Imagine that your child, or grandchild, doesn’t need a job. Imagine yourself having achieved a level of financial security such that your progeny needn’t toil in a mine, mill, field, factory, laboratory or office to earn a living. Most people fear that scenario. The assumption is, if one doesn’t have to work to earn his daily bread, sloth and indolence will quickly set in. No one wants that for their children.
But what if having a job isn’t the only, or even the best way to build character and work ethic. I think that one can learn those things from one’s family and mentors, without having to give a lot of time and energy to the assemblage and/or distribution of widgets. In fact, history has shown that to be a scenario where true greatness can thrive.
Edgar Degas was born to a wealthy family and attended the prestigious prep school, Lycee Louis-le-Grand. The school also graduated Eugene Delacroix. Degas spent his youth at the best schools, studying with the best artists of his day and he became one of the world’s greats.
Britain’s greatest portrait artist, Thomas Gainsborough’s father was a successful textiles merchant. Thomas spent his entire life as an artist. His brother was a successful inventor. They both attended the finest schools. Neither of them was ever required to “go to work”, in the mundane sense.
Lucian Freud was the grandson of Sigmund Freud. His father was a successful architect. Lucian was expelled from some of the world’s finest prep schools on his way to becoming one of the Twentieth Century’s foremost portraitists. He did serve as a merchant seaman for a time, but that was due more to a need for adventure than to earn a living.
Christian Dior was heir to a fertilizer fortune (seriously). Although his family wished him to pursue a career as a diplomat, Christian’s father still financed his venture as the owner of a small art gallery, where he sold art by the likes of Pablo Picasso. Monsieur Dior was drafted to the army. After being discharged he apprenticed with some of Paris’ great designers, most notably Pierre Balmain. Christian Dior is widely regarded as being one of the greatest fashion designers of all time.
These artists worked and studied very hard. They worked their entire lives. They worked until they died. Their families’ wealth did not diminish their desire or ability to succeed in the least. To the contrary, they attended the best schools and had the finest training. Those advantages, along with talent and determination, afforded them the opportunity to live great lives and create enduring legacies.
I, for one, am glad that Christian didn’t become a diplomat or go to work in his father’s fertilizer firm. I’d like to create those kinds of opportunities for my progeny.
William S Jiggetts