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Finneran: The Success Sequence

Friday, May 04, 2018


It is a sign of the Western world’s decline that what I am about to write will be deemed controversial in some quarters.

Therefore, in keeping up with the prevailing nonsense of an eminently silly era, I hereby provide a trigger warning to all readers: people who choose to indulge fantasies might find these thoughts offensive. People who actually think for themselves and observe the world in action will yawn and recognize the utterly common knowledge of this sequence for success.

A further confession is warranted. I came across these heresies while indulging in revolutionary acts. I was reading First Things or National Review. Yes, it’s true, in the delivery area of the Boston Globe I was reading such radical pamphlets. Further truth be told, I cannot remember which magazine recited the sequence which I happily borrow and share with you. I am a regular reader of each magazine as a necessary antidote to the Globe’s prevailing views. You have been warned.

First, as the word sequence implies, there is an order of events to be followed. In my mind, these are “life events”, important milestones for every person as they mature and hopefully become responsible adults. Should the order get jumbled by other life events, the chances for success get changed pretty quickly. Very good odds for success can become very good odds for hardship.

The sequence for success is really no secret. Indeed, it was once very common and widely accepted knowledge. Mothers, in particular, know the deal and the right order of events. Let’s call it a mother’s simple wisdom. Here’s the sequence---graduate, work, marry, have children, avoid crime. Do so in that order, although the avoidance of crime should constantly parallel the other four episodes.

That one should graduate from school rather than drop out seems quite obvious. The Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs drop-out stories are outliers. A huge majority of folks derive massive benefit from finishing their formal schooling. That is true whether the schooling is in vocational education and the trades or whether it is in an MIT Masters program. Rule number one is finish school. Just ask Mom.

Rule Number two is to find work. The habits associated with finding a job and keeping that job are important. Habits of punctuality, dress, speech, reliability, and trust are critical habits for all adults. Such habits must be honed each day. Just ask Mom.

Rule number three is to marry before having children. Though often scorned today, marriage remains a big deal. It is the most important commitment you’ll ever make. And, it is crucial to the successful raising of children. Notwithstanding modernity’s paeans to single parenthood, intact two-parent households have a far greater probability of successfully raising children to responsible adulthood. Those two-parent families enjoy consistent success in their children’s education, physical and mental health, law-abiding behavior, and social engagement. Sadly, the children of single-parent households often fail to surmount the long odds they face. Just ask Mom.

Regarding rule four, the life event of having children is the life event of all time. There is no need to expound upon it. It is a life-altering event. And while there is no need to have children as a prerequisite for stability and success, there is a need to get the sequence in its proper order. Marriage comes first, as the commitment of responsible adults to each other, before taking on the immense responsibility of raising children. Just ask Mom.

Rule five is to avoid crime. Its consequences are severely disruptive. Avoid it and avoid criminals. As your Mom likely said, “that’s just plain common sense”.

Listen to your Mom.

Former Speaker of the House Tom Finneran

Tom Finneran is the former Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, served as the head the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, and was a longstanding radio voice in Boston radio  


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