Many Attribute Unhappy Childhood to Current Success

An unhappy childhood is the ideal preparation for the brutal new normal of the job market.

For many famous and just as many ordinary people, the unhappy childhood was the No. 1 factor in their success. Examples include Jon Hamm, who plays Don Draper in 'Mad Men.' The show's creator, Matthew Weiner, saw Hamm's wounds and knew he had found the actor who would go the distance in the part.

Other examples of famous people with lousy early years range from President Ronald Reagan to rock star Eminem.

Often employers for more ordinary jobs will tend to hire the wounded. That's because those who survived the worst of times have the drive, imagination, and persistence to perform regular jobs with a fierce sense of mission.

The trick, though, is to present yourself as "emotionally housebroken." Demonstrate through how you dress, your facial expressions, and body language that you can hold it together to fit into the organizational culture. That doesn't mean you have to be totally well-rounded and exuding joy as if you stepped down from the mountains of 'The Sound of Music.' What it does mean is a social sensitivity to what's considered standard operating behavior in the workplace.

During the interview, break yourself open enough for employers to glimpse the survivor in you. Yes, they like that. For exactly that reason, over the decades employers have hired former veterans who had seen combat.

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum

28 Comments

Filter by:
t

A SPECIAL NOTE to Unhappiest Of All.......... Dear Unhappy, I think you are an amazing person to use you comment for the purpose of helping others. You sound warm, caring, wise, and very smart. And you are an excellent writer. I agree with Sandra Branum that you should consider writing a book about your life. Write down an outline of the years and events, and then for every event you want to include, write the lesson you would want others to learn from it. Then, write one full sample chapter of your proposed book. After that, you'll need to write a cover-letter, and get a list of succesful publishing agents (any librarian can help you find that) because most publishing houses wont accept book ideas from writers; you have to go thru an agent. If you send a copy of your outline with the sample chapter and cover-letter to a bunch of agents, you're sure to get someone hooked. And then comes a book deal, and you will end up with money PLUS you will help soooo many people who will read and learn so much from your book :) You don't need therapy my friend. You need to realize that you are a pretty terrific person. Not many people could type a post on a website and immediately develop their own personal fan club of supporters. But you did! Think about THAT for a moment, hm?? Who knows, maybe the author of this article, Jane Genova, can get you a gig as a motivational speaker on her tours with her. Why not send her an email? She'd be smart to help you out, and she could learn a lot from you. Use your spare time to work on this. I think you'll end up making A LOT of new friends through something like this. You may even fall asleep smiling a few times :) Good luck and God Bless. xoxox, t

November 18 2010 at 11:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
KevinBinKC

I am now a very successful lawyer leading my own law firm. I started out living with my grandma b/c my mom was a party-girl in the late 60s and an emotional wreck in the early 70s and my "father" walked away before I was born. When my grandma died, the Court put me with my mom instead of foster care (still not sure which would have been better). She was married 4 times while I was young to abusive alcoholics who couldn't keep a job. Finally, when I was in high school, I came home from football one day to find my mother and her new flavor of the year packing up all our stuff. They were moving and I was told that I wasn't coming with them b/c I was now old enough to take care of myself -- it was the beginning of my senior year.

I lived hard and frugally and put myself through the University by working 40 hours a week and attending school. This was the 80s -- not the depression. I never asked anyone for anything and paid my own way. I have little empathy for anyone's sob story about how tough they had it and why they can't succeed.

Your life is measured not by what you've achieved, but by what you have overcome to achieve it.

November 18 2010 at 5:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Donna

Unhappiness Of All,,It was if you seen me grow up. I know exactly how you feel. I went through the same type of things that you did.
And more I dont want to put on here, it was horrible.
Now I dont leave my house, people scare me. It seems to me, people are cruel, so I stay away from everyone.
I know how you feel, and I just wanted to tell you that get some help if you can. It cost about $300.00 an hour here to talk to someone. To hell with that. But their or other resourses to use that are free. Like group mettings, it helps to talk about some of it.
And it really helps to talk to someone whos been there, and knows exactly how it feels, and what effects it has taken on us.
I cried reading your comment. I just hate that anyone else, grew up like I did. I am proud you took up for your ill mother, no one deserves to be treated like that.
You have more self worth that most people do, you just cant see it.
Please reach out to someone, I dont want you to end up like me.
Afraid of my own shaddow, and never leave the house.

