Privilege: A Tale of Twins

If you listen to the news or jump on Twitter for more than five minutes, odds are that you’ll come across the word “privilege” at least once. Probably more. In recent years, this word has become a weapon of speech. The narrative makes it seem like those who succeed are born into it while the rest are destined to eat dirt.

Spoiler alert: that’s complete garbage.

Privilege plays a factor in whether you succeed or not, but it’s far from the biggest driver. Your attitude and decision-making determine your future.

Rick and Paul

Let’s imagine for a minute that we have two identical twins separated at birth. They’re exactly alike in everyway except their upbringing. One grows up in a rich family while the other one grows up poor. We’ll call the rich kid “Rick” and the poor kid “Paul.”

Rick’s Story

Rick’s parents are both high-end lawyers in San Francisco. They make a lot of money and live a very lavish lifestyle. Lobster, cavier, and wagyu steaks were regular weekday dinners and they would take several spontaneous trips around the globe every year. They live in a $10 million mansion and own several Lamborghinis.

Rick’s parents were able to send him to the best private schools in the nation. They could also provide a private tutor and test expert to help him with the SATs. After several attempts, Rick eventually got a high score on his SATs and, due to his parents connections, he was able to get into Stanford.

While attending Stanford, Rick started well in his studies, but eventually found his way into a different social group. This group was more preoccupied with social events than going to class. Rick’s grades started to slip.

He skates by in his freshman year, but can’t handle the workload of his sophomore year. Rick eventually drops out of school. He knows that he’ll land on his feet because his parents are loaded.

He continues living his lavish lifestyle and his parents reluctantly pay for all of it. As far as Rick is concerned, he’s got it made in the shade.

The next twenty years of his life continues like this. Every once in a while, Rick gets the urge to go out and work. His parents would call their connections and hook him up with a great job. He started off working hard, but after a few months, Rick would get bored until he got fired. The never-ending cycle of laziness, sparks of inspiration, and ultimately, apathy plagued Rick’s life. He is digging into the fortune that his parents worked hard to accumulate.

After twenty years and dozens of jobs, Rick’s parents pass away within months of each other. Rick’s parents were millionaires at one point, but because of his reckless spending, Rick inherits only $300,000. With Rick’s lifestyle, his inheritance will last less than two years.

Rick had no money and no skills. He was forced to learn what the real world is like after half a lifetime of being coddled.

Rick had all the opportunities in the world and decided to squander them all.

Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

Paul’s Story

Paul has a much different story. His dad had two jobs as a plumber and a gas station attendant, and his mom was a cocktail waitress. Both worked at night leaving Paul to his own devices. When he was a kid, he mowed his neighbors’ lawns and shoveled their driveways for a few extra bucks. Anything to contribute.

When he was home alone, he read all he could get his hands on. His mom would take him to the library every Saturday to pick up another book. They couldn’t afford a TV or smartphones, so books were the only source of entertainment for Paul.

Paul went to an inner-city school with the worst graduation rate in the state. However, due to all of his reading, Paul was able to learn many things that the school system didn’t teach him. The workload was tough–especially since Paul worked after school to provide for the household–but he persevered.

Paul graduated high school.

Considering the situations of his peers, Paul had done well. Many didn’t get that far, but Paul dreamed of doing more. He worked for two years and saved up enough money to go to community college and get an associates degree in accounting.

He worked for several years as a bookkeeper and never lost his drive to do more. Paul worked hard and never stopped learning. He kept moving his way up the career ladder while saving and investing his money.

Paul would eventually get married, buy a house, and start a family. With all of the wealth he accumulated over the years, he was able to give his kids a better life and more opportunities along the road.

Paul’s story is one of progress and the undying motivation to succeed.

So what?

This may seem like a fairy-tale, but these stories happen every day. A study by Jay Zagorsky showed that one in three Americans who get an inheritance will blow it. Trust-fund babies often run through their cash once their parents are gone.

And plenty of poor people grow up to be rich. A study by Fidelity showed that 88% of millionaires in the United States are self-made.

33% of Ricks end up broke. 88% of millionaires started as Pauls.

In the end, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you came from. Black, white, gay, straight, man, woman, rich, or poor doesn’t matter. Only determination to better yourself and the motivation to succeed will help you in the end. The power is in your hands.

Thanks for reading!

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2 thoughts on “Privilege: A Tale of Twins”

  1. I’m sure there are people who succeed because they try harder but I can tell you from my own life experience that I succeeded wildly and it had nothing to do with effort. I was just very intelligent and had very good soft skills that came from very good parents. I went to plain vanilla public schools and a public university but as early as age 13 my mom had already steered me toward a field where a high IQ would pay benefits. I don’t credit any of my multimillionaire status to hard work and perseverance. I had a blast at work, it was my favorite hobby, that was my superpower. And I think my success is due purely to the luck of the draw, good DNA and good parents.

    1. I’m happy to hear you’ve led a successful life. Some people do get very lucky and fall into success.

      But the majority of successful people had to work hard to achieve their goals. Luck doesn’t just happen. Successful people put themselves in a position to get lucky.

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