It's best to have failure happen early in life. It wakes up the Phoenix bird in you so you rise from the ashes.
In a recent discussion with a group of other writers from a site, another author commented how the idea of Gentlemen dedicating themselves to others seems in complete contrast with the culture of greed and individuals so constantly evident in successful men today. My reply was simple, “You have to help others because you know what it’s like to be knocked down.” After a pause, he asked a question that even though I have considered it never thought of it as critical as he did. “So it’s a prerequisite to have some disaster happen to you before you can be a Gentleman?”
No, but it helps.
For him, this was somewhat a paradox. He is still trying to prove his place in society, his worth as a man. Society tells men that they only way to do this is through a ruthless, cut-throat mentality. Also, we rise in a mentality of entitlement, where people assume that society owes them something for just breathing. These attitudes are in complete contrast to the ideals of a Gentleman.
Humility and charity are the core elements of being a Gentleman, and nobody knows their value like someone who has fallen due to greed and pettiness. Nothing teaches you humility than being able to survive thanks to someone else’s charity. Nobody knows how imperfect they are till they are forced to look at their imperfections. Nobody knows the importance of moderation like a man who has fallen to vices. Nobody knows the importance of temperance than a man who has fallen to his temper. Nobody knows the dangers of arrogance than a man who has fallen to his ego. Nobody knows the importance of those around them till they make the realization that they will lose them. Nobody knows the fleeting nature of life till they meet their own mortality. Many Gentlemen where guys who at aim at heaven because they already fell into hell.
I constantly ask myself how you teach these lessons without having to go through that hardship. You can teach boys to be humble, to be respectful, and to be charitable. But as a fellow gentleman once said, only a tree that survives a harsh environment develops deep roots. Till I figure this out, the best I can do is warn them of the dangers of leading the path of the petty man.
Yet for those who have been broken by life, they have an opportunity to become better men. Sometimes to rise higher, you need to break. The good thing is that these men already have a mayor advantage over other men. They know they can survive what life dishes out. And that makes them dangerous to petty men.