The Myth of the “Self-Made” Success

In a society that often celebrates the archetype of the “self-made” individual, Adam Grant’s poignant assertion challenges this deeply ingrained notion. “There’s no such thing as a self-made man or woman. No one succeeds without support. ‘I did it on my own’ is a sign of insecurity and entitlement. Acknowledging help is a mark of confidence and humility. Giving credit to others doesn’t undermine you. It elevates them.” This statement not only redefines success but also highlights the significance of humility and gratitude in personal and professional growth.

The Illusion of Self-Made Success

The myth of the self-made individual pervades many narratives, especially in the realms of entrepreneurship and business. It suggests that a person can rise to the top solely through their own efforts—without any assistance from others. However, as Grant points out, this belief is not only misleading but also detrimental. It negates the myriad of contributions—from mentors, peers, family, and even societal structures—that make individual achievements possible.

Every successful individual’s journey is studded with contributions from others, whether it’s advice from a mentor, financial support from family, or an opportunity provided by a colleague. By acknowledging these contributions, we see a more holistic view of success—one that encompasses a network of influences rather than a solitary climb.

The Psychological Implications of Acknowledging Help

Admitting that one did not achieve success on their own does not diminish their accomplishments but rather shows a mature acceptance of reality. Grant identifies the refusal to acknowledge this help as a sign of insecurity and entitlement. This stance suggests a fragile self-image that relies heavily on the perception of absolute independence. In contrast, recognizing the help one has received is an indication of confidence and humility. It shows that an individual is secure enough in their own abilities to admit they didn’t go it alone.

Moreover, the act of acknowledging others’ contributions can have profound psychological benefits. It fosters an environment of gratitude and respect, which can enhance relationships and lead to more collaborative and supportive work environments. This perspective encourages others to also contribute freely, knowing that their efforts will be recognized and valued.

The Societal Benefits of Elevating Others

Grant’s perspective extends beyond the individual, touching on the broader societal impacts of acknowledging collective efforts. Giving credit where it’s due does not just elevate the individuals who contributed directly to one’s success—it also sets a precedent for recognizing the often invisible labor that supports individual achievements. This can lead to greater social cohesion and a more equitable appreciation of different roles within a community or organization.

In professional settings, leaders who openly credit their teams not only boost morale but also inspire loyalty and drive. When people feel valued and acknowledged, they are more likely to invest fully in their roles, creating a positive feedback loop that benefits the entire organization.


Adam Grant’s critique of the self-made myth serves as a powerful reminder of the interconnected nature of success. It calls for a shift in how we perceive achievement and encourages a more inclusive, grateful, and humble approach. In debunking the self-made narrative, Grant not only challenges us to be more honest about our own journeys but also compels us to create environments where collaborative success is celebrated. This approach doesn’t just enrich the individuals involved; it strengthens the very fabric of society, making it more inclusive and supportive. Through this lens, success is not diminished by admitting help—it’s amplified by the collective strength it represents.

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