What can I do for others? What can I do for myself? What can others do for me?
We can take a guess at almost everything about the fate of an individual, a company, or a nation, based on the order that these three questions are posed, regardless of the environment or social situation.
Those who take ownership of their own future first are those who will succeed best in life, regardless of their predispositions and social environment. Those who help others the most are those who will have the greatest impact on the world. Lastly, those who only ask what others can do for them and who spend their lives always asking for something, will have given up on having an impact on their own lives and those of others.
Do not tell me that the hierarchy of these aforementioned issues is determined by one’s social background; do not tell me that poverty condemns us to the simple task of just begging, and to expect everything from society and others. That is not true. Every day I meet young people from backgrounds that are more or less hopeless. These young people are from broken families, cramped housing and distant countries. These young people, however, have taken charge of their lives, and with the help of particularly benevolent teachers or supporters, they have successfully completed high level of studies. It is no small feat, when one takes into consideration the conditions in which they have had to study. In contrast, I also meet people every day from the most privileged social backgrounds. These people often ask for things that they have actually never sought through their own work. And they end their lives in decay and bitterness.
Even if one’s socio-cultural environment may massively increase their chances of success, it is the will to take ownership of your own future that determines the destiny of each individual.
And when I hear things such as IQ being an essential determinant of individual success, and that in tomorrow’s world, everyone’s fate may depend on this score, I cannot help but think that there is something much more important than an IQ score. In a very real sense, I am talking about the will to take care of yourself, to give yourself the means to succeed, despite all the difficulties that may arise.
Willpower is the main source of one’s gifts. It is what makes it possible to succeed, not so-called physical or intellectual gifts.
This willpower, this “hunger” (typically found in artists, in all people with a vocation, whatever it may be, and in all those who want to escape their condition), is much more important than anything else. It can be acquired. And this is what we can do for others, and this part answers the second question: it makes people realize that they are unique and it gives them the confidence to take ownership of their lives.
It is perhaps the only thing that we can demand from society: not that it should provide you with a decent income regardless of what you do, but that it creates the conditions so that you can build a life project and achieve it. In a very real sense, it is the essential function of politics—to give everyone the desire and the means to achieve their full potential.
Those who do not want to admit that they hold the keys to their destiny in their own hands, and who do nothing to help others succeed, condemn themselves to failure. Furthermore, they end up, perhaps incidentally, hating those who succeed: there is nothing more intolerable than to see others do what you could have done yourself if you had the energy, or if you had become aware of your solitude, or if you had understood that life is beautiful and took it for what it is, and rebelled to make the most of it, for yourself and for future generations.