In today’s competitive global climate, everyone is striving for success. To achieve it, western countries often strongly emphasize individualism. Our education sectors, media, and culture place high value on personal creativity and drive. In many eastern cultures – China’s included – network, family, and community are thought to play an instrumental role in one’s success. We pose the question to two 15-year-old students from Beijing International Bilingual Academy (BIBA):
Do communities or individuals play a larger role in determining personal success?
Muzna Khan, 15, Pakistan, has been in Beijing four years
For years people have argued about whether the individual or community plays a bigger role in determining personal success. Before answering that question, let’s examine a few philosophical questions: What is personal success? How can it be achieved? Who is truly considered successful? And lastly, what helped them to become successful – was it their community or themselves as an individual? Everyone has different answers to these questions; however I believe that community plays a much larger role than the individual in determining personal success.
It’s important to acknowledge that success has different meanings for different people. For many, success is only measured by wealth and fame, but to others it’s much more than that. Others view success as a journey with peaks and valleys, setbacks and mistakes, achievements and failures. In these terms, success is being happy with the life you live and – though it may not always be a bed of roses – always trying to make the best of it. By definition then, community plays a vital role in accomplishing that.
Communities are the groups of people we spend our time and lives with. Neighbors, teachers, friends, families, and relatives are all examples of communities. It’s obvious that those we spend our lives with will have an effect on us. While sometimes this effect can be negative, in many cases communities can also help make an individual extremely successful. When we spend time with our communities, we often talk openly about various topics and are able to seek out the advice and opinions of others. For example, as a high school student, I talk to my teachers and parents about the universities I should apply to, what subjects I would want to study, what career I might pursue in my professional life, and much more. Similarly, I talk to my neighbors about daily life, how they’re doing, whether or not they need help with anything. Lastly, how can we possibly forget our friends? “A friend is one who believes in you when you have ceased to believe in yourself.” This beautiful (and anonymous) quote perfectly fits the description of a friend’s role in our lives. Friends are the people who are always there for you, whether times are good or bad. When you have a positive, strong community, you are most likely to be successful in life. Some examples of famous successful people whose communities played a large role in their lives are Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, and Taylor Swift. There are many others.
Whether the steps toward success are small or a large, community will always play a larger role than the individual. Therefore, it’s essential to surround yourself with people that will help you grow and achieve personal success. However, it’s important not to rely solely on community all the time because when you help yourself, others will be more likely to help you too.
Kevin Lim, 15, South Korea, has been in Beijing 13 years
The individual plays a larger role than community in determining personal success. My opinion is based on two main points: One, the simple fact that everyone is different and two, that the individual accumulation of decisions a person makes are the root of successful or non-successful outcomes.
In order to be successful people need to know themselves first. Everyone has their own unique set of characteristics, attributes, and challenges they face. People generally know themselves and their own behaviors better than anyone else. Community – be it friends, family, or others – generally do not know who you are as well as you do. With that in mind, it’s difficult to view community as the bigger determinant of personal success.
According to research by author and doctor, Jack Phillip London, nearly 65 percent of people were successful in their field when they were free from outside intervention. He claimed that understanding oneself helped develop each person’s foundation, and that that understanding grew deeper as time passed, ultimately contributing to their success. Furthermore, he argued that success is an internal reward for how a person carries out their life, both in business and personal matters.
Secondly, every individual is responsible for his or her own future. The decisions each person makes will have an impact on their lives. Some say that in current times, many people are too quick to adapt to trends in order to survive or succeed. However, deciding to follow the herd may have many negative influences on an individual’s success. Even if a person is “successful” following a trend, they are still technically failing if they don’t bring their own unique style. It is hard to be truly unique when people are too similar to others. In short, opportunities are really what an individual makes of them, and people need to do anything they can to fight their way up the food chain. If you pay attention in school, work hard, stay sober, stay out of trouble, marry young, save your money, and sacrifice for the future, you will get ahead just fine and will find life worth living.
To reiterate, individuals play a much larger role than communities in determining personal success, not only because personal decisions make great differences, but also because people are unique. One’s self image is of utmost important because if you know who you are and believe in yourself, then you can do practically anything.
This article originally appeared on page 42-43 of the beijingkids November 2015 issue. Click here to read the issue for free on Issuu.com. To find out how you can get your own copy, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos: Courtesy of BIBA