According to Instagram, 65 weeks ago (which is under 15 months), basketball player Carmelo Anthony posted a picture that still resonates with me today.
To the naked eye, it didn’t appear to be anything extraordinary. It was just a photograph of Melo and his son, donning a backpack, before what appeared to be another day of school.
On the bottom of the picture, in classic meme fashion, Melo added some text. It was a parenting tip, one that you’d hardly expect to come across while scrolling through your favorite basketball player’s Instagram feed.
He wrote, “Giving your son a skill is better than giving him one thousand pieces of gold.” It’s short, sweet and also exactly how I hope to raise my children when that time comes. It’s also how I was raised: with strict parents who held a short leash on me and instilled a hard work ethic.
Growing up, my mother used to preach a similar mantra. She’d tell me, “Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, you feed him for life.”
Essentially, both of these expressions are meant to reinforce the value of hard work as opposed to handouts. As opposed to just getting what you want without working for it.
I grew up in Long Island. Many of my friends were, for lack of better phrasing, spoiled brats. When I was young, I would get upset at my parents for being tough with me and making me have to work for things. It was only once I grew older that I realized the contrary only would’ve been doing me a disservice.
And when it’s time for me to raise my own children, I’ll be the same type of parent.
Many people can get by without learning the proper ways to do things or the true meaning of hard work. But at the end of the day, they’re really only spiting themselves by looking for shortcuts.
Although handouts may result in the most instant gratification, they’re really not valuable for the long term, especially when one becomes dependent on them.
Many times, a handout may help someone in one certain situation, but it’s only serving as a Band-Aid until further help is needed. And, at that point, the person who accepts the handout probably won’t know what to do.
True independence is the ability to stand up on your own two feet and take care of yourself without the help of others.
Now, this isn’t to say that we shouldn’t look for help if we need it, but it’s important to not become reliant upon the help of others, which is certainly different.
Over the past decade or so, I feel that our generation has become reliant upon the concept of things coming easily to us.
Personally I’ve never wanted to take a handout, like the internship that my dad could’ve probably secured for me without ever having to fill out a resume. I’ve always stubbornly wanted to prove that I was capable myself. To take a handout, in my mind, meant that I wasn’t confident I could achieve something on my own.
I understood this mentality would also mean that, if I were to fail in something, I’d be failing on my own -- but that’s a risk/reward I was willing to take.
In order to jump into something a mentality like this, though, you have to be raised in a fashion that promotes doing and not taking.
To “teach a man how to fish,” means to instill knowledge. And knowledge, unlike most material possessions, is a lifelong gift. You might go to sleep happier tonight if you were handed five thousand dollars, but once that money’s gone, you’ll be left with nothing.
The only way you can get more of it is by learning how to make more. And if you learn how to make money, you’ll, in effect, be handed an infinite supply of money.
Like most things, this mentality is easier to discuss than to take on. So it’s important to be introduced to these concepts at a young age before habits form.
And for that reason, I won’t spoil my kids -- at least, not in the way I probably wish I could.
It’s not because I want them to be deprived of anything. In fact, it’s really the contrary. I want them to have ambition, and by giving them everything they ask for without first showing them how to get it for themselves, I’d be depriving them of the one thing that matters most: ambition.