Tragically, too many public policies are based on the false myth of the “Self-Made Man.” This fantasy is rooted in the belief that everyone has an equal chance to “pull themselves up alone by their own bootstraps” and become a millionaire. The philosophy states that anyone from anywhere in any circumstances will succeed if they simply work harder than other people. The Intelligent Influence model explains that a lot of people work very hard and still fail because they do not have the same access to support (influences) as others.
No-one ever made it alone without the help (positive influence) of one or more other people. The person whose parents give him $1 million in business start-up capital is off to a better start than the innovative young man that lives in a homeless shelter with no money to invest. Both people will succeed or fail based on their hard work and the “influences” on their path to success or failure.
Tragically, because of the self-made man myth, public policy throughout the world is built around the idea of creating “Safety Nets” that prevent people from becoming homeless and hungry. This safety net policy is a way for people who believe in the self-made man concept to ease their conscience by helping people barely survive. They falsely believe that, “if I can help to prevent someone from being homeless, then, if they work hard like I did, they will have the same chance of being successful as I do. They can become the self-made man that I am!” However, without access to the influences of a good education, quality staff and emotional and financial support that others have they will not succeed no matter how hard they work.
The tragedy is that current public policy and funding is focused on preventing people from suffering instead of empowering them to succeed and become middle class citizens. Safety net policies and programs (homeless shelters, feeding programs, etc.) are important because they help people in the short term. However, they tend to catch people in a safety net and keep them part of a poverty class with little chance of advancing to the middle class. When these individuals do not succeed, the self-made man devotees erroneously believe that “these people failed because they did not work as hard as I did.” Unfortunately, not everyone has the level of support (positive influences) and access necessary to become successful.
Public policy should be built around the concept of a “Safety Trampoline” that helps people “bounce up” into the middle class. Instead of focusing on expanding programs that have the ultimate goal of preventing people from being homeless or hungry, political leaders should support programs that have an ultimate goal of providing training and jobs (and other positive influences) that will “bounce” people up into the middle class. Safety net programs provide short-term relief to chronic problems. Safety trampoline programs solve the chronic problems. These types of programs force a reinvestment of public dollars that would eliminate the need to expand safety net programs because they would be focused on expanding the middle class to improve the quality of life for everyone.
Most importantly, by expanding the middle class and pulling families out of financial and educational poverty, politicians will be confronting many of the world’s most significant problems. An expanding middle class will reduce crime, illiteracy, terrorism, homelessness and hunger. In addition, it will improve the world’s housing stock, the quality of public education, expand health care services, and, if the right types of employment opportunities are created, reduce pollution around the world. The primary focus of every government leader should be on creating the jobs necessary to expand the middle class in their country. The creation of jobs paying a living wage is the most powerful safety trampoline program in the world.