This question was on Quora recently. “Is it possible to be as successful as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or Elon Musk as a black man in America?”
Justine Musk answered it brilliantly. Her answer applies to each of us because we tend not to recognize what we are doing in relation to others and the world in general. The key points:
- They combine insider privilege with a visionary’s perspective. They’re born inside the game but play it differently.
- A woman or person of color is born outside it altogether.
- So, if it’s possible, how can white people help POC invent rules that enable POC to win like white people have been winning for about 500 years now?
Her suggestion for an approach:
Maybe instead of thinking about helping or saving other people (and feeling like they owe us their gratitude) , we could realize how we need to save *ourselves* from, among other things, a limited and limiting worldview.
We change the system by changing ourselves (since you can’t change others although god knows we all like to try). Transformation ripples outward. To start that process, you allow the input of new information to grow the paradigm through which you view the world. You get open. You ask different questions. Better questions.
You listen. You look at new things and go new places. You take action, see what results, act accordingly. Everything connects. Small things accumulate.
If you are playing a game in which you cannot win, and probably cannot breakeven, you should find a different game to play or invent your own game.
The new game that you play or create does not require that you begin as an expert. “We change the game by changing ourselves.” “Small things accumulate.” Worldview is crucial to this.
The game of life is not so simple as white versus black or male versus female. Not even young versus old. It is nuanced. Introvert versus extrovert. Physical or not. Intelligent or not. Creative or not. Quick twitch or slow twitch. Strong or weak. Empathetic or not.
We all have a unique inventory of skills and attributes. Our best move is to apply them to situations where we use them all and are not confronted with many requirements when we do not have a tool to apply.
It is an interesting way to perceive personal growth. How do I relate to the world and it to me? What does that mean and how can I modify it?
Thanks for the insight, Justine.
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Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is now with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.