When we were kids my parents always said since they didn’t have enough money to send 5 kids to university, they’d only send the boys since the girls were just going to waste an education by getting married and having kids anyway.
Ya, they were a little old world and old school, but we showed them. The girls went to university and didn’t get married and the boys didn’t go to university and got married and had babies. Of course since we girls were older, we had to pay our own way through school and my parents got off completely scot-free in the paying-for-university department.
I often wonder if this was their evil plan from the very beginning. I’ve learned, since I became a parent, that parents are a lot smarter and more Machiavellian than we used to give them credit for.
After high school, I went to work for a few years. I would never have gone to university at all, if, through and odd fluke, I hadn’t ended up working with a group of people who were all university graduates. I started thinking, “Hey, if they can do it, why can’t I?” My sister, in turn, went to university because I had gone.
To what extent are our successes or failures in life about our own hard work, talent, ambition and intelligence and to what extent are they about our family, culture, friendships and even just luck?
In his book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell thinks success depends more on the latter than the former.
He talks about how successful hockey players are all born in the first few months of the calendar year. He mentions how Bill Gates, who is not particularly gifted, would never have been successful if it weren’t for the fact that he happened to have had access to a computer at an early age, and at a time when computers were very rare. And he talks about Christopher Langan.
Christopher Langan has one of the highest IQs ever recorded at 210. But Langan grew up poor. As a teenager he taught himself advanced math, physics, philosophy, Latin and Greek and got a perfect score on his SATs. So, he made it to university, but couldn’t stay due to lack of finances.
His life has been a string of labourer jobs: cowboy, forester, farmhand and bouncer.
What would have become of Stephen Hawking if he’d been born into a poor family? Or Einstein if he’d never met Max Talmud. Or Mozart if he hadn’t had such an ambitious father?
Some people can pinpoint an exact moment or experience or person that turned them onto the path they followed in life. The prima ballerina who fell in love with dance the first time her mother took her to the ballet. The doctor who chose medicine after an older brother died of some incurable disease. The artist who couldn’t stop creating art since the first time she picked up a crayon.
I think most people have more than one “what if” moment in their lives which they look back on wondering if things might have turned out differently if a certain event or person had or hadn’t happened.
I’m a big planner, plotter and organizer, but I really think a lot of the stuff, good and bad, that has shaped my life has been down to pure, dumb luck. What about you?
 Since youth hockey leagues determine eligibility by calendar year, children born on January 1st play in the same league as those born on December 31st in the same year. Because adolescents born earlier in the year are bigger and more developmentally advanced than the others, they are often identified as better athletes, leading to extra coaching and a higher likelihood of being selected for elite hockey leagues.
 A family friend who introduced the ten-year-old Einstein to key science, mathematics, and philosophy texts.