Social Question

wundayatta's avatar

Everyone wants to climb to the top, right?

Asked by wundayatta (58321 points ) April 13th, 2012

Well? Is this a myth? If so, how did it get to be the myth? Is there anything wrong with it?

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38 Answers

Blackberry's avatar

It’s kind of like how advertising works: by appealing to people’s conscious or ego. It’s easy to sell as well because you can go to any nice town and see people driving nice cars with huge houses, so it’s easy to think “I can eventually have that, too.”

It’s part myth and part reality, because it can happen, but there’s so much luck involved it’s not worth centering your whole life around it. There was a survey of people that made $250,000 and up, and 40% of them stated they’re where they are because of luck. Although all of them said hard work was a major factor, if they realize so much of that was luck, that kind of tells you something.

tom_g's avatar

I’d much rather take a nice walk to higher ground with 6,840,507,003 of my friends.

Judi's avatar

The older I get the more I realize the futility of the quest.
I have had to ask myself the question, “Is my stuff serving me or am I serving my stuff?”
We have been working to minimize our life and the experience has been freeing.

missingbite's avatar

@Blackberry I have always believed that “luck” was a by-product of hard work. I also believe that is what your 40% were saying. I look at it this way, Obama is where he is because he worked hard to get into Harvard. He was also “lucky” in the fact that he met the right people or person to help guide him in the directions he took.

Some people want to do as little as possible to get by and blame the rest of the “rich” that it can’t work out for them.

The opportunities in this Country are astounding! There have been too many that came from absolutely nothing and through hard work and determination have made it.

Trillian's avatar

Everybody wants what they feel will make them happy. Some of us are fortunate enough to realize what it is that does NOT make us happy, or to not look to the acquisition of things
to make us happy. We don’t all want the same things. Nor do we all want to be “on top”.

SmashTheState's avatar

“I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself than be crowded on a velvet cushion.”Henry David Thoreau

Blackberry's avatar

@missingbite That is also true.

thorninmud's avatar

I read a short story once (can’t remember who wrote it) about men held by cruel captors. The captors staged a competition: the captives were to line up at a starting line, and their throats were to be slit simultaneously. The one who could then stumble the farthest forward before dying would be the winner.

“The Top” is just an illusion, a sucker’s prize.

missingbite's avatar

@SmashTheState Wouldn’t you agree that Thoreau worked very hard at his writing? Somehow I think his statement was more about solitude and not hard work.

GladysMensch's avatar

You will likely get nowhere without hard work. However, hard work is not all it takes to rise to the top. If all it took was hard work, Mexican women would rule the world.

SmashTheState's avatar

@missingbite If success is the result of hard work, then one must be racist. There is no other alternative. How else to explain the direct statistical correlation between poverty and being a racial minority in the United States? Black people make up less than 15% of the population, but more than 40% of the prison population. If success is the result of hard work, then we must conclude that black people are simply genetically inferior, that there is something physically wrong with the brains and bodies of black people which precludes them from performing the hard work necessary for success.

Doesn’t it seem rather more likely that “success” is the result of being born privileged and/or having better luck than the guy next to you?

(PS: Gay men and women are statistically likely to be wealthier and more successful than the hetero majority. Assuming you’re straight, can you explain why you’re not willing to work as hard as your queer brethren, you lazy-bones?)

missingbite's avatar

@SmashTheState Sure I can explain it but no one will like the explanation. Social background. Like it or not, the way we are brought up directly affects the outcome of our lives. I don’t know the statistics but far more blacks are brought up in single family households at or below the poverty level. Like it or not, that works against them and they will have to work possibly harder. Doesn’t mean they can’t do it. Many many blacks were born in situations like that. I believe the current President “lucked” his way to the top of the free world. I believe it was due to hard work.

JLeslie's avatar

Nah, I don’t always want ro climb to the top. I may notwant the pressure. Mediocrity can be an ok thing. If we are talking about work, I do like the idea of being an owner, which I never really valued when I was younger. I want to be the one to make decisions and not have someone to answer to.

elbanditoroso's avatar

I don’t know what “top” you are talking about.

I will say that my granddaughter certainly has that in mind. I took her to the county park a few days ago. She’s about 1½ years old and is just starting to walk.

