Looking at the businesses I’ve built, managed, and sold (worth $2 million) by the age of 30, I’ve been reflecting lately on what set the foundation for my achievements so that I can help others experience financial security and abundance. I believe my success is the result of an unusual childhood, and a few unique things my parents did to set me up for success.
1. Give incentive to learn from the masters
My father actually paid me $2 to listen to each chapter of an audiobook and then summarize the main points in my own words, so I wound up listening to dozens of audiobooks throughout my childhood. (I didn’t get paid for chores as they were simply expected of me.) The trick was that he would choose books on management, wealth building, and personal growth.
I was four years old when he started this, and as a result I became fascinated with human potential and manifesting wealth long before I was even old enough to have a paper route or babysitting job. All this knowledge seeped into my young, fertile brain and shaped my subconscious, priming me to be a confident entrepreneur and manager. People often tell me about great, classic books they read by people like Napoleon Hill, Og Mandino, Denis Waitley, and Zig Ziglar and I smile, fondly recalling my experience listening to those masters.
2. Encourage questions
Both of my parents went out of their way to make sure I felt heard, understood and valued. They would explain to me what was interesting and important about anything I was saying and would then expand on the topic with their own knowledge. And they were always willing to answer the million “why” questions I asked, with real answers. They never responded “because I said so.
3. Provide unconditional love
Researcher Brené Brown talks about the concept of teaching children that they are worthy of love and belonging, rather than telling them they’re perfect. This is a big distinction, and I believe I’m a good example of why this works. There will be days when the world is going to chew you up and spit you out. People are going to laugh at you and call you names, and they will reject you and your ideas. Knowing all of this will happen to your child and insisting that they are perfect no matter what will not help them.
No one is perfect. We don’t need to be! Instead, we can learn to hear feedback from others through a filter that says we’re completely lovable as we are. If we know for certain we are lovable regardless of what people do or say to us, we can then hear criticism and search it objectively for meaningful clues on how we can improve. My mom has always shown me a great deal of love and affection, and it’s certainly one of the biggest secrets of my success.
4. Show the importance of a strong work ethic
When I was a teenager, Dad had me mowing his yard, which was a sprawling acreage back then. Of course I had more fun things to do than household chores, so I got it done as quickly as possible. One day when I had finished, he thanked me and told me he wanted to tell the neighbors about my mowing skills, so they would hire me to do their yards as well.
The prospect of making cash appealed to me, so I was all ears. My dad then said, “Let’s take a look at the yard now. Are you happy with how it looks? Would you sign your name to this job, proudly telling people you did it?” As I surveyed my hasty mowing efforts, it was plain to see that I had left behind several tufts and swatches of grass. I realized that no one who’d seen this would hire me to take care of their yard. My dad could have yelled at me for being lazy, but he chose instead to demonstrate the benefit of a solid work ethic.
5. Teach kids to be powerful
I was not allowed to indulge myself in negative self-talk. I was shown how to cancel negative beliefs (like “I can’t do this”), and replace them with positive ones, focusing on the desired outcome. I started doing visualization exercises and focusing on goal-setting at the age of five, beginning with small goals like teaching my dog how to sit and saving up to buy a bike. When I had success achieving these goals, it gave me the confidence to reach for bigger things, with the belief that I would attain them.
I was encouraged to set goals in all areas of my life — when I was six, I wanted the training wheels off my bike and knew it would take practice to get there. When I was 12, I set a goal to take a babysitting course so I could earn money. When I was 13, I set a goal of being a really good friend.
You can help your kids set goals in areas they’re genuinely interested in, as well as set goals they would probably achieve anyway (like passing second grade). Get them to write down these goals somewhere they’ll see them every day, and check them off when they’re complete. When I did this as a kid, it gave me enormous satisfaction. (It still does today!)
As a result of a somewhat unique upbringing — thank you, Mom and Dad! — I don’t have a fear of success, and I know that creating abundant wealth is possible. What other unusual and effective parenting methods have you used or observed to set kids up for success? Share them in the comments!