I am happy to report that it is still possible—even in these times of quasi-recessionary conditions—to overcome poverty and succeed in spite of the odds. It is still possible for a person born with no advantages and lots of disadvantages to rise up out of his circumstances and live out the American dream. That’s the good news. The bad news is you will never grasp the brass ring of success by relying on nanny government entitlements. This is the message of a new book titled The Wealth Choice: Success Secrets of Black Millionaires by Dennis Kimbro, a business professor at Clark Atlanta University. I predict Professor Kimbro is in for some rough sledding from liberals who will not like the conclusions drawn in his book. My advice to Professor Kimbro this: Your research revealed the truth. If it happens to be an inconvenient truth for liberals, that’s their problem not yours. Stick to your facts.
Kimbro spent seven years interviewing and surveying almost 1,000 of America’s most successful black business leaders. The purpose of his research was to identify the secrets of his subjects’ success. He wanted to know how black millionaires and multi-millionaires—most of whom started life in poverty or abject poverty—pulled themselves up and became successful and wealthy. The conclusion he draws is that success in business and the resultant wealth that comes with it is a function of choice, personal responsibility, creative thinking, faith, risk, hard work, and perseverance. Nowhere in Professor Kimbro’s book will you find government entitlements, class envy, or race baiting recommended as strategies for success.
There was a time in our country when the average American would read the findings of Kimbro’s research and say something akin to “duh” or “this is just a well-researched statement of the obvious.” But those times are gone. America has become a country in which people are more inclined to choose nanny government over personal responsibility, recreation over hard work, security over risk, compliance over creative thinking, and entitlement over perseverance. Too many Americans have turned their backs on the lessons of Horatio Alger and accepted the lessons of Barack Obama (i.e. success and wealth are functions of birth, race, circumstances, and the environment).
The topic of rising up out of poverty interests me because it is personal. I had to rise up out of poverty myself. How did I do it? In precisely the same way that the rags-to-riches subjects of Professor Kimbro’s new book did it: By choosing to do the hard work necessary to overcome my circumstances; taking personal responsibility for my life; thinking creatively; working long, hard, and smart; keeping the faith; and persevering. I have long advocated this same approach whenever I am asked to speak or write on the subject of success. I always caution my audiences that wealth is just one measure of success and it may not even be the best measure. However, wealth can be a welcome by-product of success and—when handled responsibly—it can be a good thing.
This message is usually received fairly well, but almost without exception there will be someone in the audience who will say words to the effect that: “This work hard and persevere stuff might work for you. You are white. But it won’t work for me, I am black.” I used to respond to this comment by saying: “Success is color blind. Besides, if it works for white people, Hispanics, and Asians, explain to me why it won’t work for you?” Now that Professor Kimbro’s book is out, I am going to change strategies. I am going to buy a stack of The Wealth Choice: Success Secrets of Black Millionaires.” After quoting several pertinent passages from this excellent book, I am going to give a copy to the skeptic in the audience and suggest he read it. Then I am going to say: “Making excuses for poverty will just keep you poor.”