What “base” did you start on in life? This baseball metaphor is a quick way to assess how many advantages we enter the world with — some people start on 3rd base, already equipped with many of the life tools needed for success (i.e. a safe upbringing, family wealth), while others start on 1st base with little to work with while starting their life (i.e. conditions of crime and poverty). Where we start in life is something we have no control over, as we don’t get to select our parents and social-economic status. What we do control, however, is using what we have — from whatever base we start on in life — and experiencing future happiness and success.
Building a Lego house…
While the baseball metaphor is nice, perhaps another way to examine our starting place in life is to think about building a Lego house. For some kids, owning a single Lego brick is beyond what the family can afford, leaving the child in a really tough spot when it comes to building a Lego house. Other, more fortunate kids might literally have tubs and tubs of Legos, yet in order to build a great Lego house they will need motivation, creativity, perseverance, and resiliency. It is important to note that even for kids equipped with all they seemingly need for life success, they still have to pull it all together to eventually make something meaningful from where they started.
We often overlook how difficult it is for kids starting out with few, if any, built-in advantages (few Legos), but we also wrongly assume that if a kid has a number of advantages starting out (tubs of Legos), that he or she will easily succeed in life. Interestingly, each individual views his or her situation uniquely, meaning that disadvantaged kids who view their reality as a challenge will likely succeed, while otherwise advantaged kids who lack motivation and focus often end up under-utilizing their built-in tools for success. This reality helps explain the amazing stories about some kids overcoming all odds, and other kids falling on tough times, even though they had every opportunity to succeed.
Kids vary dramatically with respect to the tools they are afforded from birth, but it is important that we not immediately write-off less privileged kids, as well as not assume kids with advantages will always know how to use the tools they have been gifted. How kids begin life certainly has a bearing on their future, but perhaps less than you might think when you enter into the equation how each kid views his or her situation. Kids determined to succeed will ignore all the reasons they should fail, and advantaged kids without a road map and encouraging support may struggle trying to find their way.