In his book Fame Junkies, author Jake Halpern speaks of a survey he carried out with US school students. One of the questions on the survey was;

“When you grow up, which of the following jobs would you most like to have?”

There were five options to choose from:

  • CEO of a major company like General Motors
  • A Navy SEAL
  • United States Senator
  • The President of a great university like Stanford or Yale
  • The personal assistant to a very famous singer or movie star

Nearly half chose to be personal assistants to celebrities.
Research psychologists, have thought for a long time that people with low-self esteem are the ones who will “bask in the reflected glory” of others.


Look what happens when the same question was asked of boys who reported bad grades – and who described themselves as being unpopular at school – the percentage who wanted to grow up to be Eminem’s or Jay Z’s assistant rose to 80%.


In other words, a lot of kids are happy to reap the rewards of someone else’s hard work.


When I work with students around the country and challenge them to think big, many invoke their get-out clause and tell me they’re not talented enough.


Even when I demonstrate to them how others have been successful in their chosen fields through hard work, the teens often suggest that their success is down to being a natural or “they must have got lucky.”


If we allow success to be seen as being due to natural ability or luck alone, we give our kids an excuse not to try.


As teachers and parents we must encourage, recognise and acknowledge perseverance in our kids.


Effort and perseverance – rather than ability – are what we should be praising.


They are what we should recognise in others.


But how often do we?


To illustrate the value of hard work to teenagers, I use this analogy.


Opportunity is a door.

Talent knocks on the door.

If you’re lucky the door will open.


But it’s hard work that got you to the door in the first place.

And it’s hard work that will get you through the door and keep you inside.


Author: Dan Haesler, he is a teacher, consultant, and speaker at the Mental Health & Wellbeing of Young People seminars He writes for the Sydney Morning Herald and blogs at and tweets at @danhaesler