The biggest and most damaging lie we tell our kids is this:
“If you want it bad enough and work really hard, you can achieve anything.”
We all bought into it as kids. Even though life has taught us it’s not true, we still try to sell it to younger generations. It’s the worst kind of lie. True enough to sound inspiring, yet deeply misleading.
You can try until your heart breaks, but to succeed you need more than a dream and determination. You need the right skill set, the right instincts, and actual talent. Luck helps too.
We cannot always achieve what we want because we want it a lot. You can’t be a blind artist. You can’t be a tone-deaf musician. You can’t write without a gift for words. Some things can’t be taught. Yet these days, anyone who objects to the lie that hard work alone is always enough is called defeatist — or elitist. I am neither, but I am a realist.
I don’t know when realism became politically incorrect. It’s cruel. It takes people with potential and makes them feel like failures, not because they can’t succeed, but because they are doing the wrong thing.
When someone tells me I shouldn’t give up whatever because if I keep trying, I will surely succeed, it annoys me. I’m a very hard worker, but I’m old enough to know that hard work only takes you so far. I would rather work on something at which I have a chance of succeeding.
Yet we keep hearing the same enticing lie. “Don’t give up your dream! You can make it happen!” We always read about the successes. What we don’t hear about are the myriad failures, those who tried their hearts out and were defeated. We waste years trying to achieve the impossible while dismissing the achievable. We ignore real gifts in favor of magical thinking.
Creating a good and satisfying career should be part of everyone’s life plans. First though, we need to figure out what we do well, then focus on it. Hone talent and build a future that works. We need to help our kids do the same. Then network like mad and hope to get the Big Break because the wild card in the mix is always Lady Luck.
Don’t buy a lie and don’t foist it off on your kids. Help them be the best they can be. Help them succeed.