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Malcolm Gladwell on the disadvantages of wealth

He understood money, and he understood money because he felt it had been a thorough education in its value and function back home on the streets of Minneapolis.

And then he finally came to the point. He had children that he loved very dearly. Like any parent, he wanted to provide for them, to give them more than he had. But he had created a giant contradiction and he knew it: he was successful because he had learned the long and hard way about the value of money and the meaning of work, and the joy and fulfillment that come from making your own way in the world. But because of his success it would be difficult for his children to learn those same lessons.

Children of multi-millionaires in Hollywood do not rake the leaves of their neighbours in Beverly Hills. Their fathers do not wave the electricity bill angrily at them if they leave the lights on. They do not sit in a basketball arena behind a pillar and wonder what it would be like to sit courtside. They live courtside.

“My own instinct is that it’s much harder than anybody believes to bring up kids in a wealthy environment,” he said. “People are ruined by challenged economic lives. But they’re ruined by wealth as well because they lose their ambition, and they lose their pride, and the lose their sense of self worth. It’s difficult at both ends of the spectrum. There’s someplace in the middle which probably works best of all.”

There are few things that inspire less sympathy than a multi-millionaire crying the blues for his children, of course… but he wasn’t talking about material comforts… his point was that it was going to be harder for him, as a man with hundreds of millions of dollars, to be as successful at raising his children as his father had been, back in a mixed neighbourhood in Minneapolis.

Malcolm Gladwell – David and Goliath

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