The American psychologist and author Madeline Levy, writes in her book ‘The Price of Privilege’ that ‘kids who have everything easily available can often feel empty.’ Her shocking realisation over 25 years of counselling teenagers was that, children who come from an affluent background, often pay a heavy price. The price they pay is that of their self-motivation, drive or hunger towards building a meaningful and joyful life for themselves. They get bored too easily. They get lazy too often.
Steve Jobs famously said in his speech to the graduating MBA class at Stanford University in 2005, “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish".
Let me share my own story with you. When I was growing up, my family was reasonably well off. My father had moved base from Kolkata to Pune. He had started his business, taking the plunge with 50% of the sum total of his father’s life’s savings… a meagre Rs.1.5 lacs. We lived in a nice rented bungalow in Koregaon Park. My sister and I both studied at very good convent schools. We knew some good people in the city of Pune.
We started with little. I remember our house had almost no furniture. My father drove a 15 year old second hand jeep. But things kept getting better every year. Within a decade, we were doing very well. Dad had started two more factories, and financially we were more than stable.
Survival was definately not an issue.
Conversations with my parents would often revolve around the possibilities that the future held. We would love to talk about new business concepts, the progress of technology, philosophy, innovations that are changing the world and so on. We are fortunate that our parents always created a friendly and intellectually stimulating environment at home.
Yet, the ‘hunger' was only partial.
Things I needed were readily available. I got a bike when I was 17. I got a car when I was 19. I got a pager when I was 20. I got a mobile phone within two years of their launch. I got holidays I wanted. I got money to spend with friends. Buying good clothes and nice things was never an issue. Eating out at a nice restaurant was a twice or thrice a month affair. I was never greedy or materialistic. I knew what was within our means and what was not. I never made a fuss.
But, the truth is that the easy availability of good things takes away something from us. We pay the ‘price of our privilege’. I believe it dampens our 'hunger'. It denies us the experience of ‘longing’ for something. It denies us the experience of earning something through our efforts.
In fact, I realise that it is not really my fault that sometimes I am lazy. I’m lazy because my environment is very comfortable, I can afford to be lazy!!
Go ahead, blame it on the environment! After all, it’s not my fault that my parents were doing very well for themselves 😃
So, what to do?? I am ambitious. I want to do some brilliant, big, and beautiful things in my life. But being lazy is certainly not going to help.
Over the years, I learnt to look at it a little differently. Instead of blaming my environment, I’ve learnt to have tremendous gratitude for all the privileges I’ve received.
I realise now that all I need to do, is set the bar higher.
Some start with 0 create 100. Some start with 1 and create 100. I’m blessed to be starting with 100. Let me not settle for creating 110. Let me see if I can think about creating 1000! That’s all it takes - to expect much more of myself.
In my earlier days I was often very tough on myself and really beat myself up (emotionally) when I did not get the results I wanted. But now I’ve learnt to smile at my failures and learn from them. I’ve learnt to accept my strengths and shortcoming gracefully. I’ve learnt to dream of 1000, but take immediate action towards moving from 100 to 101 (well to be honest, I’m still learning this :-).
I’ve learn’t to keep filling myself with gratitude for every step of this brilliant journey. I’ve learn't to feed the hunger, not just the appetite.