Some people have “portable success.”

In a recent Eagles Club discussion, my friend Dave Ramsey said that it’s clear “some people have portable success.”  So what does that mean? 

Haven’t you seen people who just seem to have the “Midas Touch?”  Everything they do just turns out well.  They’re never out of work; they get promotions and bonuses, their cars never break down, and the sun always shines on their days off.  If they start a business, they sell it for a big profit and start another. 

Also, I’m sure you know someone who has lost multiple jobs, has had numerous cars that all were lemons, and every day is gloomy.  They struggle in relationships, health and finances. 

So how do we get positioned for portable success?  Is it fate that determines our lot in life?  Is it luck, circumstances or predestination?  Must we be born in the right country or the right family?  Do we choose success or failure?  Can we move from the whiner side to the winner side once we are already on a path? 

Frankly, I’m not as sure as I once was.  I’ve always believed we could choose success or failure.  But I know a gal who at 28 is attractive, black, ex-con, and eager to change her path.  She’s bright, articulate, hard working, honest and a committed Christian.  But no one will rent to her, hire her or sell her a car.  She struggles with every illness that comes along and then misses important appointments. 

Is she doomed or can she move over to the path of having portable success?  What will it take for her to change her path physically, financially and relationally?

13 Responses to “Some people have “portable success.””

  1. therealmotherlode Says:

    If you get this figured out please let me know. I have a dear friend that goes from trial to trial. Yes, some of it is bad decisions but many times it’s just the old “stuff happens” thing.

    I sometimes wonder this when I see parents that are blessed with compliant children versus those that come out of the womb complaining about the temperature in the delivery room.

    Ah, Life.

  2. Carl Says:

    This is an interesting topic. I see people who happen to be in the right place at the right time. I see others where every situation is an uphill struggle when going from job to job or starting a business venture. I consult with people who are involved with technology startups. I see some who make it and others who don’t. I have tried to understand what is the difference between these people. I was talking to a friend and suggested that there might be a gift of commercialization that allows some to make it and others not. There are a lot of people who sell their ways to riches concept stating that “if I can do it, anyone can do it”. I’m not sure about that. I would like to know if there is a differential value and not just “it is all about enthusiasm”.

  3. Some people have “Portable Success” « N2ition0709's Blog Says:

    […] […]

  4. Dan Bartram Says:

    Just saw Malcolm Gladwell at Catalyst this past weekend, so I picked up his book Outliers
    . Very similar observations in that success is directly related to being in the right place at the right time. It’s totally changing my view of success as well. I think if anything, being successful (however you define it) can be much more complicated than we have thought.

  5. Stu Gray Says:

    Hey Dan –

    My Comment is related to your Eagle Group…! You have mentioned it several times in your writing…and I would love to know what goes into making a group like yours – a “mastermind” of sorts…have you written on how it came to be, and how you spur each other on to action?

    Thanks for your ministry Dan! Have a great week.

  6. Phil Says:


    I think the best thing you can do is establish some sort of consistency in your life. Try commiting to a job no matter how much you hate it. You can use that as a building block. Step into financial well-being from there. Figure out your schedule and spend more time in education, health and well-being, or fulfilling an interest.

    I was struggling in this same way, until I committed myself into a relationship. It has given me the chance to pursue my goals in other areas. I now have a great job, am financially secure, and am getting married. Not to say these things follow eachother, but it helped me get a grip on my life. I think a solid foundation of something that will not change is something you can make as good as you want it to be that can serve as a stepping stone down the road.

