Do You Have Them? Are You Raising Your Children to Have Them?
I’ve been fortunate in my life. My work as the founder and CEO of SJS Investment Services puts me in front of so many fascinating people who are successful, many of them self-made. Each one has a story to tell, and I gladly listen. Because I’ve come to discover that within each story about “those humble beginnings” are the clues to the degree of success—and happiness—achieved in the end.
This unscientific, but easily observable pattern of what it takes to succeed, has guided me in my business, in my personal life and in my parenting. I’d like to say I have hit a home run on all fronts, but I haven’t. It can be all too easy to forget these basic truths—particularly when my children are involved. I appreciate clients around me who share their stories and serve as gentle, yet powerful, reminders of not only what makes people great, but our nation great, too. Here are the three traits:
- Many successful people have known adversity.
In the case of the self-made success story, often the story began with some hardship or challenge. Maybe it was poverty, and they struggled to make ends meet—some of the most poignant tales come from The Great Depression. Or as young children, they were expected to be part of the family income stream and earn their way. Often as children, their paper route and babysitting money went to the family to help make ends meet. They were seldom given anything, and instead had to earn it on the farm, in their community and sometimes even in the family business. Adversity turns children into adults who are more likely to value what they have, because it was earned and not given.
- Many successful people learned the meaning of hard work at an early age.
Earl Nightingale said, “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.” And I have found in my life and in the lives of successful people I know that when you are working hard, you are on the journey—the progressive realization—of success. I hear my clients tell stories of their youth and speak with pride about rising before dawn and getting to their chores. They learned through responsibility that no matter how hard the task, you work until it is done. And I can see it in their eyes, and hear it in their voices as they remember those days, the same pride of accomplishment they felt as kids, often some sixty years earlier. Through hard work, children may learn to appreciate the value of working towards a goal and to achieve pride and confidence in their accomplishments.
- Many successful people have saved all their lives.
The successful people I know have never spoken of working to buy things. They worked because it had to get done and whatever rewards they got, they saved. Work was the green light to save money, not spend it. This belief became a habit in the way they ran their lives, their businesses and today their investments. Saving can turn hard-workers into millionaires.
I tell my clients, many of whom are farther down life’s path than I am, that they are role models for me. Their example and insights have helped me to prepare my own family for the future. I’d like to say I have raised my kids to have the strength to overcome adversity, work hard, and save, but I am far from perfect. Everyone wants more for their kids than they themselves had, and that means life often gets easier with each generation. But at a time when the next generation is entering a world economy, competing with others who grew up living a harder life, will our children be prepared to succeed? That question concerns me, and I know I am not alone.
I share this because it’s never too late to pick up good habits. And judging from my clients’ stories, it’s never too early, either.