Friday, January 15, 2016

Entitlement his best-selling book, "Outliers," Malcolm Gladwell notes that kids of affluent parents are "entitled" in a good way, in that they grow up expecting to get access to the things they need to thrive, and based on that expectations they do things to gain access to those very things, whereas kids of parents of lesser means feel disenfranchised from those resources and opportunities.  It is a controversial and shocking conclusion, and one which I continue to mull over several years after having read the book and now a parent of three kids myself.  

I am torn on the statement.  On the one hand, I wholeheartedly subscribe to the notion that it is important that I teach my kids that the world is theirs for the taking, so that they are not passive or self-defeating in their temperament.  On the other hand, I want them to be realistic about what they can do and humble about what it takes to be successful.

It is a common complaint with today's kids, that they are entitled, whether to get the trophy just because they participated or to get the A just because they're a nice kid.  And yet how easily we act as if their egos are so frail that we must constantly pump them up.  "Look at Jonny shoot the basketball...he's going to be the next Steph Curry."  Or: "She's so smart...she's going to be president someday."  

At the risk of being a killjoy, let me channel my inner Stephen A. Smith and note that Steph Curry and Barack Obama (and Beyonce and Serena and Zuck and Hillary) are outliers whose achievements will not be approached by the vast majority of humanity.  Let me further note that all of those people worked incredibly hard to get where they are today, and continue to put in the work and make the sacrifice to excel at that rarefied level.  

It's why one of my main mantras to my kids is a two-parter.  First, they should not be afraid to be great.  In other words, don't be ashamed if your talent or your desire puts you out of the norm.  Second, they have to realize that in order to be great, they have to put in the work.  No one (with the possible exception of Mozart) was born so talented that otherworldly results just happened easily without effort.  

It is my hope that this constant reminder helps them to be entitled in the good way without being entitled in the bad way.  Come see me in a few decades to see if it worked.
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