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Allison Schrager

Open Your Mind to the Benefits of Nepotism

Society rightly condemns promoting unqualified progeny to unsuitable jobs, but there’s still value in passing down the family business.

Gwyneth Paltrow has a point.

Gwyneth Paltrow has a point.

Photographer: Nick Agro/AFP

Greg Long is one of the world’s best Big Wave surfers. His got his edge not just from his physical ability, comfort with risk and skill on the water; he was literally born to be a surfer. His father was a lifeguard and took young Long and his brother surfing, exposing them to the sport and the surfing community when they were children. This is a typical story in that industry. When I went to the Big Wave Surfing Risk Assessment Group, a risk conference for surfers, nearly all the famous surfers there grew up in the business.

In my research I meet a lot of people who do unusual jobs, from inseminating horses to bounty hunting. The first thing I ask is, “How did you get into this line of work?” and most of the time I get one answer (always said with pride): “My father.”