Chapter One: Millionaire Mentality
THINK LIKE A FUTURE MILLIONAIRE'S PARENT
You and I are about to embark on a wonderful journey together-teaching your kids to think, talk, and act like future millionaires. You will find the experience surprisingly easy, as most kids
Chapter One: Millionaire Mentality
are born with the ability to dream big dreams and are eager to succeed-the first two ingredients for great achievement. It will be extremely gratifying to watch your son discover that his own interests and talents, combined with practical business skills, can be the source of his success, earning him enough money to buy a new bike right now as well as preparing him to be a future millionaire. This is what I do for a living, and I can assure you that the rewards and satisfaction of helping children become independent achievers are never-ending.
But before we focus on your kids and their many gifts, we will begin with you, exploring your own attitudes about money and success so that you will be able to teach your son or daughter to think like a future millionaire.
The Parent Trap
Over and over again in my work with young people, I see the same tragedy unfolding-kids who are eager to become successful entrepreneurs and who have no doubts about their abilities to succeed, but whose parents, good people like you, unknowingly discourage them, beginning at an early age, from acting on their natural optimism and from believing in their abilities when it comes to money, the two leading characteristics of successful businesspeople.
While insisting that their kids work hard in school, supporting their athletic achievements, and generally loving their children, most parents, without knowing it, actively work against their children's future financial independence. By buying into some very pervasive, wrongheaded business myths in our country about work and careers and, further, by visiting their own ambivalence about money onto their children, they miss the opportunity to groom their children for financial success.
A tragedy? You bet, because what most parents are doing is the complete opposite of what they want to do for their children. No one in his right mind wants to deny his children the opportunity to succeed, both financially and emotionally. Yet I see this happening all the time in the seminars I conduct throughout this country and abroad.
No one has explained to parents that the most common path to great success is not what most people think-getting into the right college or landing a job at a big corporation-but is instead developing one's unique talents to create thriving businesses. Entrepreneurs learn this important skill early in their lives, usually from an adult who is close to them, and go on to build fulfilling and prosperous lives for themselves by creating their own businesses.
So before we begin to talk about your child and his or her talents, let's discuss the three harmful myths that block parents from helping their children become future millionaires.
Myth Number One: A college education is the key to business success.
I'm the last person to disparage a college education. A good education teaches you to think critically, exposes you to knowledge, and trains you to be inquisitive and open to new ideas throughout your life. It can also prepare you for certain careers, such as engineering or accounting or medicine. But it is far from an automatic guarantee of business success or even a requirement for success. In some cases, it can actually put you four years behind the other runners in the race to achieve.
Many of the newer, most successful businesses in our country were founded by people who learned on the job rather than in college, including Los Angeles restaurant owner Wolfgang Puck, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Miramax movie-studio head Harvey Weinstein, Apple Computers founder Steve Jobs, and Vogue magazine editor Anna Wintour.
In my own case, I won a football scholarship to college but left after one semester, because I just wasn't learning anything that seemed relevant to my life and my goals for success. Instead, I went to work, and by the age of twenty-four, armed with the confidence and experience I'd gained from my own childhood businesses, I was the CEO of my own corporation. On one occasion, I placed a help-wanted ad in the paper and got forty-eight responses within two hours, forty-three of them from people with college degrees. Here I was, a college dropout, in the position of deciding whether or not to hire a college graduate.
Please don't assume that teaching your son about business at an early age isn't important because he's headed for Princeton. Instead, encourage his business skills-he will be able to pay his own college tuition if he wants to go!
Myth Number Two: A job with a good corporation will secure your child's financial future.
This was once true. Many of today's grandparents grew up with secure, long-term jobs at American corporations and factories and retired with gold watches and nice pensions. But as many people are finally beginning to realize, this is no longer the case.
Big corporate America is now a world of mergers, acquisitions, downsizing, and outsourcing. And for those who survive these upheavals and remain employed, the corporate workplace itself is often unfriendly and difficult, as employees struggle to do more with fewer resources, deal with cutthroat office politics, and work longer hours to produce a product of which they may or may not be proud. Further, all the while they are filling someone else's bank account.