  7. Dlo Says:

    My feeling is yes things happen. We have to all understand that things happen. What I think is important is how we plan or prepare for those things to happen. It’s kind of like the emergency fund that Dave Ramsey talks about. he states that we need a rainy day fund because it’s a certainty that one of these days it’s gonna rain. If we plan accordingly we can be prepared for when life happens and be ready to happen to it. I have a brother that can’t seem to understand why he is always in new jobs or just not able to stay in a job because of the boss, company closing or so on. I have told him that thus far in his life everything has been happening to him, and it was time for him to happen. The company closing happen to him. The boss yelling at him and him being forced to leave happen to him. It’s his turn to make decisions and happen to something.
    Last but not least I like the 7 P’s
    Previous Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance

  8. Tony Hollowell Says:

    In Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl (who survived the Nazi Concentration Camps) states, “In the final analysis it becomes clear that the sort of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision, and not the result of camp influences alone…The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails gives him ample opportunity-even under the most difficult of circumstances-to add a deeper meaning to his life.”

    I think we are all being tested, every day. The person who has the “midas touch” still has challenges that are testing him with every grand success. He must learn to remain humble, to be compassionate towards the suffering, to use his gifts to serve, to be thankful and not greedy. I think it is dangerous to look at “success” as a superior alternative to “disappointment and failure” because these are both conduits through which we can emerge as the people we are challenged to be.

    I have no interest in trying to survive a Nazi Concentration Camp to find out if I’m right, but I think Frankl is on to something.

  9. Chris Hartley Says:

    This is a great post, one for the “Best of…” lists.

    In my experience, poverty – specifically, lack of liquidity – complicates life by predisposing one to a variety of obstacles which are mitigated or completely avoided by having liquidity., but which are often devastating to the poor.

    For example, when I couldn’t afford to renew the tags on my clunker, I kept it parked in my driveway…but then the car – in my driveway, remember – piled up a number of tickets (for “abandoned vehicle”) during a two-month hospitalization.

    By the time I found out about the tickets, it was too late to contest them, and several hundred dollars of late fees had piled up.

    Due to the unpaid tickets, my license to drive was suspended, and I have never had the money necessary to resolve them.

    So now I can’t drive, which means Dave Ramsey’s system of delivering pizzas isn’t an option, so I remain poor.

    In the instant case, just ONE break can help her break out of this lack of failure. One job offer can lead to so many other positive life changes. Finding a good place to rent also lead to other big improvements.

    So she should just keep knocking on doors, networking, persisting. Having Dan Miller’s endorsement is a huge encouragement.

  10. Jason Garey Says:

    All I can say is in reference to Job 1:8 “Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” And what of the Apostle Paul? His life was certainly no picnic after his conversion. We only know other’s circumstances from the outside looking in. This is the way the world defines us, so naturally (as in the natural man) it’s easy to fall right in line that way of thinking. When you said she is a committed Christian I started wondering how committed she is. Perhaps God is pushing her to her limit because God intends on using her in a powerful way. We only see one a few threads in the tapestry. He sees all. Our job (implying effort is to trust and obey.

  11. Jason Garey Says:

    Sorry for all the typos

  12. RDO Says:

    Interesting post. I have a very good friend who fits a similar profile. It was very tough for them to get where they are today, but, through really (almost obsessive) hard work, and a LOT of grace extended that would otherwise be inexplicable they have built a modestly successful life.

    I on the other hand am more the one who has more than my fair share of “bad luck”. But I persevere nonetheless, hoping in God’s promises, trying to be patient, and faithful, and continuing to work as hard as I’m humanly capable of working.

  13. Diane Says:

    I’ve been analyzing this question for years, Dan. Not only do I see these examples out in the big, wide world, but in my own house as well. My first child is a high achiever, and while she works very hard for her success, she always seems to be able to get what she goes after. She seems to have the talent and natural ability to succeed (although her car has broken down numerous times!). Yet life seems to just be hard for my son. School is hard; emotions are hard; he gets sick or injured more often, etc. It’s as if the daughter is cruising through life on ice skates, and the son is trudging through the mud in heavy rubber boots. My gut feeling is that our emotional DNA plays a big role in how effectively we can exercise even proven strategies for success.

    I’m a firm believer in Psalm 139, so I believe my son was as intentionally and deliberately created as my daughter. He (like his Mom) may just have to work a little harder to find, and fully live out, God’s purpose.

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