Friday, May 18, 2007

No One is Going to Hand You a Crown

We’re raised like princes, but we don’t know how to become kings.

Kids get what they want. In a comfortable society like ours, we are indulged as children and treated like little princes and princesses.

We are raised as princes, with life expected to bring a steady stream of entitlements. Go to school, get your degree, yada yada yada, and there’s a white picket fence and suburban bliss waiting for you. And princes like us expect to automatically become the king.

But that’s wrong. No one is going to hand you a crown. Birthright doesn’t determine who is a true king.

Even people who are lucky enough to be handed the keys to the kingdom fail. Plenty of people inherit wealth, fame and beauty, and still fail miserably. The old proverb “from shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations” is all too often true. Plenty of princes are handed crowns, but fail because they have no idea what it takes to be a king.

So, what does it take to be a king?


Chutzpah gets a bad rap; it’s now simply another word for “impolite” or “obnoxious”. In actuality, chutzpah is the secret to becoming a king.

The Talmud says “chutzpah is a king without the crown” (Sanhedrin 105a). There are multitudes of people who never discover their inner king. They wait in vain for others to recognize their abilities. They sit quietly hoping that someone will just hand them a crown.

The Talmud is telling wallflowers to stand up and take charge. Chutzpah means never accepting limitations. Don’t politely accept mediocrity as your lot in life. If you want to be a king, grab hold of your destiny.

Rebecca and Stuart Klein have a great deal of chutzpah, and they have refused to follow conventional wisdom on how to live their lives. Both are disabled (he's quadriplegic, she's paraplegic), and yet they are married and the parents of bouncing baby twin boys.

Of course, conventional wisdom finds this act of chutzpah intolerable. As noted in an article in the LA Times, some people who meet the Kleins can’t resist saying:

"you're going to have your hands full," or "it's going to get really hard when they're older" - comments that perplex Stuart.

"Why say how hard it's going to be?" Stuart says. "What's the point? If they say it in a certain way, and then say, 'OK, we'll come over and help you out,' that's one thing, but otherwise, what are they suggesting?" Then he adds a characteristic joke, "Should we put them up on EBay now or wait till they're older?"

But the Kleins are kings. They have the gift of chutzpah. It doesn’t matter how hard things are, or what other people think. The Kleins have grabbed hold of their own destiny.

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation”, Thoreau famously wrote. Perhaps the mass of men, but not kings. True kings have chutzpah, and don’t wait for others to hand them a crown.

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