Do Great Minds Come from Lives of Comfort?

I’m not sure where all I am getting this from, but I know it’s multiple angles. I just got done watching a documentary on Mr. Rogers, and something struck me about his background: he grew up with a rich and successful family.

Bertrand Russell then came to mind. He was from a rich family as well, and he was able to spend his life becoming educated, and being curious. And what he gave the world was unbelievable.

These are anecdotes, of course, not data. But there’s more. This research here showed that it wasn’t just good grades or intelligence that made inventors—it’s mostly people who come from rich families.

And there’s another body of research that shows that trauma in early life leads to massive issues when you’re older, including things like dramatically shorter lifespans, mental health issues, etc.

To me these anecdotes and studies combine to reveal a simple truth—or a potential truth anyway—which is that creativity and innovation are luxuries just as much as nice cars, private educations, and summer homes.

Photo by Sharon Pittaway

We like to see creativity and a good work ethic as something that’s part of your soul. Something that comes with you as you exit the womb. And that’s fine. But if you’re going to reward that then you should also reward people who are tall and beautiful, which we instinctively know didn’t come from hard work.

And to the extent that creativity can be enhanced and cultivated through a stable, loving life, we owe it to every human to let them have that opportunity. Not a guaranteed outcome. Not an art exhibition for everyone. No, only the good ones.

But we have to give everyone a chance to be good, and that means not stunting them in early childhood.

The rich have many advantages, and it’s time for us to start seeing the freedom that allows one to be curious and creative as one of them.


  1. It’s also possible to grow complacency and mediocrity in a life of leisure, and it’s similarly possible to create fighters from adversity, who then go on to achieve. But I think generally that you want to instill a hard work ethic at the same time that you’re providing love, stability, and intellectual stimulation.

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