November 18 2010 at 1:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
janna nikkola

Wounded people also try harder to please and to prove themselves worthy of promotion and acceptance. Unfortuantely, no matter how successful they may be in the work force, it's very difficult to overcome those old feelings of being unworthy.

November 18 2010 at 11:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jim

I know all about unhappy. As a child, I remember being hit for the slightest thing by my alcoholic father. We had old military style bunk beds and would be told to drop our pants and he would hit is with a belt to a point where our welts could be seen for days. He committed suicide when I was 9. Not long after, my mother married an almost equally agressive man, who seemed to take pleasure in hitting us kids. My mother was bed ridden due to major back issues, so there was little she could do about his abuse and she was often the target of it as well. When I was 16, I came home from school one day to hear him yelling at my mother, telling her what a useless bit*h she was. I had had enough. I took a baseball bat and beat him unconcious, then dragged him outside and pinned a note to his chest telling him that if he came back in, I would kill him. He never came back in again. My mother died when I was 19. He had the balls to try to show up at her funeral and I chased him off the property of the funeral home. Only a few years later, my sister died due to her own issues with abuse, drugs, and alcohol. I have since, lost 2 brothers to alcohol, and drug use. The last one died only a few years ago. I am now 52 and still carry all this baggage. I have a lot of mental issues, but do my best to live some sort of normal life, but because of my issues, I can't keep friends for long and my relationships with women suffers as well. I jow live more like a hermit. I stay in when I am not working, and sort of live in my own little fantasy world, believing that I am something better. I can't afford to get mental help, and even if I could I think that I would mess that up. All this is to say that when you talk about unhappy childhoods, remember that there are others that know all about it. If you are a parent reading this, PLEASE make your childs upbringing the happiest that you may be able to provide. Don't let your kids end up like me. Living a lie, and crying yourself to sleep almost every night....

November 18 2010 at 11:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
6 replies to Jim's comment
cory zamora

this made my day ! i had an awful childhood ran by bigots.....i have owned my own business for over 30 years....doing what i was put here to do !

November 18 2010 at 10:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Wendy

Who is to say that Jon Hamm or Eminem would not have been successful if they had not had unhappy childhoods or been abused. Perhaps they would not have been a successful actor or musician (or maybe they would). Maybe they would have been successful in some other way and happier. They are both attractive intelligent individuals, does the drive really have to be attributed to their unhappiness.

November 18 2010 at 9:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Donna

Thye forgot the fact that when a child that has been abused enough, they grown up to be so insecure, some of them are afraid to express their selves enough to get through the interview.
This story may be true, to some level. But verbal abuse is horrible.
It will make a child afraid of their own shadow. And some with draw from society. Because they feel they dont fit in any where, or with anyone. Even with their own family, the very ones that did the abuse.

November 18 2010 at 9:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Donna's comment
Nonie

As a severly abused child, I find this article to be bordering on INSANE. You could say some aspects are true, as I for one did well and advanced quickly at every job I had , including my own business, however, who in their right mind would even concider it appropriate 'training' for the work place to be raised in an abusive atmosphere ? Let me tell you, the sense of pride of a 'job well done' from the excellent work place performance does not happen for these 'superior' employees, as in our minds we are working to please other so we will not be abused. What 'pride' is there in that ?

November 18 2010 at 9:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Angiebaby

A challenging childhood is the best contributor to a successful adult. I'll buy that. I always hear people say "I work hard to give my children more than I had." First, I've never heard an adult say that who wasn't a hard working, independent, responsible person. Second, I've heard many of those same adults complain because they have given their kids everything yet the little imps were lazy, ungrateful and didn't take care of the things you worked hard for or went into debt to give them. The funny thing is, these adults never seem to figure out the inverse relationship between just having, vs having to work for something. If you are handed something, the value is only in what you hold. If you have to put sweat equity into something, the value becomes personal and it becomes a lifelong life lesson. This has nothing to do with parental love or parental finances, but it has everything to do with sound parenting.

November 18 2010 at 9:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
John

Jane Genova sounds like an idiot. Is this article supposed to be encouraging abusive parenting, or just a way to rationalize the bad parenting you already did? Remind me never to attend one of her lectures or buy one of her books.

November 18 2010 at 9:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Search Articles

Top Companies Hiring

Week of Nov 9 - Nov 16
View All

Featured Writers

Meet the team

Picks From the Web