I can’t help but juxtapose Ivanka’s “we all have our advantages” philosophy against another world view I read just recently, in an enlightening and ultimately uplifting book titled Closing Time by Joe Queenan, a writer I admire a great deal for many reasons. What follows is an excerpt, Queenan’s take on the crapshoot we all call our destiny:
“American folklore stipulates that those who rise above their humble circumstances do so because of an indomitable will to succeed, coupled with the good fortune to inhabit a country that rewards industry. Here’s another: Poor people who succeed do so because they are born with talents that other poor people do not possess, because they are cunning enough to capitalize on these talents, and / or because they are either born lucky or develop a lucky streak pretty damn quick. If you are born poor and stupid, you’re going to need to be very lucky. If you are poor and stupid and ugly, you are going to need to be even luckier. If you are poor and stupid and ugly and a member of an ethnic group that American purports to admire but secretly abhors, then you might as well skip the preliminaries and get yourself started on a life of crime at the earliest possibly opportunity.
“Most things in life come down to the luck of the draw. Line up ten poor people. Nine of them won’t make it. One maybe two, will. It might as well be you, third pauper from the left. It will help if you are born with chutzpah and personality or are capable of unleashing a stupefying amount of violence on complete strangers in a short period of time with little concern for the consequences. But even that will not be enough. Everyone who is saved is saved because someone tossed him or her a lifeline or, in my case, numerous lifelines. It may be a parent, it may be an employer, it may be a teacher, it may be a priest, it may be a boxing instructor, it may even be a parole officer. But, as the events of Good Friday make abundantly clear, no one is saved all by himself. Alumni of the slums succeed either because someone is reaching down from above or because someone keeps pushing hard from below. Or, in the ideal situation, both.”
I don’t know about you but I find that viewpoint enormously refreshing in these days of endless empowerment or enlightenment or illumination or whatever the "you're wonderful" scheme of the day seems to be. I love the fact that first and foremost on Queenan’s list of “how to succeed” qualities is a little thing he labels “talent.” It's not a specific talent, not an option, not a vague concept none of us can quite grasp. A concept like, oh I don’t know…a concept like “some kind of advantage.”
Nope – Queenan chooses “talent” first and adds the ability to capitalize on your gifts and maybe a little luck as well in order to have “success.” He adds things like “chutzpah” and “personality” and then, only after those ingredients are in place, does he acknowledge that the assistance of others who want to see you succeed is vital.
So who do you side with here? Ivanka or Joe? I am clearly in the Queenan realism corner here. My sense is that when you achieve your success on something other than honest talent and ability, you’ve built it on a house of cards and your success is just about that secure. Unless, of course, the foundation on that stunning house of cards was built by the Trump Organization. Then, sure, you’ll probably be in pretty good shape all around.