This totally makes sense when you consider that we get to build on the shoulders of those that came before us. Given how difficult it is to build a mountain all by yourself, it’s only natural that those closest to the top of society often come from families that spent generations building the mountain for them.
And I think many people resist this notion that the generations that came before us have a profound influence on our own opportunity for two reasons:
- Our selfish pride wants to take credit for all of our success.
- A generational view makes it harder to sweep the sins of our ancestors under the rug. Just because we don’t have slavery, Jim Crow laws, Japanese internment camps, massacres of Native American tribes, etc. anymore, doesn’t mean those events of the past don’t have a very real impact on the present and the opportunities available to people today.
I’d like to think that most people aren’t directly influenced by that second reason—at least not consciously. And I may be right given that pride and narcissism are such powerful forces. Either way, the correlation between the success of our ancestors and our own is very real, and those whose ancestors were oppressed either start closer to the bottom or have heroes in the generations immediately before them that overcame that oppression and built mountains from the ground up.