That the children of successful fathers turn out spoiled and lazy is a cliche that has proven itself true through time more often than any of those fathers would like to admit. But there is also no shortage of examples that subvert this idea. There are numerous professional athletes with kids who make it into the pros—in the same sport or other ones. Look at Mychal Thompson from the Showtime Lakers of the 1980s. One son plays for the Golden State Warriors (Klay), one has played for four different professional baseball teams (Trayce). Both John Quincy Adams and George W. Bush followed their father to the White House. There are plenty of writers and artists whose children went on to be successful in the arts (Lena Dunham’s father is a well-known photographer. Steve Jobs’s daughter is a published author. John Lennon and Bob Dylan both had sons with successful music careers).
How does this work? Obviously there was no shortage of natural talent. Nepotism too. These kids were gifted and then were given big advantages. But there is another force at play too, one that every father should think about. Could it be that the biggest privilege afforded to these kids was seeing their father passionately and practically pursue a career that most people have trouble even imagining? That the real gift they got was seeing that following your dreams was actually possible? And that it wasn’t magic, it was just a lot of hard work?
Too many fathers spend time either consciously or subtly telling their kids to think small, to be realistic, to consider the odds. But living in the same house as a professional athlete or a head of state or an award-winning author sends a powerful message: It can be done! That a calling can be a career, that you can beat the odds—it just takes work, dedication, and, of course, confidence. As a dad, that’s your real job, whatever you do for a living. To show them what’s possible. To push them to go for it, big or small.