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In the 80s I grew up watching a TV show called Silver Spoons, where Ricky Shroeder played a character named Ricky Stratton.
The basic premise of the show is that a young boy is reunited with his incredibly wealthy father who lives in a mansion and happens to own a toy business.
Pretty much anything Ricky wanted Ricky got.
There were lavish toys at his disposal including a ride on toy train that was the envy of every kid, myself included.
It would be amazing to have been born with a silver spoon in your mouth, wouldn’t it?
Not so fast.
What I have found is that when things come easy your mind and body adapt and you no longer have the drive/motivation to improve yourself further.
These individuals in essence lose their “grit.”
Why is having grit so important?
Research has found evidence that over any other measurable factor, possessing the quality of grit is the highest predictor of an individual achieving greatness.
When you already have everything you want/need, the desire to pursue more is greatly diminished and you rest on your laurels.
A bronze spoon.
I certainly was not born into Silver Spoon level of wealth, but I was much closer to that end of the spectrum than most.
As an only child to a physician, I too did not want for much.
My daughter, an only child herself, was even closer to the Silver Spoon end of the spectrum than I was, courtesy of the financial level I accomplished.
Both my daughter and I, at her age, never really had to worry about money, saving, or planning ahead.
My fiancee on the other hand had a completely different childhood experience, where things were not given but earned through incredibly hard work.
During one of our conversations about our childhoods, my fiancee told me the following that essentially inspired the topic for this post:
“Kids from parents that have money typically problem solve with their parents help.”
It was implied that kids from lower socioeconomic backgrounds do not have the option of having money solve everything.
These children have to come up with alternative ways to solve the issue, developing grit along the way.
Problem solving with your parents help/money rather than coming up with the solution on your own can definitely cause your sandpaper grain/grit level to go from 24 (coarse) to 1000 (ultra fine).
A parent’s dilemma.
I know every parent wants to give and do everything for their children.
We all want the next generation to do better than previous ones and see no harm in giving that generation as much of a head start as possible.
But there is a fine line that should not be crossed by providing too much for your child.
A child that becomes over-reliant on parental help may find it difficult to transition to a young adult when he or she leaves the nest and the parents become less accessible.
Conversely, a child that has become accustomed to problem solving on his or own will be more likely to navigate through difficulties encountered as a young adult.
In addition a child that always has all his or her needs/wants met can become entitled.
There are numerous examples of trust fund babies who have been so spoiled that they feel they are above everyone else and the law.
Grit for learning.
There are other facets of life where grit, or lack thereof, can come into play.
I always did extremely well in school, from elementary school through high school and college.
The problem was that I never really had to work hard to achieve good grades.
I would never come home and study.
I would only study for an exam the night before.
Because the educational material always came easy to me I never pushed myself and developed lazy habits that still carry on with me to this day.
I remember being offered to skip a grade in elementary school but my father declined because he thought it would be better for me to stay with kids my age.
It was only when I entered medical school, where the information came at me fast and furious during those first 2 years of in-class training, that I found myself no longer capable of leaving the material to the night before for review.
Nowadays I still do not push myself intellectually, content with where I stand.
I do the minimum required to maintain my medical licensure.
On the other hand, my fiancee continues to push herself to learn new things.
In her own words she said that educational material did not come as easy to her as it did me.
She developed true grit by studying hard everyday, taking notes, creating charts etc.
She truly developed great habits that have carried over, with her developing an amazing work ethic because of it.
Even though she is no longer in the medical field I often see her looking at medical articles and taking part in quizzes on various medical cases.
She has a true passion/love of learning.
I merely see learning as a means to an end: maintaining my board certification and medical license so I can continue to practice to receive an income.
I know if I had my fiancee’s drive/grit I could have achieved far more than I have.
It is a bit depressing to know that someone else could have achieved far greater success than I would if they were given the same opportunities/capabilities that I was given.
But I was never one to have sky-high aspirations.
I took the Pareto principle to heart and was happy to get to the 80% level using only 20% of my capability.
I am happy to be a medium sized fish in a little pond.
For me to change ponds would require far more effort than I was willing to do to achieve a goal I really did not strive for.
Call it complacency, call it lack of grit.
Sure there is potential loss, but I can live with that because I am content.
Like with pretty much all things in life, the key is to find the right balance.
Although you hate to see your kids struggle, I feel that the struggle is important in the developmental process.
If things always come too easy early on, then there is a higher chance that individuals will fold at the first sign of trouble or never push themselves to be greater.
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I’m getting ready to read the book “Comfort Crisis” which is about exactly that. In developed countries we have everything too easy. People scoff at hearing that but compared to even 75 or 100 years ago life is so easy. Challenge and struggle are necessary.
That sounds like a great read. I think as technology progresses each generation will continue to lose some edge as the hard stuff is done for them.
I remember my daughter a few years ago was going to go down to the mailbox (about 800 ft away) with me and then found out her hover board wasn’t charged and declined so I walked it myself. Lol
Thank you for validating my life.😅
My husband excels in academics like you, grades are easy for him including his current master’s program but, his learning stops once the grades are posted. I’m more like your fiancé (props, girl!), still learning though it’s been years since I’ve been in a classroom. My learning takes more effort, but my love of learning keeps me going especially when it’s coarse like 24 grit sandpaper.
I will definitely pass this comment on to my fiancee who I am sure will get a kick out of it and rejoice with a like-minded person. I think 24 grit sandpaper gives you more of a chance of success in life than someone doesn’t have grit and just does things to achieve the bare minimum (like me). Well keep holding on to that grit level, sounds like it has served you well.