Trolling the internet for a blog topic, I stumbled across this Gawker piece by Richard Lawson on why one shouldn’t hate Simon Rich just because nepotism probably accounts at least somewhat for his success (and recent book-to-film deal). I’ll admit that I had missed this deal announcement, but I probably would’ve at least scoffed had I first seen it out of this context.
Lawson sums up my (and perhaps the average person’s) gut reaction to such things thusly:
But still, in a country where so many doors are closed to so many people, that a twentysomething born into a life of ease can just saunter in and get exactly what he wants on the first try seems to fly in the face of our noble belief in the meritocracy.*
But he also goes on to say that sometimes, we really ought to just suck it up and put all that aside. As he points out, why bother to wish that other people struggle because we do? Is it a belief in merit or just envy? Sometimes geniuinely talented people get an easy in, not because it’s the only way they can succeed, but because it’s not sensible to reject the easy in on principle.
The piece is well argued, and I think a good reminder not to fall into the trap of begrudging someone success. In publishing, I think it’s especially easy to get caught up in looking for someone to blame. There’s celebrity memoirs; a publishing system full of gatekeepers; bottom line thinking; all the people taking the supposedly (but actually not at all) “easy” way out by writing something trendy or very commercial; and yes, too, the well connected. But even if the system is imperfect and quality isn’t always the deciding factor, where does bitterness get you?
It’s natural to be annoyed, but don’t let that drive you. Sometimes we can all use the reminder to breathe deep and worry not about everybody else, but instead about how to achieve our goals independent of whether anyone else achieves theirs.