Thursday, June 01, 2006
On the value of ambition ..
So I have been training this kid at work, the owner's nephew, and also the grandson of our Company's late founder. He's a great guy, bright, friendly, courteous, really fun to work with etc. However, I have noticed one thing which I believe rings true with many children of affluent families (tho certainly not all) and that is the absence of what many would term Ambition, or more specifically the valuation of money.
He is incredibly spoiled, as was his mother from what I understand, never having the fear of poverty or "going without" he works as a direct result of his parent's (rather late) insistence that he do so (and only for a couple months in the summer), and should he not, certain material possessions will be withheld. It is a strange way to forcibly motivate one's child, but I see it repeatedly in him. I suppose the argument can be made that given his families wealth, ambition is not something he will need to survive in his later years, but I have come to believe that ambition in fact does not merely serve to provide a stable income, but more importantly is directly related to our sense of well being and emotional security. Essentially if we are successful as a direct result of our own motivation, I firmly believe we are in a much better place because we can look back and say that we have achieved this on our own merits and not as a result of outside generosity.
We have several employees in our office who are in their late teens/early 20's and the difference between them and this kid is like night and day. In all fairness, the owner's own children, who in fact should expect an inheritance one day at least 3 times that of their cousin are in fact incredibly motivated, and while they also work for the company, there is a drastic difference in attitude and "responsibility". The sense that they are spoiled is never there, and should you not know who they are, the idea would never enter your mind. The important difference is in the way that they were raised. Their father, like his father before him works long, hard days, is in the office nearly 6 days a week and while he was certainly born with many advantages, it is not apparent in any form. He is directly responsible for the greater portion of his own personal success, having taken the company his father established and increased it in size 4 times over.
So what is it that motivates us to become independent and likewise the desired "achiever"? My experience has been that it is in fact perhaps the necessary "push" in which some wealthier parents fail to establish which sparks this drive. That "push" involves instilling into children both the value of money and also that without hard work your life will be a constant financial struggle.
I am reminded of something my mother always told me while I was growing up, and that was that my own father never really pushed himself because he was counting on the inheritance of his grandmother and parents and likewise always had his affluent parents to run to if things got difficult. She said that he became obsessed with it his entire life and in the end, this destroyed him. He passed away a broken and dependent man at age 41. She wanted to make sure I would never fall victim to the same mindset, so she discouraged my late father's family from helping me financially over the years.
As you can imagine I fought her at every turn, not understanding her motivation (naturally) and turning to them when things became difficult. She told me some day I would understand, and mom, you were right. I wish I had listened and become more like you. I mean honestly, how can you truly value money when it's given to you freely and without question for your entire adult life? Sure the motivation on the part of those who spoil their children is noble (generally) but in essence it does far more harm than good.
I guess unless you've been there you can't fully appreciate what I have been rambling on about for the last hour. I had summer jobs (at the insistence of my mother) starting at age 17, I spent the money as soon as I got it, and well, working at an amusement park was more fun than work. I was there for 3 months every summer from age 17 to 22, and that was essentially my work experience up to that age. Then I got married, and needed to find a full time job, which I did twice as the result of family members finding these positions for me.
I am still at the latter of these two positions, same room, same office, same 8 hours. I don't have so many bills, mainly Cable, Electric, Condo fees and cell phone (and of course Child support, which I have personally arranged to deposit directly into my ex-wives account weekly through human resources) but honestly some times it's a struggle to make the utility payments on my meager income. My condo is owned by a realty trust set up recently for me by my Father's family. So what have I independently accomplished in my life?? eh... reading back on this post I'm not so sure.
S10 C12 150
Blogger Polt said...
I don't know that this is an issue of only the wealthy. I've known several middle class kids that were very unmotivated.

I think it might have to do with being raised in an era of entertainment is everything, and in your every waking moment you HAVE to be entertained and having fun.

I was raised in an era like that, and frankly, I see work as a necessary evil, something I HAVE to do so I can do all the fun stuff I WANT to do.

Plus, I see people at work getting promotions and raised NOT based upon how much sweat is upon thier brow, but how much ass they are kissing. I my case, I've got a co-worker who has her nose so far up the bosses ass she can lick his tonsils. And I know, she coudl sit at her desk everyday and do nothing but take personal calls, and I could do all my work AND hers everyday, and she'd STILL get a better evaluation than me. SO what's the point to be motiviated?

