The Downside of Success

All parents hope to give their kids a better life than the one they experienced growing up. This is not a knock on their own parents, but an aspiration born out of love and the desire to succeed for the benefit of their kids. I feel this way about my own children. Mandy and I have had several conversations over the years about what this could look like for our kids and how we would manage to not raised spoiled, self-centered children while working to out-do our own childhoods.

I began working at a very early age. I worked full-time in the summer starting about the age of 13 (in a machine shop, no less!). My parents were able to meet all of my financial needs growing up but there was never a lot of extra money lying around so I knew that I needed to earn some money of my own both to pay for the normal expenses of a teenager as well as to save what I could for college. I worked hard in high school, got accepted and worked hard in college, and started my career by working hard to uncover my first job (along with several internships along the way).

I am a driven person that enjoys to work. I have been blessed to enjoy several successes in my career. I am able to give money to charity, provide for my family and put my children in some of the best public schools in America. But I struggle with the question of how I pass along these blessings to my children while also instilling in them the same drive and work ethic that I have.

This dilemma is one of the downsides of success. I also think it is one of the reasons that only 15 percent of people think today’s children will be better off than their parents. Some may believe that our children will not be better off than we are because we have, collectively, set the bar to high or that the barriers to success are to great to be overcome by so many. I, for one, do not agree with this viewpoint. I believe that people believe this because we have created (and continue to create) generations of young people that feel they are entitled to success rather than needing to work hard to succeed.

We see it all around us. In the college grads that display a shocking lack of professionalism in the workplace. In the young people that want their parents to take on tens-of-thousands of dollars in debt to pay for a college degree that has no chance of delivering a meaningful return on the investment. In the twenty-somethings that have no idea what discipline is or how satisfying it can be to practice delayed-gratification and, instead, rack up mountains of credit card debt funding their lifestyle.

I am not exactly sure when I became the old man complaining about the out-of-touch young people but I am pretty sure it started happening when I had kids of my own. It started happening when I felt like I needed to start developing a plan to raise children that have the drive to succeed in whatever it is that they do with their lives. It started when I decided not to give in to one of the downsides of success.

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