Virginia Bianco-Mathis
University professor, author

Virginia Bianco-Mathis

Business department chair of management programs at Marymount University and author of two books on executive coaching.

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A winning combo

Q: One did time in prison. Another was raised by migrant farmworkers. All came from humble origins. One recent night, Oprah Winfrey, Merle Haggard, dancer Bill T. Jones, Broadway composer Jerry Herman and a guy named Paul McCartney received one of the world's highest awards for artists: the Kennedy Center honors. What does this tell us, if anything, about the will to succeed, the importance of personal history and the theme of the American Dream?


A scene from "Gone with the Wind" comes to mind: Scarlett is dirty and exhausted from working in the fields and she screams to the heavens, "I will never be hungry again."

Having tasted poverty and loss, she is spurred to rise above the rubble and gain wealth and status. But let's take a closer look at Scarlett. She is also tenacious, scheming, politically savvy, forceful, smart, and flamboyant. She possesses an inner force that continuously drives her forward.

As we scan the powerful faces of the Kennedy Center honorees, we can definitely note a similar inner determination.

Yes, these people came from humble beginnings, as do many other people. Yet, not everyone overcomes those humble origins and parlays that experience into ultimate success.

These winners demonstrate that with the right combination of factors, success can be achieved. It is not just the humble beginnings or the American Dream or the desire to succeed. If that's all it took, many more of us would be on that stage.

Rather, it is a unique combination of god-given talent, creativity, drive, passion, risk taking, work, practice, optimism, brains, and visibility -- and a little bit of luck.

By Virginia Bianco-Mathis  |  December 13, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  Success and adversity Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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