I’m listening to the audio book “A Personal Odyssey” about the life of economist Thomas Sowell. It’s fabulous, by the way, and I highly recommend it. (On Amazon)
I’ve long been an admirer of Mr. Sowell, and it is absolutely fascinating to hear his story of growing up in the south, moving to New York, struggling with issues of family, schooling, societal racism and the constant struggles of a teenager and young black man trying to make a living by juggling various stints of employment trying to make ends meet. It’s a gripping and vivid story already, and I’ve only made it up to 1952 when he was a photographer in the Marine corps.
What struck me this morning, as I was listening during my walk, is the young marine, in his early twenties, has no idea whom he will one day become – one of the most respected researchers, writers, and economists in American history. All of the accolades that he has achieved in his breath-taking career were not even remotely on the radar in the young life of Thomas Sowell.
By 1952, he had not even finished high school. How would he have ever guessed the academic career which was to come? graduate of Harvard, Doctorate at the University of Chicago, professor at Cornell and many other institutions, a Fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford, syndicated columnist and author, etc…
How could have a high school dropout ever had hoped as much? It’s remarkable, really, and the truth that comes out it is this: We cannot, ever, foresee the future. This fact is both a great encouragement, but it is also a warning.
This is encouragement for those stuck in the life they don’t want to be in. You never know what’s right around the bend. You never know what how much that extra little effort will pay off. Grit may have its reward far beyond what you could have imagined.
On the flip side, this is also a warning shot for those who are riding high in life: don’t take the good times for granted. Enjoy them for what they are. And be thankful. You never know when the good times will end.
(Thanks for the reminder, Mr. Sowell. Now back to listening. I can’t wait to find out how you repudiated your communist leanings.)