However, their children very often end up being total underachievers who have no goals in life and just wander around aimlessly and miserably almost completely dependent on their parents, often well into their forties. These people had everything they ever wanted since the day they were born. Expensive toys, gadgets, fantastic schools, trips abroad, clothes from famous brands and later downpayments for houses or condos and expensive cars. As a result, they lack what I consider to be one of the most important skills in life: they don't know how to want things and work towards achieving them. There is nothing more miserable, I believe, that a life without goals and dreams. Not pipe dreams of the "I will become rich and famous without ever lifting a finger" variety but actual goals that a person works every day to achieve.
This is a very strange and disheartening paradox. People who work extremely hard their entire lives and achieve a lot end up unwittingly undermining their children. It seems like one is much better off growing up in a poor family because that gives you the drive and the skills to survive on your own. When I was in grad school, I knew that there was no trust fund and no inheritance from a grandma I could rely on. This was why I worked so hard to graduate in five years and find a paying job as soon as possible. If it hadn't been for the knowledge that I had to fend for myself because there was simply no other option, I might still be in grad school today partying every night and staring lazily at my unfinished dissertation during the day.
All of the leading scholars in my field whose life circumstances I happen to know well came from extremely modest (not to say dirt poor) families. I just can't think of anybody who was born with a silver or even golden spoon in their mouth and still managed to make something of themselves. (Sitting on the board of your Daddy's company or being placed in an academic position by your brilliant mother doesn't count as being successful in your own right.) As I wrote a couple of days ago, it so happened that I've spent a lot of time with rich people, and it's always the same story. Driven, hard-working parents and bored, inept, immature children who keep living through their boring teenage rebellion decades after they reached adulthood.
So my question to everybody is: do you know any people who grew up in families that were very comfortable financially but who still managed to become successful individuals in their own right? And if so, what did their families do to make it happen?
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