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Wed, Jul 23, 2014 12:08 PM
Issue of July 16, 2014

A hope note
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A hope note
Dr. Wayne Willis reflects on life and hope.

Selfies

July 16, 2014 | 11:34 AM

"The self-made man."

Was it Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Horatio Alger or Andrew Carnegie who first claimed to be self-made?

The critically-acclaimed television show "Shark Tank" introduces its panel members as "self-made multi-millionaires and billionaires."

Henry Clay may have introduced the term in 1832 when he spoke of "enterprising self-made men who acquired whatever wealth they possess by patient and diligent labor."

Whatever its origin, it has come to stand for Americans who achieve great things without much help from family name or inherited wealth. Andrew Jackson is often cited as the first self-made American president, the first one not "well-born."

Can everyone with a work ethic and a positive attitude make it to the top? I know several individuals who, trying to get ahead, work long hours at several jobs but still live modestly and barely make ends meets.

Some, like Mike Myatt, believe that the concept of the self-made man is largely bogus. Myatt, regarded by many as America's top CEO coach, tells executives: "Other than in a Rambo movie, there is no such thing as an army of one."

Young Columbian author Juan Gabriel Vasquez writes in "The Sound of Things Falling": "No one who lives long enough can be surprised to find their biography has been molded by distant events, by other people's wills, with little or no participation from our own decisions. Struggling against their effects is all I can do: repair the damages, take best advantage of the benefits."

Moses said to the Israelites on the verge of entering the Promised Land: "Beware lest your silver and gold increase and you say to yourself when you have become successful, 'I'm rich, and I've earned it all myself' " (Deuteronomy 8).

If you have "made it," do you give any credit to anyone else?

Dr. Wayne Willis


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