Anyway, I put her at the bottom of the slide, and sure enough, without any training she decides to start climbing UP the slide. How did she know to do that? Is there some innate and subtle urge to go to “the top”?

We then went onto a little jungle gym play toy. It has some small steps and mini-ladders. Once again, her inclination – without any training – was to climb.

So one level, even before she can talk, she is reaching for “the top”

GladysMensch's avatar

I have no interest in rising to the top. I simply want to have positive influence on my friends, peers, and family. My mother was the most amazing person I’ve even known. Easily the most caring, open-minded, good-hearted and giving person I will likely ever meet. She made profound impacts on hundreds, perhaps thousands of lives. Yet, she was never the “top” of any organization. Rather than claw my way to upper-management, I try to model my life based on hers.

Judi's avatar

The book Rich Dad Poor Dad points out that hard work has very little to do with wealth. The wealthiest people know how to make their money work hard for them, rather than working hard for their money.

Jaxk's avatar

I believe it was Gary Player that said “the more I practice the luckier I get”. To believe that luck is all there is to gaining wealth is to miss the mark entirely. Likewise to believe that hard work is all it takes, misses the mark as well. It’s all about shifting the odds. Hard work will shift the odds in your favor. I used to manage a large group of people, Some worked hard and wanted to get ahead. Others worked hard but were content with an 8–5 job. Both types were valuable but those that wanted the success would put in more time and effort. When promotions come along, those that put in the extra effort, that went the extra mile, were more likely to get the promotion. Those were also the ones that sacrificed some of their home life, time with thier kids. We all make choices. Those choices will shift the odds one way or the other. The streets in America are not paved with gold but there is gold out there. If you believe it is unattainable, it probably will be. The self fulfilling prophesy.

ucme's avatar

No, dwarfs who suffer from vertigo have slightly less lofty ambitions.

ro_in_motion's avatar

Absolutely not. There are people who don’t even want to climb up from the bottom rung. There are a lot of reasons for this, all indicative of the sad state of our humanity.

1. We allow multi-generational poverty. When I was teaching in a low-economy school, I was stunned at how little many serious poor people cared about education. OTOH, when I taught at a well-funded Catholic school, both the students and teachers care a great deal.

2. Some people don’t care about what they do for a living. They have a job, it pays bills and that’s it.

3. Children are taught to not achieve.Anyone who’s been in school have seen teachers do incalculable damage to children by telling them they will never understand a topic. For example, ‘you’re a girl, you’re going to be bad at math.’

3. Some people know they can’t rise to the top. Being a janitor, say, in the Large Hadron Collider doesn’t mean they have a career path there.

Finally, there are people entirely happy with their job and don’t want to move up the ranks. For example, a teacher who loves teaching might turn down an administrative job such as being principal.

I am sure there are more reasons but that’s enough from me. :)

wildpotato's avatar

I wonder a lot about this – if I lack ambition as a personal quality, or if that is not possible, because humans are hard-wired to be ambitious and I just haven’t found my quintessential thing to be ambitious about. I try to compare it to my experience with competitiveness: I never experienced a desire to compete with others (or play a video game) until I encountered Mario Kart, which transforms me into a viciously competitive person.

This is why I suspect the idea that ambition is a universal human quality is not a myth. I think we may all have very fierce ambitions, but that the satisfaction of these does not always, or even usually, manifest in the form of “climbing to the top”. I hope it’s not a myth, anyway – I imagine it would be nice to want to do something in particular. I know my abilities are wasted as a lotus-eater, but I love the lotus, and I have nothing better to do.

I think there is something wrong with this idea, even if it is not a myth, because people who have non-culturally supported ambitions, or who have ambitions that cannot be satisfied by a socially lauded “climb to the top”, or who will not meet the object of their ambitions until later in their lives, can be made to feel like something is wrong with them. I tend to think that any positive effect experienced by some people who respond to the perpetration of the idea, in productivity and self-image and what have you, is not a good enough offset to do something as destructive as make other people feel like there is something wrong with themselves.

Dutchess_III's avatar

No, it that’s what you want there is nothing wrong with it. I, however, was not willing to sacrifice the things I’d have to sacrifice to get there.

CaptainHarley's avatar

“The top” of what? If you mean career, a qualified yes. If you mean the money heap, no. If you mean the social heap, no.

