Success and financial security depend on drive and help

Get the Insider app

A personalized feed, digest mode, and ad-free experience.

Download the app

close icon Two crossed lines that form an ‘X’. It indicates a way to close an interaction or dismiss a notification.

  • Scott Galloway is a best-selling author and professor of marketing at NYU Stern.
  • The following is a recent blog post, republished with permission, which was originally posted on his blog, “No pity / no malice.”
  • In it, Galloway discusses the effects of poverty and how hunger can drive you or hurt you.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Thanks to a consolidation of stimulus checks, increased food stamps, improved unemployment benefits and child tax credits, the number of Americans living in poverty will be almost halved this year.

This is the largest short-term poverty reduction in our nation’s history, a 45% drop from 2018.

Child poverty decreased by 61%. Compare that to the more than 20% increase in poverty that accompanied Reagan-era welfare cuts.

It turns out that government assistance works. Really good.

Scott Galloway

Scott Galloway

I was raised by a single mother who earned $800 a month, which was just enough to clothe, house and feed us.

Growing up in economic insecurity made me want to succeed. But there is a difference between a hunger that pushes you and a hunger that weakens you. I don’t know exactly where this line is drawn, but I’m sure it’s above the current Federal poverty level.

Four years ago I wrote about the kind of hunger that drives you. This desire, combined with the greatest vehicle of economic mobility in history (the American economy), has helped me achieve economic security. Let’s hope that 61% more children now have this chance.

Read more: SCOTT GALLOWAY: Half of America is upside down. It’s time for a vaccine mandate.

The following was originally published on February 24, 2017.

I’ve been thinking a lot about success lately, its foundations and if it is learned.

Talent is important, but it will only get you into a crowded VIP room. (Kind of like Platinum Medallion on Delta – you think you’re special, but at LGA you realize you’re many.) The Hunter Who Takes Talent on top to significant success, I think, is hunger.

I have a lot of insecurity and fear which, coupled with the instincts we all have, has resulted in hunger.

It can come from many places. I don’t think I was born with it. Understanding where hunger comes from can illuminate the difference between success and fulfillment.

The sources/fuel/triggers of my hunger:

For the first 18 years of my life, I was an ordinary kid who didn’t work hard and didn’t get good results.

At UCLA, we all started out as nice, smart, attractive people (“18” and “attractive” are redundant), who paired off, even if for 10 minutes, based on feelings of attraction awkward (“she’s hot”, “he’s cool”).

But in senior year, women gravitated towards guys who had their shit togetherhas shown early signs of success, or, have rich parentshad already acquired the assets of success (weekends with their parents in Aspen and Palm Springs).

Women’s instinct was beginning. They were looking for mates who could better ensure the survival of their offspring, rather than mating with a super interesting guy who wore a military jacket all over, smoked a ton of shit and could recite key scenes from “Planet of the Apes.”

My instincts also kicked in and I wanted to spread my DNA…everywhere. It seemed that a prerequisite for this was to report success. So I got a job at Morgan Stanley. I had no idea what investment bankers didbut I knew that was the sign of success.

Scott Galloway

Scott Galloway

It didn’t take long to realize that while success in the eyes of others seems meaningful, doing something you love feels profound.

People who tell you to “follow your passion” are already rich. But it’s essential not to hate what you do.

The secret is to find something you’re good at: the rewards and recognition that come with being great at something will make you passionate about anything.

Realizing early on that my thirst to impress was leading me down a path of misery – investment banking is a unique combination of boring subjects and lots of stress – gave me the confidence to pull through. I left the path of success without accomplishment.

Until then, my story could have been a summer movie about a gregarious guy trying to get laid and stumbling towards self-awareness. But the story took a turn.

During my second year of graduate school at Berkeley, my mother was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. Released prematurely from hospital in Los Angeles, she started chemo.

She called me and told me she felt terrible. I got home that afternoon and walked through the door to our dark living room, where Mom was lying on the couch in her bathrobe, contorted and throwing up into a trash can, distraught. She looked at me and asked, “What are we going to do?” Just writing this pains me.

We were underinsured, and I had no doctor contact. I felt a variety of emotions, but mostly I wish I had more money and influence. I knew that wealth, among other things, brought contacts and access to a different level of health care. We had neither.

Scientific experimentation

In 2008 my girlfriend and I became pregnant and witnessed the deeply disturbing miracle of birth when my son left my girlfriend. (Note: I still think men should stay out of the delivery room.)

I felt almost none of the things you’re supposed to feel: love, gratitude, wonder. Mostly nausea and recognition of the scientific experiment we were getting into to keep this thing alive. But instinct kicked in, as it often does, and my son became less awful, even likeable.

The need to protect and to provide became more and more intense. The 2008 crisis hit me hard, and I went from being quite rich to definitely not. The previous crisis of 2000 had registered the same economic effect, but it completely escaped me – I was in my 30s then and had to fend for myself.

Scott Galloway

Scott Galloway

It was different. Not to be able to provide for the needs of a child in Manhattan at the level and texture I envisioned for my son, seriously given a shit about my purpose for being here (as in “on earth”) and my value as a man. I was preparing to fail on a cosmic level, and the flame of hunger was burning brighter.

The instinct to protect and nurture your offspring is at the heart of our species’ success. But the pressure many of us put on ourselves to be a good supplier is irrational.

Believe that your child needs Manhattan Private Schools and a loft in Tribeca to survive is your ego talking, not paternal instinct. You can be a good dad on a lot less than I thought you’d have to earn.


Lately I feel my hunger decreasing – my doctor says it’s low T.

May be. I spend more time with the people I care about, try to be more in the moment, and pass on professional opportunities so I can focus more on the condition of my soul. Not completely full, but not so hungry.

Still, I want to instill a sense of hunger in my boys via chores. I pay them every week for their chores, hoping they’ll make the connection between work and reward and go hungry. Moreover, twice a year after having paid them, I attack them on the way to their room. That too is a life lesson.

Life is so rich


PS: Wondering how you create a hunger for your products? This area is something my friend and colleague Professor Adam Alter knows inside and out. His Product Strategy Sprint gets into the weeds on the psychology, principles and practices of today’s stickiest products so you can apply them to your own products. Looked.

Sarah J. Greer