The other day in Newport the conversation got around to how I got ahead in school. Whenever this happens I always explain that my brother also is 2 years younger than his grade and that, in fact, he is the smarter of the two (by a good bit). One of the people I was talking to said, "Well, you must have a really smart family!" and I got to thinking on the drive back home. How much is "smartness" a reflection of one's parents? How much is one's "success" a reflection of parents and the parents' success?
To me it seems that successful children do not necessarily come from successful parents but that they come from parents who are best at passing on the various traits that lead to success. Parents don't necessarily have to be successful for you to end up the same way, but it probably corresponds that parents who are big on teaching important character traits such as perseverance and honesty in a supportive environment tend to have successful children.
For example, Ben Casnocha mentions his mom all the time in his blog (run a search for "mom" on his blog and you'll see what I mean) and he's certainly a successful and ambitious person; you can tell his parents brought him up in an incredibly supportive environment. Another example is Orion - he's close with his parents and I've seen first hand how supportive they are; Orion is by all accounts successful so far.
When I thought about it some more I realized most of my friends have very supportive family environments; is it no surprise, then, that they're all quite successful in pretty significant ways? Or that an impartial observer would likely bet on each of them to be successful down the road? And if sons and daughters are a good reflection of their parents' ability to teach the right character traits, do sons and daughters consciously make "the right decision" more often than regular people?
Addendum: After writing this post I decided to run a search on whether parents matter or not. It was interesting to see the authors of Freakonomics wrote an editorial on the matter.
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