Let’s not overrate head-start in life

A head-start in life matters, but so do hard work, talent and, to some extent, luck. Should we find ourselves at great socio-economic disadvantage, beating the odds against us should be our chief preoccupation, sometimes over our lifetime

A head-start is an advantage that someone has over other people in something, a phrase mostly used when referring to a competition or race. However, a head-start in life is far more complex than a linear foot race with a starting and finishing line. It refers to a host of factors that shape our aspirations, attitudes and limit or boost our lifetime performance. The general assumption is that having a head-start early in life gives us a leg up in navigating difficult and unforeseen times that life throws at us.

There are issues we overlook when we discuss what it means to be born into privilege. Being privileged does not mean that someone will certainly lead a perfect life neither does it guarantee him or her success. The media is inundated with stories of families of the rich and famous leading deeply troubled lives. Being rich does not guarantee that you will give birth to a brainy kid. Of course, a private education may polish the academic and soft skills of a child, but it is not a guarantee that such child will stand out from a large crowd. Being rich does not give you an immunity to personal misfortunes. I have seen rich families struggle with raising a child with severe disability.

Having a privilege does not mean you won’t have hurdles in life, it just means you may have fewer of them. A fewer number of hurdles does not mean lesser in severity either. Some people can be shaken by one big life challenge to utter despair. A better financial situation does not mean a better innate ability to cope with personal adversities, an inevitable phenomenon for a great number of us.

Should we beat overwhelming odds and make it even without a head-start in life through sheer hard work or a fantastic stroke of luck, let’s give others in difficult times a hand. Let’s take time to fully appreciate our personal journey and struggle.

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