Pause for a moment and reflect on your station in life. How did you end up where you are now? Each of us follows a different path to the present, and we are never quite sure what the future holds. Our journeys through life are paved with hard work, luck, and a handful of critical moments. But if you really think about it, what influenced your work ethic and opportunities the most? As much as we like to think that we alone determine our outcomes in life, it’s simply not the case.
Despite everything we do to forge our own identities, we are all destined to become a little, or a lot, like our parents. Author Neil Postman once wrote that children are “the living messages we send to a time we will not see.”1 That realization may still be unsettling for a lot of us, but instead of fighting the inevitable, let’s embrace it.
Just look at your family tree. Go back three generations. It’s safe to say that your great-grandfather toiled away in a factory or field for a tiny fraction of your current salary. Some may not consider his life much of a success. But like every parent before and after him, his definition of a fulfilled life wasn’t measured by material wealth, social status, or even his own welfare. He was driven by an innate desire we all share—to help create a better world for his children and the next generation.
Survival does not fuel ambition. Game-changing ideas don’t revolutionize the world without a fundamental belief that we can build a better ...