Coloma's avatar

Yep, “The top” is an illusion. there is no “top”, and even those that have thought they were at the “top” have found that all ground is shakey and all things in life are of an impermanent nature. Be it jobs, relationships, or ones state of mind.
I have always chosen time over money, and while a very bright woman I have zero desire to climb any ladder other than the one that’s a custom fit for me.
The “top” is often top heavy and one does not reach the “top” without much sacrifice.

cookieman's avatar

At this point, I’d be happy with a plateau.

SpatzieLover's avatar

No. I desire continued growth. Apparently if there was a ‘top’ it’d be all downhill from there.

6rant6's avatar

I’m hoping to get to the top, left myself.

Keep_on_running's avatar

Personally, I want to arrive at the top without having to do any climbing. ~

YARNLADY's avatar

I have found that the desire to get to the top or get ahead changes from time to time. Most people just want to be happy and/or comfortable, so their goal might not be the top.

rooeytoo's avatar

I want to be the best I can be at almost all things I attempt. I don’t see anything wrong with that. As was said above, some people just want to pay the bills and there is nothing wrong with that either. It is why some people are rocket scientists and some are not. As long as you are not a drain on society because of your lack of desire to get to the top, whose business is it besides your own.

King_Pariah's avatar

Alas, but it’s not my wish to be top frog in the well.

Earthgirl's avatar

In my formative years, when I was in high school, I remember listening to some radio show and the speaker was explaining how ugly the world can be with people clawing and scratching thier way to the top. He likened it to a giant viper pit. He was so passionate in his disgust for this and impressed me with this ugly vision. I vowed then that I would never do anything unscrupulous or lacking in integrity to get to “the top”. Because if you have to abandon your principles then you have really not gained anything, or rather, you have lost something much more precious. It is like it says in the bible “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”

I don’t mean to say that I am not competitive. Survival forces us to be competitive. But I try never to compete unfairly. I try not to use unfair means to achieve my goals. I try to aim for my personal best. My ambition is to keep improving myself and move towards my goals. I guess that sometimes means to “beat out” the other guy. That is part and parcel of having ambition. It is a fact of life.. I didn’t write the rules. I wish there was no such thing as survival of the fittest. I wish there was abundance for all.If that were so, you would find fewer people wheeling and dealing and back stabbing, etc, etc, etc…..

jerv's avatar

I find that being at the top makes you an easy and tempting target. Better to be the power behind the throne ;)

ftp901's avatar

I’ve never had any desire to be at the top – way too much responsibility and focus of attention. The top is the easiest part to lop off – I’ve seen it happen time and time again. People very rarely respect the person at the top unless they are exceptionally good at what they do.

SavoirFaire's avatar

No, not everyone wants to climb to the top. When I finish my PhD, I just want a nice job at some small liberal arts college. The only reason I would take a high-profile job in my field would be so that I could use it as leverage to get a low-profile job wherever I liked three years later. The fancy jobs don’t even focus on the part of the discipline I like. Might as well leave them to the people who want them.

Symbeline's avatar

Er, I denno. Fuck the top. I’d rather fuck on top. lol If you go too high, where else can you eventually go but down? At least while I’m down here, all I have to do is dodge the debris when someone falls, and I’ll live, with a bit of skill and a bit of luck. Lol half assed philosophy. To shoot the arrow far away, you need a strong arm. or a really good bow To shoot it straight, you need a strong heart. or again, a really good bow I denno. It’s too confusing to go to the top. It’s not a whole value or worth or truth thing for me, I’m just a lazy defeatist, and I can’t be arsed, nor do I give much of a shit. :D
The bow, the skill, the will, the understanding…I’m fine riiiiiight over here, being a little ant yo.

mysweettooth's avatar

It depends on what you mean by “the top”. Some of us want to reach the top by getting to know and conquering ourselves. Some of us want to reach the top by beating others by “the game”. Some of us could care less and are taking their time to do what they please. Not everyone is competitive and some are more than others because of their ego.

YARNLADY's avatar

@mysweettooth Very good answer – I agree – the top of what?

Inspired_2write's avatar

Some want to until they realize what it really is like at the top.
Very heavy responsibilities not only for there goal but also the pressure of maintaining the top position.

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