The former president of Def Jam Records, Kevin Liles, spoke to a group of local students who participated in a two-week program about entrepreneurship, held at NC Central University. The Herald-Sun reports on some of the advice Liles gave to the students about making their own way and succeeding in life. I found this passage in the story particularly thought provoking.

Three kinds of people exist in the world, he said: People who make it happen, people who watch it happen, and people to whom things happen. He urged students not to worry so much about reality TV or that basketball player who just signed a $50 million contract.

“You’re watching someone else’s movie,” he said. “Make your own.”


Kudos to Mr. Liles for encouraging these teens to see themselves as individuals, a message we hear too little about these days. But on his point about the types of people in the world, I see his description as incomplete. I think these teens need to realize where we are in society and what faces them when they succeed and, as Mr. Liles put it, make their own movie.

Today, those who do exactly as Mr. Liles advises are demonized for their success. They are cast as not paying their “fair share.” They are derided as having succeeded on the backs of others. They are objects of ridicule and protests.

Thus, I say there are four kinds of people in the world: the three Mr. Liles noted, along with a fourth category of those who want to denigrate achievement. I applaud Mr. Liles for his efforts and his success in life. Perhaps if he and others would explain to young people that when their work yields fruit, they must push back against those whose envy and mean-spirited nature will cast the successful as a problem, rather than a role model.