27 Jan 2015

Why You Decided To Become A Doctor, Because Your Dad Was A Doctor


Or an engineer, teacher, banker, fashion designer, or whatever else your parents did that made them comfortable and successful enough to take care of you.

Yes, you are more likely to take after your parents in your choice of career unless you didn't 'have' parents at all. And the reasons aren't far-fetched.

However, before I tell you about the obvious (and not so obvious) reasons why you also chose the career of your father in order to be successful in life, let me share with you some interesting fact I read recently from Gladwell's latest book "David and Goliath; Underdogs, Misfits and The Art of Battling Giants," about how losing a parent in childhood can be a good thing. 
(Don't forget my policy on this blog- you can request for any ebook I mention, I will do my utmost to send it to you free, especially if you are Nigerian/African. I want to encourage you all to read.).

An excerpt from the book:

"In the early 1960s, a psychologist named Marvin Eisenstadt started a project interviewing “creatives”—innovators and artists and entrepreneurs—looking for patterns and trends. As he was
analyzing the responses, he noticed an odd fact. A surprising number had lost a parent in childhood.
The group he was studying was so small that Eisenstadt knew there was a possibility that what he was seeing was just chance. But the fact nagged at him. What if it wasn’t chance? What if it meant
something? There had been hints in the psychological literature. In the 1950s, while studying a sample of famous biologists, the science historian Anne Roe had remarked in passing on how many had at least one parent who died while they were young. 

The same observation was made a few years later in an informal survey of famous poets and writers like Keats, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Swift, Edward Gibbon, and Thackeray. More than half, it turned out, had lost a father or mother before the age of fifteen. The link between career achievement and childhood bereavement was one of those stray facts that no one knew what to do with. So Eisenstadt decided to embark on a more ambitious project.

“It was 1963, 1964,” Eisenstadt remembers. “I started with the Encyclopedia Britannica and then it turned into both Britannica and the Encyclopedia Americana.” Eisenstadt made a list of every
person, from Homer to John F. Kennedy, whose life merited more than one column in either encyclopedia. That, he felt, was a rough proxy for achievement. He now had a list of 699 people. He
then began systematically tracking down biographical information for everyone on the list. “It took me ten years,” Eisenstadt says. “I was reading all kinds of foreign-language books, I went to California and to the Library of Congress, and to the genealogical library in New York City. I tracked down as many parental-loss profiles as I could, until I felt I had good statistical results.”

Of the 573 eminent people for whom Eisenstadt could find reliable biographical information, a quarter had lost at least one parent before the age of ten. By age fifteen, 34.5 percent had had at least
one parent die, and by the age of twenty, 45 percent. Even for the years before the twentieth century, when life expectancy due to illness and accidents and warfare was much lower than it is today, those are astonishing numbers.

At the same time as Eisenstadt was pursuing his research, the historian Lucille Iremonger set out to write a history of England’s prime ministers. Her focus was on the period from the beginning of the nineteenth century to the start of the Second World War. What sort of backgrounds and qualities, she wondered, predicted the kind of person capable of rising to the top of British politics at a time when it was the most powerful country in the world? Like Eisenstadt, however, she got sidetracked by a fact that, as she wrote, “occurred so frequently that I began to wonder whether it was not of more than passing significance.” Sixty-seven percent of the prime ministers in her sample lost a parent before the age of sixteen. That’s roughly twice the rate of parental loss during the same period for members of the British upper class—the socioeconomic segment from which most prime ministers came. The same pattern can be found among American presidents. Twelve of the first forty-four U.S. presidents —beginning with George Washington and going all the way up to Barack Obama—lost their fathers while they were young.

Since then, the topic of difficult childhoods and parental loss has cropped up again and again in the scholarly literature. There is a fascinating passage in an essay by the psychologist Dean Simonton, for example, in which he tries to understand why so many gifted children fail to live up to their early promise. One of the reasons, he concludes, is that they have “inherited an excessive amount of
psychological health.” Those who fall short, he says, are children “too conventional, too obedient, too unimaginative, to make the big time with some revolutionary idea.” He goes on: “Gifted children
and child prodigies seem most likely to emerge in highly supportive family conditions. In contrast, geniuses have a perverse tendency of growing up in more adverse conditions.”

I realize these studies make it sound as if losing a parent is a good thing. “People always kid me and say, ‘Oh, you mean I’d be better off if I don’t have parents, or if I murder my father?’”

Eisenstadt says. “The idea that some people could be successful without parents is a very threatening concept because the common idea is that parents help you. Parents are essential to your life.” And that, Eisenstadt stresses, is absolutely true. Parents are essential. Losing a father or a mother is the most devastating thing that can happen to a child. The psychiatrist Felix Brown has found that prisoners are somewhere between two and three times more likely to have lost a parent in childhood than is the population as a whole. That’s too great a difference to be a coincidence. There are, clearly, an enormous number of direct hits from the absence of a parent.

The evidence produced by Eisenstadt, Iremonger, and the others, however, suggests that there is also such a thing as a remote miss from the death of a parent. Your father can commit suicide and you can suffer from a childhood so unspeakable that you push it to the furthest corners of your memory— and still some good can end up coming from that. “This is not an argument in favour of orphanhood and deprivation,” Brown writes, “but the existence of these eminent orphans does suggest that in certain circumstances a virtue can be made of necessity.”"

So now you see that losing one or both parents early in life isn't an excuse not to be successful!

Now back to my title, the reasons include

  1. If you were 'fortunate' enough to grow up with your father (unlike these many famous fatherless celebrities) and he was hardworking and successful at what he did, you are more likely to follow in his footsteps. This is because you already see him as a mentor and role model worth taking after.
  2. Whatever profession your father did is likely to be family business. And seeing everyone in the family do something, you won't want to be the black sheep. So you naturally tag along. More so, children tend to continue in adulthood, what they grew up doing in childhood.
  3. In Nigeria, for example, you are more likely to pass your ICAN (Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria) exams if your parent is already a member. I also know from experience that, in the medical profession, children of our consultants rarely fail their professional exams (I didn't say more than that oh.lol). So a successful parent in a profession such as Law, Medicine, Accountancy, etc, gives his/her child great leverage to excel in the same profession.
  4. They can force you, influence directly or coax you into doing the course they also did in school since they will be the one to pay.
  5. But a non-obvious reason is the fact that subconsciously, we tend to want to take after, mimic or imitate someone we admire. So if your father was hardworking, you will be hardworking, also. If your mother was a singer, you will like to sing too. And if what they did was dignifying and rewarding enough to put food on the family table, you will naturally want to do same.

So if you find yourself gravitating towards your parent's profession, it isn't genetics or 'jazz'/black magic.... It simply means you admired and loved your parents growing up, enough to also fall  in love with what they did for a living.

But if you find yourself rejecting your father's profession/chosen profession for you, it may be that there is something in his life or career that repulses you. (In my own case I don't want to also work long hours in a banking job). Otherwise, naturally, children don't fall far from the tree.


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