Why Jed Clampett really moved to Beverly Hills and why Environment is the forerunner of Success

In Goal Setting, Malcolm Gladwell, Psychology, Psychology of Success, Success on July 18, 2009 at 4:15 am


By Bakari Akil II, Ph.D.

When Jed’s ‘kinfolk’ ordered him to “move away from here” it was for a very good reason. Although “here” was never really explained on the show, it was easy to tell that the Clampett’s had it rough by one line in the theme song; “A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed.” Mining, raising crops in poor soil, moonshining and working in the wood mills meant that people like the Clampett clan led a hardscrabble lifestyle. What did the Appalachian landscape have to offer the Clampett’s and their new found wealth? 

Richard Florida’s  book, Who’s your City?, describes in detail how where you choose to live affects social and educational opportunities, your level of employability and job industries you’ll be involved in. Essentially, what type of life you will lead. He asserts that being unafraid to move to another city or live abroad may be the ticket to success.


Because environment matters.

Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, was written with the intention of explaining that environment plays an enormous role in the life of the extremely successful. No, it is not the final predictor, but its influence cannot be denied. Of course he had to use the most successful of our species (i.e., celebrities, mega-CEOs, pro-athletes, etc.) to make his point, but what about the rest of us? Environment plays a huge role in our development as well. (Which of course was one of Gladwell’s points.) 

But how often do people when starting a project or who are in the midst of their development evaluate if they have the proper environment to achieve the outcome they seek? We may have the ambition, drive, heart, skill and potential required to succeed but not the environmental settings that would make it a reality. 

Long before Gladwell, psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (chick-sent-me-hi) talked about the environment’s affect on success. Author Tom Butler-Bowden, quotes Csikszentmihalyi as saying people are “a link in the chain, a phase in the process.” In other words, no person’s achievement stands ‘alone.’ In his book, Creativity, Mihaly interviewed over 90 people, ranging from famous musicians to obscure scientific Nobel Prize winners. He asserted that their success was a combination of many elements; “environment and culture” being two of them.

We have all seen documentaries that demonstrate that there has to be an infrastructure in place before there can be success. But, it’s pretty easy in hindsight to discover the environmental factors that led to another person becoming a superstar or standout. How much planning is devoted to setting up the proper environment, before we begin, in our own lives may be a greater concern?

‘Environment’ is only the tip of the iceberg! Check out over 100 innovative ideas on success in Dr. Akil’s new book SUPER YOU! 101 Ways to Maximize your Potential on Amazon or Lulu. You can also download a free chapter on your Kindle or iPhone at Amazon.

  1. I completely agree that environment affects the possibility of success within individuals. Negative environments limit the capacity for growth and progression.

    Birds of a feather flock together. Hang out with who you wish to become.

  2. Where does the idea of nature vs. nuture play in this? Obviously, some relation. Environment plays how much of a role and how is its influence measured?

    I haven’t read Outliers. What’s your take on it?

  3. I agree John,

    A close look at who we associate with will often let us know who we are or are becoming.

  4. Nicole,

    I don’t think we could ever ignore the role of “nature” in our overall development. Developmental psychologists, neurologists and communication disorder specialists have conducted numerous studies that demonstrate that we humans have biological issues that affect our reasoning, decision making ability, moods and behavior.

    Neurologists who also study human behavior make the claim that the part of the brain that helps us make reasonable decisions based on logic and facts (pre-frontal cortex) isn’t fully developed until about 23 years old. If we can’t make proper decisions it doesn’t matter what type of environment we are in.

    I also think the studies of nature vs. nurture demonstrates that nature can not be ruled out due to the observations of identical twins who grow up in totally different environments. Their tendency to behave in ways similar to their biological parents, regardless of circumstance, demonstrates that heredity plays a role in our development.

    But at the same time when we have people who are willing and able to achieve something that matters to them, having an environment that is encouraging, supportive as well as the tools to succeed is very necessary.

    As far as “Outliers” is concerned, I loved it. I am a Gladwell fan so I am a little biased. If you liked “Blink” and the “Tipping Point” then you won’t be disappointed. He does a very good job in pointing out that even though people may have the tools to achieve success there are surprising factors that demonstrate why they were able to succeed the way they did. Even if you don’t agree his storytelling ability still makes it a great read.

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