Success Myths: Success is Limited By Our Past

Nov 27, 2020

By: Laura Jackson, Certified Purpose Guide | LinkedIn


How has your past determined how you view success?

How you answer this question is essential to determining what success is to you.

Most workers caught in the rat race hold limiting beliefs that dictate their success. Our minds create limiting beliefs based on our past. The consciousness of these beliefs is imperative to find Purpose and Purposeful employment. I was reminded of this as I contemplated the inspiring story of Jerald Walker.

Jerald grew up in one of the more notorious slums of Chicago’s south side. He was the grandson of sharecroppers and the great-grandson of slaves, but his parents joined a white supremacist doomsday cult that believed that black people were cursed and should be enslaved and segregated, both in this life and in the next. Jerald’s parents were both blind, and his father struggled to provide for their six children. Often the family went without heat and warm clothing in the harsh Chicago winters. To survive, Jerald dropped out of school at age sixteen, and at the encouragement of his brother, became convinced that the road to survival was through gangs, petty theft, drugs, and alcohol.

In his early twenties, while traveling to his job at a medical center, Jerald noticed that several people his age were getting off the train at the stop before his and were entering a building. One day he decided to follow them. Their destination was the University of Illinois at Chicago. When he saw where they were going, he left, but he followed them again the next day. On the third day, he ventured into the school’s library, took a book off the shelf, and pretended to read. Several trips later, he bought a University of Illinois backpack and sweater and brought his books. He pretended to be a student until he convinced himself that he belonged at the school. At that point, he made an appointment with the admissions counselor, who told him that, as a high school dropout with low grades, he would never be accepted to the university. But he decided that there was a place for a person like him, and he needed to find it.

Today, Jerald Walker is a creative writing professor at Emerson College and is the author of several books. His writing has appeared in publications such as The Harvard Review, and he was nominated for the National Book Award for Nonfiction. His success began when he challenged the limiting beliefs imposed upon him by his past.

Each of us is uniquely gifted to make a contribution that will benefit ourselves and those around us. In The Purpose Promise book and workbook, we explore the limiting beliefs that can get in the way of finding that Purpose in life.

Don’t let limiting beliefs keep you from your success. Reject the myth that success is limited from where you came from and find Purpose.

Questions to Ponder:

  • What limiting narratives do you tell yourself that keep you from pursuing your Purpose?
  • What events in your past created limiting beliefs that may not be true?

Habits to Cultivate:

  • Take the time to examine the stories you tell yourself. Are they based on fact or a belief forged from early experience or input from others?

Learn more about this success myth by listening to our podcast where we interview purpose seekers on how they overcame this success myth: Podcast: Is Purpose a Privileged Conversation?

We have helped thousands of purpose seekers pivot into purposeful employment. You can do it too. We would love to help guide you. If you are experiencing this success myth and are feeling disengaged, get started on your path to purpose.

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