Taking reality television to a new level, MTV’s Date My Mom featured one brave guy who is willing to take three different moms on dates in order to find out more about their daughters. After questioning all three moms at length, the bachelor has to choose the daughter he wants to date without even seeing a picture. At the end of the show, everyone meets up to see which lucky girl he chooses.

One of my favorite episodes ends with the two young women and their moms who weren’t chosen hugging each other and walking off into the sunset. One of the daughters looks at her mom and asks, "What are we going to do now?" Without hesitating, the mom replies, "Well, we’re just going to go find you a nice Jewish boy."

I can’t help but laugh. I grew up with a Jewish grandmother who always hoped that I would also end up with a nice Jewish boy, too. Every mother and father naturally dreams about what their children will grow up to be and accomplish. Often unknowingly, parents project unrealized dreams on their offspring. Whether you are aware of it or not, your family has a tremendous impact on how you answer the question, What the heck am I going to do with my life? Through their reactions and responses, both stated and unstated, your family provides a framework for approval and acceptance. They not only give you roots; they give context to your life.

One of the reasons family is such a big factor in directing our lives is because parents play a pivotal role in introducing us to new ideas and concepts. They help us become familiar with particular professions or pastimes, and once we are comfortable in an area, we are sometimes less likely to venture off into new territory.

Some families go one step further than just encouraging their children to pursue a particular career and actually provide an insta-career by owning a business that their children will inevitably take over one day. If you are in line to inherit the family business, you may be one of the lucky or not-so-lucky ones depending on the outlook. You may have been groomed since your childhood to take over the business that your parents or grandparents built from the ground up. To many, the situation is one to envy—your career path seems clear cut and your financial security is inevitable—but you may look at the situation differently. You may not seem to have much of a choice in the matter. Along with the business, you inherit challenges, debts, and personnel issues, but no one ever seems to talk about those. You also face high expectations as far as your future, your position, and your performance. Whether stated or not, parental approval can quietly be linked to the success of the business. And that’s a lot of pressure for anyone.

Looking back on his childhood, Randy, a 42-year-old says that he knew he would be working for his father’s company by the time he was in fifth grade. Randy’s father, who had a built a successful sub-contracting business, developed a barbeque sauce business and also managed a four-story historic hotel and variety of rental property.

"There was not a time when I did not have a job available to me," he recalls. "I was given an amazing amount of responsibility at an early age with the knowledge that my parents trusted my judgment and expected me to lead."

A few days after Randy’s high school graduation, his father announced that he had just fired one of the production managers at his barbeque sauce plant. Randy was asked to take over the position until the fall when he headed off to college.

"One of the greatest compliments I have ever received was my dad telling me in August, as I left for college, ‘You really came through for us!’" Randy remembers. "The word I remember was ‘us’—my parents, my family, the employees, their families, the stockholders."