Is this what you want for your child? Not likely. But while many parents now acknowledge that corporate America might not be the place for their sons and daughters, they don't know any alternatives. As a result, they stand silently by while their children march toward eventual financial disappointment.
One alternative is small businesses, often service oriented, which are the driving force of our economy. The approximately 23.7 million small businesses in the United States have generated 60 to 80 percent of the new jobs in this country over the last decade and employ half the country's private (nongovernment) workforce, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.
And who's starting these businesses? They are entrepreneurs who have the skills, confidence, and determination to create something new and make it pay. Contrary to what many people think, these entrepreneurs did not spring fully formed into their success. Most often they were children, just like yours, who were taught by their parents, early in their lives, to identify their talents, trust their instincts, and use both to create unique, profitable businesses.
Your child will be no different, and maybe will be even more successful than other entrepreneurs, if you start now to teach him how to learn to earn. Give him the option to be his own boss when he grows up! He will thank you forever.
Myth Number Three: Children should not have to "worry" about money when they're young. There's plenty of time to focus on finances when they're adults.
This line of thinking drives me crazy because, first, it assumes that money is scary, which is exactly what too many adults think and why they're so uncomfortable with their finances. On the contrary, I can assure you that teaching your child that she is capable of earning her own money is one of the most positive and empowering gifts you can give her. By helping her earn and handle money now, she won't ever have to "worry" about making money when she's an adult.
Second, this hands-off approach to money flies in the face of what parents do for their children in all other areas of their kids' lives. You encourage your children to take piano or dance lessons and play soccer or baseball when they are young to gain skills that they will enjoy and carry into adulthood. Why not give them the same opportunity to acquire financial skills that will pave the way to an affluent and secure future?
To show you how damaging these myths can be to a talented young person, I'd like to tell you a story about a young boy I know, whose father, with the best intentions, is frustrating his son's natural inclination to success.
A few years ago, my sons decided they wanted to have a mural painted on their bedroom wall. They had a vision of a cool biker flying through the air on his amazing motorcycle, while an awestruck crowd watched from below.
When I found out that paying an artist to paint a mural would cost about the same as wallpapering the room, which needed a new paint job anyway, my wife and I said, "Why not?" and I began looking around for an artist who could paint both lifelike people and shiny, impressive motorcycles, a combination requiring skills that seemed beyond most artists I asked.
Then one evening my son Trey appeared in the kitchen with a drawing of just what he and I had been looking for, a truly realistic, macho biker, whose fierce expression conveyed his determination to take his bike on a glorious sky ride. The bike itself was everything a boy would want-big and streamlined with every bell and whistle known to man.
"Where did you get this?" I asked.
"Paul drew it," he said.
I was astounded. Paul was his friend, a quiet thirteen-year-old boy with big brown eyes and an easy sense of humor. He was at our house all the time, and this evening he was spending the night when Trey and his brothers told him of their planned motorcycle painting.
He was obviously a terrific artist, and I thought we'd found the person for the job. But when I went upstairs to congratulate him and offer him the job of painting the mural for about $250, he said, "I'm sorry, sir. I can't. My dad would be really upset. He doesn't like it when I draw."
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. How could his father not like Paul's drawings?
When I took this news to my wife, she explained that Paul's father was frustrated because all Paul wanted to do was draw, to the exclusion of schoolwork, athletics, even dinner conversation. His teachers complained, his grades were poor, and his father blamed it all on the drawing.
In my optimism, I thought, Well, maybe so, but surely I can talk to him and explain that Paul has a tremendous gift that should be encouraged. Further, he'd understand that if he did support his son's talents, Paul would likely meet with great success. His self-confidence would grow, and most likely, when he was allowed to draw all he wanted, his schoolwork would improve as well. I just knew he'd be delighted to let him paint the mural. So with Paul's permission I brought the subject up when I drove him home the next day.
