Creating a Culture of Mentorship: Why Business Leaders Shouldn’t Believe in “Bootstrapping” Myths
Published by: Fast Company
There’s something quintessentially American about the expression, “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” The phrase, however, is believed to have originated in German folklore with the tale of an 18th-century nobleman who was famous for telling sensational lies about his achievements. In one instance, the nobleman claimed he’d escaped from a swamp by pulling on his own hair. By the time the story crossed the Atlantic, he was said to have been yanking on his bootstraps.
This story’s proliferation in American culture speaks to the value many people place on those who go it alone or are perceived to have accomplished great things without the assistance of others. But this narrative is a myth, and I believe it’s especially harmful when leveraged at marginalized populations that face larger barriers to success. Generational wealth, access to power, mentorship, and career opportunities are all factors that can dramatically impact a person’s career success, yet are rarely acknowledged in the “rags to riches” stories we like to tell.