Why your disadvantages just might be your greatest advatage to success

Many people think you have to be born advantaged to be successful, but maybe we have this backwards.

Create advantage from your disadvantage

We are constantly being influenced by pop culture about the success in life we would all like. We see the wealthy entrepreneurs, the angel investors, and the lavish lifestyles of the superstars of the business world like Musk, Bezos, Buffet, and Cardone. But because we believe we do not have the same advantages as those household names in success, we began to believe we could never have that lifestyle. We buy into our disadvantage as the thing that is holding us back. But keep reading and maybe you will see just how your disadvantage is likely your greatest advantage to the highest levels of success there is.   

A young boy was out at the archer’s range practicing with his bow and arrow. His smaller, less powerful, and average size bow was all that his parents could afford him. The boy was shooting at a distant target only to fall short of reaching the distance let alone, hit the target. An expert archer, also out at the range that day was having no problem hitting the target with his more expensive and more powerful bow. He was not only an expert archer but also a stringer, fletcher, and arrowsmith. The expert archer noticed the boy was struggling to get the distance so he told the little boy to “Aim higher.”

The boy knocked a new arrow and pulled back on his bow with no more force, technique, or advantage than he had before and aimed over the target rather than right at it. The arrow flew through the air with its new predetermined trajectory still not hitting the target but he now had the distance. A week later the expert archer came back to the range and could see the boy was now hitting the target. Another week later the boy was hitting the bullseye.

The expert archer asked the boy how long he had been out there shooting that weak, poorly looking bow- the boy answered, “Every day sir.” The expert archer could see that the boy was as good as he was now with a fraction of the quality of equipment and skill. He then asked the boy, “What is your advantage to be as good as me with that wimpy little bow in such sort of time?” The boy said, “I just aim higher than you do sir.”

You see, this story shows that you do not need more advantages or money or talent to be as good as those with much more success than you have. In fact, your immense advantages over other people just might be to your disadvantages.

Kenyan runners have been the world’s best competitive runners for many years dominating Olympic gold medals and professional circuits since the 1960s. In a small region in Kenya called the Great Rift Valley young men have been going on cattle raids to have enough cattle to offer the father of a young lady, they wish to marry. The more cattle, the more wives you will get. These young men have no horses or ATVs so they run on foot to gather a herd of wild cattle. When these men were boys they would have to run from their village to the river for water and bathing and then run to get to school. Running was everything for these men because they had to run to survive, work, go to school, and get married. An ongoing joke on the competitive running circuit is if you want to beat the Kenyans, give them running water and buy them school busses!

In other words, if you want to beat the Kenyans, make their life better and more advantaged.

Machiavelli wrote;

“Let no one be surprised if the highest examples both of King and of state; because men, walking almost always in paths beaten by others, and following by imitation their deeds, are yet unable to keep entirely to the ways of others or attain to the power of those they imitate. A wise man should always follow the paths beaten by great men, and to imitate those who have been supreme, so that if his ability does not equal theirs, at least it will savor of it. Let him act like the clever archers who, designing to hit the mark which yet appears too far distant, and knowing the limits to which the strength of their bow attains, take aim much higher than the mark, not to reach by their strength or design of arrow to so great a height, but to be able with the aid of so high an aim to hit the mark they wish to reach.

I say, therefore, that in entirely new empires, where there is a new King, more or less difficulty is found in keeping them, accordingly as there is more or less ability in him who has acquired the state. Now, as the fact of becoming a King from a private station presupposes either ability or fortune, it is clear that one or other of these things will mitigate in some degree many difficulties. Nevertheless, he who has relied least on fortune is established the strongest. Further, it facilitates matters when the new King, having no other state, is compelled to reside there in person.

But to come to those who, by their own ability and not through fortune, have risen to be Kings, I say that Moses, Cyrus, Romulus, Theseus, and those like them are the most excellent examples. And although one may not discuss Moses, he having been a mere executor of the will of God, yet he should be admired, if only for that favor which made him worthy to speak with God. But in considering Cyrus and others who have acquired or founded kingdoms, all will be found admirable; and if their particular deeds and conduct shall be considered, they will not be found inferior to those of Moses. And in examining their actions and lives one cannot see that they owed anything to fortune beyond opportunity, which brought them the material to mold into the form which benefited them the best. Without that opportunity, their powers of mind would have been extinguished, and without those powers, the opportunity would have come in vain.”

What Machiavelli is saying here – 500 years ago – is that if you are of average or disadvantaged background, (private station in life) your opportunities are just as available as a rich man’s. You will just have to aim higher in life to attain the same success. Notice he says,

“Examining their actions and lives one cannot see that they owed anything to fortune beyond opportunity, he who has relied least on fortune is established the strongest.”

Think about this the next time you are dreaming of the success you so wish to attain. The wealth, the fortune, the fame, and the freedom everyone wants. All you have to do is aim higher than everyone else. Aiming higher requires no more effort, money, or talent than any other action for success. Aiming higher is your advantage. 

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