My father is jealous of my success. I have received many awards for splendid work in my industry and when I really need my father to be with me receiving those awards, he never shows up. When he sees my name in the media, he calls not to congratulate me but to say “A real man never brags about his achievement.’’ What should I do?
The author of a column such as this one should not confess to being confused by a question, but in this one instance, I must say yours is a truly puzzling question. I would for example agree with your father that “A real man never brags about his achievement.” If that is all your father is trying to teach you, then the answer to your question “what should I do” is simply, “listen to your father’s wise advice.”
The confusing part of the question is the opening sentence, in which you categorically state that your father is jealous, because you proceed to fall into a trap you have set yourself by describing your “splendid work in my industry.”
It is perhaps this aspect of your personality that bothers your father who perhaps rightly gets upset when you open your mouth and brag to the media about your achievements. It is possible that your father has seen many people before you who in their hey days did what they considered to be “splendid work” only to fall out of grace in the course of time.
As the old saying goes, “the elder sitting on a stool can see further than a young person (e.g. his son) who is perched on a tall tree”. This old African saying captures the wisdom that is accumulated in the course of one’s life. Let’s look back to illustrate this point.
Human evolution has found it fit to allow men and women, well past their strict biological usefulness to remain alive. Those who no longer reproduce or nurture young ones are net consumers of resources without the ability to give back to nature, in the way they could in earlier days.
In the wild, and as was the case for humans thousands of years ago, life ends as soon as one has finished their strict biological duties of reproducing. In the days gone, few people lived beyond the age of 30 years. In those days, reproduction started at the age of 12-13 years, and by the age of 25 years, the parents were considered elderly by their children who could then hunt and run faster. Life was fast, furious and deadly.
By their 30th birthday, humans were mostly dead from either disease, wars or childbirth. That was the ecosystem as it was 30,000 years ago.
In time, nature found this to be a most wasteful way of dealing with itself. Life expectancy has increased steadily over the years. In Kenya it has risen from 46 years at Independence to over 60 years today.
As humans lived into their 40s and later 50s, these “elders” proved useful to society from an evolutionary perspective.
They, for example knew which fruits and vegetables were good to eat, and which were poisonous. From their experience, they knew where to find fresh water, and had over time established the safe routes to travel, away from danger.
They were also available to offer advice on child rearing. Having brought up their own children, they could advice and offer assistance on the upbringing of their grandchildren. By so doing, they also created the opportunity for their children (new parents) to explore the world beyond the home.
Music and the arts are thought to have resulted in this way. By this method, nature created an opportunity for human kind to live longer and longer, by being able to benefit from the wisdom and experience of the elders.
It is perhaps this aspect of your question that I find most fascinating.
You seem to want to mould your father and yourself to the relationships of the Stone Age. Your father is telling you that we are in the 21st Century and although slow physically, elders have seen many things in their life. One of them is men (like you) who win many awards for their splendid work, and very quickly find their way to oblivion.
A friend of mine often reminds me of the true crisis of our generation.
By way of numerous examples, he explains that we were mostly brought up to avoid, fear, and to a great extent manage failure. It is for this reason that many worked hard in school, built their careers with focused determination and in many ways rose to great heights in our society.
A number of people we know have followed what he calls self destructive trajectories.
Some seemingly successful men have succumbed to alcohol, other lifestyle diseases including sexually transmitted diseases, while others have died of injuries while drunk or driving carelessly. Some have been shot dead by “friends”. Others have grown old and died alone in abject poverty. Broken marriages are other signs of failure to manage their personal affairs.
All have failed in their quest to manage success. Our challenge is no longer how to manage failure. Your father is teaching the lesson you least like. How to manage success!
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