my experiences forty years ago, I won’t be stymied.
Our young people need to learn history, accurate history deprived for many, including my generation, not only for inspiration, but understanding their privileges and ease of life come from individuals who used blood, sweat, and tears.
I return to the subject of Cornelius Vanderbilt. His industriousness set the tone for his son William, who doubled their wealth. However, many heirs forget exemplified by William’s sons, who were less prudent, losing some fruits blessed from earlier labor. Shari Redstone could’ve sat on her father’s wealth but sought otherwise. “I always say, complacency is the kiss of death.”
My usual drumroll is the choice remains ours. Either wallow in victim mentality, or persevere with your burning desire for victory. Apply blood, sweat, and tears, and watch what unfolds.