I guess, though, if I were motivated, I might be looking for another job, one where the situation is different. But really a) I think it's the same everywhere and b) all I ever wanted to be was a mid-level beaurucratic paperpusher...and now I am. :)

Anyway, even though you don't participate anymore HAPPY HNT!


Blogger Phoenixboi said...
The difference is im sure u appreciate what you have and what you have done.
I dont think it is wrong to have to ask for help everynow and then.
I think it shows courage.

Blogger BriteYellowGun said...
Hmmm...very interesting post. I can't figure out where I fit in though since I've been on both sides of the fence, very poor and pretty "comfortable" (wealthy sounds so crass!). My problem wasn't so much motivation as it was that I STILL haven't figured out what I really want to do with my life. That alone has damned me because I think I wasted my college years and went for the wrong degree. Too late now.

Blogger john said...
I think ambition is an important characteristic to have. You are right, with a job comes a sense of accomplishment. It doesn't matter what the job is, but the fact that a person has one, can maintain one and is happy at what they are doing.
I have a really good friend who comes from an extremely affluent family. I can honestly say that he's spoiled materialistically. However, his parents instilled in him early on that a person should have goals. My friend has jobs from the time that he was sixteen onward. He even became a busboy and caddie at the country club he grew up in. I've never known a summer where he didn't work.
Today, he has succesfully managed to work his way up a coporate ladder, not related to his father's company.
I think it has a lot to do with upbringing and the values instilled by parents.

Blogger Kalvin said...
This is an interesting post. I don't know if I would say that I come from affluence American style, but I feel my family was alright. Additionally, look at Paris Hilton. She doesn't have to work a day in her life. But she's out there drumming up business and making money. As much as I love life, maybe I don't value money that much. Money is what I use to pay the bills, get food, maybe have a thing or two every now and then. People with ambition usually view money as something to have in and of itself, and personally, I never intend to have that view, but maybe I will change.

Blogger Adam said...
I'm with Kalvin on this one. Money isn't something that I really crave or desire much in the way I think my father does. I see it instead as just something I have to get in order to live. I save and I'm putting away but I'm not consumed by the thought of getting rich like some are.

This is a really interesting topic though and I thoroughly enjoyed this post.

It's certainly from a lack of discipline. You're fiercely disciplined. Myself, most of my desire to achieve is internal. It's almost as though the outer life exists only to enable the inner life, the real one. What is it that want to create with your life?

Anonymous Brian said...
There's ambition and then there's passion.Ambition is wanting to advance in a career or job. Passion is being thrilled and fascinated by an oppurtunity. Billie Holliday had the right idea, God bless the child that's got his own.

Blogger purpletwinkie said...
This post really struck me. I have always lived a comfortable life and knew I could always go to my parents if need be. There were a few times they helped, but overall I took care of my own life.

This past year I went through a very rough and emotional break-up of my 11 year partnership. I had been in school full-time for nearly two years and found myself backed into a corner. I never went to my mom for help, she came to me. No questions, no expectations. I heard statements like "I'm your mom, let me help you".

I can't express how comforting that was. At one point I even talked with a close friend about feeling guilty of accepting my mom's help. She quickly informed me that we feel guilt when we've done something wrong... and in this case I had done nothing wrong. It made me think. Sometimes we just need a helping hand and have to be adult enough to accept it.

I understand the ambition/motivation question as I see examples of it (or lack there of) at times. I began working at 13 and at 22 was working 40 hours a week, in college full-time and starting my own buisiness. Granted, that is a bit overboard and I realize that now. Moderation, even moderate ambition is a good thing sometimes.

Great post. Thanks for writing it.

Blogger Marko said...
I was spoiled as a child but I knew that wouldnt last forever. I started wrking at age 14 and moved out when I was 17. I forced myself to grow up.

Blogger dave in cleveland said...
1st of all jim, when asking what you have accomplished in life , dude, you have to awesome kids, nothing, nothing can top that,you have a great wealth of friends both in your local area and here, you have many friends here, you have a home, and people that love you, i would say you have accomplished quite a bit my friend, always remember that, i have finally learned at my freekin old age, its not material possesions that you count as accomplishments but what you have gained and learned throught your young life......and heres a big hug to you......always here buddy

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