The death of Steve Jobs has been discussed for several days. He apparently regretted his decision to postpone surgery for his surgically curable uncommon type of pancreatic cancer choosing “alternative medicine” instead. But another aspect of his life also caught my attention.
Steve Jobs was, to use a quaint term no longer in vogue, an “illegitimate” child. He was given up for adoption. He was raised in a middle class home in California and dropped out of college after one semester. He was poor for a while but worked hard and became a very successful man.
This got me thinking about other people who made the most of their lot in life.
When I was running a surgical residency, every year it seems I interviewed at least one applicant to my program who had this sort of story.
My parents fled Viet Nam in 1974. I arrived in the US at the age of 15 and spoke no English. My parents worked several jobs and I went to high school. At age 21, I graduated from college with honors and a degree in physics. I scored a 31 [good score] on my MCAT and was accepted at six medical schools. I scored in the 230s [good score] on my USMLE exams, Parts I and II.
These applicants got good grades in medical school and had excellent letters of recommendation. They often did extracurricular projects resulting in published research.
Why am I telling you this?
I get tired of hearing people whining about the lack of opportunity in this country. How is it that a kid from Southeast Asia who couldn’t even speak English when he got here can be so successful? Yet people who are born and raised here can’t see any possible avenue to success. It must be the government’s fault, Wall Street’s fault or someone else’s fault.
I don't get it. Can you explain?