"Absolutely not," he told me firmly when I asked if I could hire Paul. "Giving him so much money to draw is exactly what we can't do. He has to learn to pay attention in school and improve his grades first-the last thing he should be doing is distracting himself by drawing. It's too impractical."
Paul's face dropped a mile at his father's words, but nothing I could say would convince his dad that discouraging his talent was just the opposite of what he should be doing.
Mr. Mercado, backed by our whole society's attitude toward raising children, is firmly convinced that the best thing he can do for his son is to steer him away from his "impractical" interest in art so that he will study harder in school. His dream for Paul is that he get good grades, go to college, and land a well-paying job. Then he will be successful, and his father will think he has done his job.
But he's dead wrong. It's clear that his son's passion and talents lie in his artistic ability. He's absorbing everything around him and putting it into his art, and his excellent work reflects his self-discipline and practice. He could easily use his gift to launch himself into a successful business that would be appropriate to his age-painting murals, doing Web site graphics, drawing dealer ads on the windshields of the vehicles for sale in car lots-and the business skills he learns now would give him enormous confidence and prepare him well for an adult career that combines his talents with the means to earn a good living.
But Mr. Mercado can't see that. He doesn't understand that Paul is very lucky in knowing at a young age exactly what he wants to do. Neither does he see that through his art, Paul has already begun to develop traits that will help him succeed-qualities such as concentration and attention to detail. And because he is so uncomfortable with what he finds unfamiliar, he has no appreciation for the joy Paul gets from exercising his talents, pleasure that would be a prime motivator for him throughout his working life.
He should be applauding his efforts but is instead setting him up for frustration and failure. For starters, Paul is already out the $250 I wanted to pay him for his mural, not to mention the dozens of referrals I would have given him!
Little Business Now, Big Business Later
Little Business Now, Big Business Later
You may now agree that Mr. Mercado should let Paul paint my sons' bedroom. But you may still find it hard to believe that there is a real connection between work done by young people-like mowing lawns, washing cars, or in Paul's case, painting a mural-and the "real," grown-up world of successful entrepreneurship and millionaire status. It's all very good to earn a little pocket money, you think, but for most kids these odd jobs are hardly a recipe for a life's work.
But these jobs are actually the best recipe for life's work. When a child, no matter how young, is creating jobs for himself, he is doing much more than making some extra money to buy an iPod-he's developing self-reliance and confidence in his own ability, and he's discovering that the world really is filled with opportunity.
He is also learning practical business skills. If your son has a car-washing business, he must market his product-should he slip flyers under neighbors' doors, approach people personally, look for the dirtiest cars on the block? He must price his product-what is the charge for a regular car wash? how much can he charge if he does more detail work, like washing tires? He must become adept at customer relations-how can he get referrals? what should he do if someone complains about the job he did?
In fact, what he is doing in your driveway is what most adults do every day at their offices, and he's learning all this when he's fourteen years old. Further, instead of being a cog in someone else's machine, he's in charge of the whole show. He can arrange his work schedule around his baseball games. He can expand his business to another neighborhood. He can hire his siblings and friends to work for him. He can politely refuse to wash Mr. Winter's car because the man doesn't pay on time. He can earn as much money as he's willing to work for. What's not to love about this extraordinary learning-and-earning process?
Let's be honest. Wouldn't you like to have a job like that?
So let us begin to think of your children in new ways. What talents do they have that make them unique? If you encourage them, what kinds of businesses could they start, using their innate talents?
Maybe your son likes to fiddle with the computer or your daughter has a tendency to burst into song like a Broadway star at a moment's notice. You might not have paid attention to these traits-you may even rue them if, for instance, your son, without telling you, moved your e-mail account from America Online to Yahoo because he thinks it is better-but these individualized gifts could be the seeds of a business opportunity for your children. Your son's interest in the computer indicates curiosity and technological ability that, if harnessed to some business expertise, could earn him money right now!
When you take the time to really observe your children and teach them to celebrate and develop their enthusiasms, you are giving them the gift of believing in themselves and making it pay!