It’s The Work That Matters

The great physicist Richard Feynman had a father who instilled his brilliant son with an interesting perspective about the world. Sitting down, he would lay the newspaper out on the table and ask his boy questions about what they saw and read. Once, when they came upon a photo of the Pope blessing a group of believers, Richard’s father asked his son if he knew the difference between the Pope and his followers. And then, before Richard could answer, he said, “The difference is the hat. He is wearing a hat.” His dad would repeat the same exercise whether it was a photo of a general with stars on their collar or a wealthy executive with an expensive suit.

After years in the uniform business, Feynman’s father knew that people were people, whatever clothes their job dressed them in. He wanted his son to realize that nobody was better than him, that everybody was equal, no matter who they were and what they had accomplished.

You can imagine this gave his young son a lot of confidence, confidence that your children could benefit from. Just because other kids live in bigger houses or have more illustrious last names, does that mean they are better? Just because other kids do or don’t wear glasses, do or don’t have their own car, do or don’t go on weekend ski trips, do or don’t receive financial aid, what does that mean? It means nothing. If you want to raise a kid that challenges the status quo, that fulfills their potential, that looks at the world without prejudice, teach them that.

The other side of that lesson for Feynman was humility and it’s why you should teach it to your kids too. Feynman didn’t think his Nobel Prize made him special—in fact, he was reluctant to accept it. Because he disliked the pomp and circumstance and he knew that accolades don’t make you any more or less right. He didn’t need a special hat to feel good about himself, and he didn’t like getting the attention—when the work was what mattered.

Nobody is better than your kids and your kids are …. The sooner they realize that, the better.

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