It’s More than Personal

JoAnna Bennett

JoAnna Bennett, O’Brien Communications Group

June 23, 2022

The tallest oak in the forest is the tallest not just because it grew from the hardiest acorn; it is the tallest also because no other trees blocked its sunlight, the soil around it was deep and rich, no rabbit chewed through its bark as a sapling, and no lumberjack cut it down before it matured. (Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success)

While listening to Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, I couldn’t shake that quote from my mind. It made me think of the billion-dollar self-help market. Of course, reading someone else’s self-help strategy makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside. If this worked for [insert author’s name here], it can work for me, too. But what self-help strategies don’t often consider are the forces that surround the author. The sunlight, the soil, and the good luck. Or perhaps better known as the family, the friends, and the opportunities that arose at the perfect time.

The Struggle is Real

I will admit I like to see myself as a hardy acorn. I’ve been through some struggles, and I’m still standing. I’m still evolving. And I’m still moving forward in life. But throughout my biggest struggles, I was able to continue moving forward with the help of others. There were family and friends to support me along the way. There were professionals I paid to give me advice – therapists, doctors, or lawyers for example. And there were institutions that helped me move forward, even though they sometimes moved at a snail’s pace.

My story wasn’t developed in a vacuum. I’m not continuing to evolve because I’ve isolated myself from the world. I’m evolving because I’m letting more people in. I’m basking in the sunlight of others. I’m soaking in their knowledge like rainwater. And I’ve found some rich deep soil – or love – to nurture me. I’m also grateful that no calamities outside of my control rendered me unable to progress.

Here’s another quote from Outliers, “We all know that successful people come from hardy seeds. But do we know enough about the sunlight.”

Where’s your sunlight? Who’s your rich, deep soil? And where does your rainwater come from?