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Why I Don’t Want My Kid To Conform To Your Definition Of Success


The following was syndicated from My Game for The Fatherly Forum, a community of parents and influencers with insights about work, family, and life. If you’d like to join the Forum, drop us a line at

“You need something ‘practical’. Something which will allow you to pay the rent and buy food.”

That’s, of course, the standard, most obvious advice kids hear from their parents and other adults. We can’t just run around here without some sort of a certificate that will inform others about our place in the society. We need to acquire a label. We need something concrete. A guarantee.

This guarantee is a piece of paper you get from some institution (or rather several institutions) and which you will from then on use to introduce yourself.

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You will tell them “I’m a lawyer/doctor/banker/real estate agent/car dealer.” They will say “Ok. We’re always on a lookout for good _________ . We’ll give you a shot.” or “We don’t need anyone right now. Go somewhere else.” or “Come back in 5 months. We might have something for you.”

That’s the game of “practicality.”

You get the paper, use it to introduce yourself to others, they see the paper and get the point immediately. You can do A, B or C. They can use you to perform a certain task.

We tell them stories about starving artists. But what do we know about those artists? Not much.

Most of us are in this game. We know exactly how this system works. It worked (in a slightly different form) 1000 years ago, it worked much like today 50 or 30 years ago.

Get the instruction and play it as scripted. That’s what we’ve always been told and that’s something we will continue to tell young people.

“Here’s the instruction. Take it.”

We have been brainwashed into believing that there is no other way to win. We’ve been told that being an artist is impractical. That few artists ever make it in this world. But those who brainwashed those who brainwash us missed the point. As a result the vast majority of our society miss the point.

Artists aren’t in this game. They don’t play this game we tell our kids they should play out of ‘practicality’.

Can we compare 2 people who play 2 fundamentally different games?

Doesn’t matter. We do it.

We tell them: “Look, if you choose to be a lawyer, you will earn this much, you will live in this house, you will drive this car, your kids will go to this school. If, on the other hand, you choose to be this … thing, this artist, or whatever, you can forget about all those things that you get as a lawyer.”

But those who brainwashed those who brainwash us missed the point.

We tell them stories about starving artists. But what do we know about those artists? Not much. Probably even close to nothing. But it doesn’t stop us from using this example. It’s a good example because we can use it to prove our point. We give them one example of some “failed” artist we know nothing about and contrast it with ample examples of very “successful” people we know very well (daddy, uncle Bob, auntie Rose, our neighbour Steve).

How clever!

And the best thing about it is that it works beautifully. With our misleading comparison we can really talk them out of it.

No hassle, no fuss, no nothing.

kids chasing dreams

Public Domain

Did we say to our kid: “Hey, why don’t you find a few artists and talk to them about their journey? To get the firsthand account of what it takes to be an artist. What are the advantages and disadvantages of being an artist? What do you love about being an artist? What’s your relationship with your work? How the world is different for an artist?”

Of course not. After all, everybody knows that most artists never really make it in this world. The mere fact that we don’t know any artists. Isn’t it enough of a proof that most artists perish? We probably know only the big names. Chopin, Van Gogh, Warhol, Andrea Boccelli.

That the lack of artists among your relatives, friends and colleagues is due to the fact that we are always most familiar with the world we’re part of?

Inconsequential! It doesn’t sit right with the point you’re trying to make to save your kid from starving, right?

You’re a hero and you won’t listen to this bullshit. You know very well that people who choose “practical” careers are “successful.” You know those people very well. Your kid knows them, too.

The problem is we barely even scratch the surface. We don’t dig deeper into the very meaning of “winning,” “success,” or “happiness.”

We want to give those kids the instruction and talk them into playing the same game most people play by default. And the best way to do that is to tell them that most artists starve.

To read more from Lukasz Laniecki, check out his blog My Game, where shares his personal viewpoint on a healthy parent-child relationship.