“It’s not your blue blood, your pedigree, or your college degree. It’s what you do with your life that counts.” ― Millard Fuller

What’s Your Pedigree?

Every first Saturday in May, more than a dozen thoroughbred horses “go to the post” in the Kentucky Derby. Most TV viewers, who probably watch only one race per year, know nothing about the animals.

The horses come together on this day from varied backgrounds. Some come from regal lineage and were sold at auction for hundreds of thousands of dollars, perhaps over one million. Some of those horses live up to the hopes of their owners; others do not and prove to be poor investments made by wealthy people who can afford their loss and indulgence in their expensive hobby.

But not all of those entering the starting gate are products of award-winning sires and dams. Some entrants were purchased for small five figure amounts; others for even a few thousand. For many years, the Kentucky Derby has been a grand metaphor for the American experience and the opportunity for all our citizens to rise above (or fall from) their early life circumstances.

As the Snowman postulates, we are all the product of our thinking- of our operative beliefs. Since thoroughbred horses lack cognition (at least, we believe so), there is no way to track the thoughts of Derby entrants as they approach the race’s start. But we can legitimately speculate on the thoughts and beliefs of the owners of these animals.

So what may be the thoughts of the wealthy in spending $700,000 or $800, 000 on an unraced yearling? Well, they theorize great horses and racing success should flow from past equine champions. Prestigious law firms that recruit only from Ivy League law schools imitate this pattern of thought. Non-editors of the law review need not apply.

But what was the thinking of those eager owners who invested modest amounts but are sharing butterflies in their stomachs with the rich owners? Obviously, they held the belief that even their humbly bred colts could compete with the “big boys.” They postulated that origins do not dictate outcomes, either on the racetrack or in life.

Our great country is often, and appropriately, dubbed “the land of opportunity,” and it is. That title is earned and demonstrated via a cursory examination of the biographies of those in our society who have achieved success. We will discover affluent backgrounds of privilege as well as histories of humble origins with little basis for lofty aspirations. But what do we know about the latter? We learn that, somewhere along their history, someone implanted the thought that they could achieve beyond their circumstances. The ‘implanter” may have been a parent, teacher, grandparent, a coach, a neighbor or some other mentor.

Hats off to the implanters of hope and ambition. They are truly the midwives of our nation’s future.

Homework: What healthy, positive seeds have you sown today? Who lives, almost literally under your nose that would benefit from such a message? Look and act accordingly.

I believe that in this life, we are defined NOT by the station into which we are born, nor by pedigree, race or religion, but by the choices we make. – McGraw