Recently, I was talking (and later about) a very impressive acquaintance of mine who wants to get into the same field as one of their parents, but is too proud to ask that parent to use their influence on the person’s behalf. I understand the reasoning here. If you use nepotism to secure a position that you otherwise couldn’t have gotten, then you, almost by definition, don’t ‘deserve’ it.
However, it is a reasoning that I disagree entirely with, because my point of view is that what you need to do in life is: a) decide what kind of work you need to do; and b) get into a position where you can do that work. And in the case of my friend (and many other people), they’re putting the second step ahead of the first step.
What they’re saying is, “Well, I want to do X, but maybe I’m not really good enough to do it, so if I can get into the right position to do it, then I’ll do it, and if I can’t, then I won’t.”
That, to me, is madness.
For instance, let’s say that you want to make films. You think about films all the time. You have a vision for the film that you want to make. And your father is also a famous film-maker. If you decide not to trade on his name, then you’ll work for years and maybe never get the chance to make anything. But if you do use his name, then you’ll get the funding to produce something.
If you choose the former option, then you’re pre-judging yourself. You’re saying, “I might not be worthy of making this film.” That, to me, is the weaker and less praiseworthy position, because in that case, what you’re hoping is that some independent authority will come along and tell you that you’re a genius and give you permission to make the film you want to make. And a lot of times that doesn’t happen. In fact, what you’ll find, if you try to go it alone, is that oftentimes you don’t succeed until you stop waiting for that permission and stop waiting for people to praise you and start doing whatever it takes to get to where you need to be.
What’s scary about the nepotism option is that you don’t have that permission. Instead, you are asserting that your work is valuable and that your vision is worthwhile, and you’re leveraging every possible resource in order to produce that work.
Now…is there a chance that your work is going to be terrible? Mmm…yeah. Probably. Is there a chance that you’re going to get promoted into a position that you’re ill-suited for? Mmm…yeah, there’s a good chance of that. And is it good, for society as a whole, that people can use their family connections to publish bad work or to get promoted into positions where they’ll bungle things? No. It’s not. It’s quite harmful.
But, to me, that is a completely different issue from whether YOU, as an individual, ought to whole-heartedly pursue the thing that you want to do. In this life, it doesn’t pay to be timid and to hang back. You’ve got to have the courage that you’re a Sofia Coppola and not a Jennifer Lynch.
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