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You Have to Kill the Father Figure to Succeed

One of the greatest obstacles to finding your life’s task quite honestly can be your parents. We all love our parents – at least most of us do.  And they mean the best.  But often they’re the ones that screw us up most in the sense that they want to consciously or unconsciously direct you in a path that they feel is appropriate for you.  

Generally that means they want you to get something that’s lucrative. They want you to become a doctor or a lawyer or go get your MBA.  Or they think, you know, dance isn’t appropriate for you.  You need to be doing something else.  Something that they don’t feel any connection to themselves.  And so they impose their values on you.

And what you want to be doing if you are a parent is you want your child to have the space to explore what they’re naturally drawn too.  Our education system should be helping people connect to their natural inclinations instead of discouraging them.  And so what happens to you is if you listen too much to your parents but also to your friends, you start to lose a sense of who you are.  

In the book I use the example of Mozart.  Mozart wanted to become a musician at a very early age and his father who was a teacher of music naturally encouraged this as well.  And so his father ends up becoming his instructor and his mentor and everything.  But at the age of 13 or 14 Mozart becomes aware that his father is actually trying to keep him down.

Mozart is this kind of wunderkind prodigy.  And even as a composer he’s making all the money for the family.  And Mozart himself wants to stop being just a money machine and create a new kind of music, create the kind of music that he feels is coming from within as opposed to what his father wants him to compose.  And so his father is like a pressure on him, keeping him from discovering what he’s meant to do.  And he’s getting older and older and he’s feeling more resentful and angry and upset.  And he’s having all kinds of problems. And finally he rebels and he leaves his father and he goes and establishes himself in Vienna and basically ruins their relationship.  

His father will hardly ever communicate with him after that.  It was a very emotionally difficult decision but it freed him up.  If he had never done that you and I would hardly ever have heard of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.  He would have been a second rate composer of the eighteenth century composing these little conventional things for the court of Salzburg.  He would have never become who he is today.  And a lot of us have to do that.

We have to rebel against all those forces inside and outside that have tried to make us follow a conventional path.  We have to say, sometimes with a bit of anger, “No, I’m not gonna do that.”  You have to even – I call it slaying the father figure.  You literally have to kill the father figure within you and find out what you were meant to do.

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

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