Extensive research tells us that success has nothing to do with your genes, upbringing or education. There are examples abound of people who had it all and failed. Equally, there are many people out there who succeeded against all odds. People who were disadvantaged from birth, people with disabilities, people who had, by all standards, no chance of succeeding.
Out of the many stories from people who succeeded in the face of sheer insurmountable obstacles, Ray Charles is for me the most amazing. Ray died in 2004 and according to Rolling Stones is one of the 100 greatest artists of all time. He was born at the beginning of the Great Depression, in 1930, in the South of the US, black with Afro-American heritage, lost his eyesight at the age of 5, and became an orphan at the age of 15. Each one of these incidents alone would have a major impact on most people’s life. But all combined? Who would be able to still go on after that? And succeed?
Well, Ray did and by now you probably wonder what all of this has to do with this blog and employment in particular. What made me think about Ray’s story was this article from Squire Sanders:
In short, it stipulates that Chinese are better in succeeding in business because they are more persistent. Chinese culture is all about working hard and persisting in the face of obstacles. There is no scientific evidence that Chinese are more intelligent than others. And still, within a very short period of time, China has become the powerhouse of the world economy.
So where does that come from? Population size alone is not a factor otherwise India would also be at the top. But what Chinese do what others dont, so the author suggests, is not giving up when faced with a problem. They persist until the problem is solved. You might want to say that this is nothing extraordinary and point to countries like Germany or the US which also show such traits.
As much as this is true, I dare say that the cultural difference runs deeper. In the West we are conditioned to rely on the Government for help when things get tough. There is also a sense of entitlement that when you work hard (which means different things to different people of course), you can let go at some point – after eight hours at the office or after 30 years of paying into your pension scheme. I dont have any statistic or research to back it up, but I doubt that you would find such attitude in China. Not widespread at least. There, you work and solve your life problems. You want to stop working in that factory in 5 years, you sort it out yourself how to do that.
I guess the lesson for employers and employees is that right now, in a time where economies crumble and bail-out funds are increased every months by another astronomical amount, persistence is what gets you through. No matter whether you are at the top of your organisation or somewhere at the bottom.