I have long believed that success starts earlier than most people think. A lot of people assume that success begins when stakes are involved, often at University or in the working world. I argue that a successful mindset begins much, much earlier than that. I can often trace a successful person’s characteristics and mindset all the way back to childhood when stakes were nonexistent and minds were more elastic.
Higher education, work experience, and networking are all important success determinants, but I have largely found that the most important element in success is the entrepreneurial mindset – and that can and should be fostered in childhood. It is never too early to foster an outlook and characteristics that will set a person up for success. The younger a person starts, the easier the journey will be.
I believe that there are four core elements that, if present in childhood, are strong indicators of success. If you are raising children, looking for next-generation talent, or simply curious about what leads to achievement-oriented people, then understanding these four elements is crucial.
Here are the four things in childhood that help determine success:
1. Company kept
The people that we surround ourselves with have a profound impact on how we view ourselves and the world around us. The more you talk to someone and the more you spend time with them, the more your viewpoints will sync up. If you spend time with people less intelligent and ambitious than you, they are unlikely to ever reach your potential. You will learn to aim lower since the bar around you is lower. Similarly, if you surround yourself with people who challenge themselves and each other, you will likely find yourself rising to any occasion set before you. This is true in adulthood and it is true in childhood. Kids learn a lot from their friends, and therefore the friends they keep are very important and highly influential. Someone wise once said “If you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room,” – children who surround themselves with people they are inspired by and aspire to be are more likely to try hard and accomplish more. They are also more likely to seek good company later in life, which will keep them on a trajectory of achievement throughout their education and professional career.
When I say education as it relates to childhood, I do not mean a college education. I do not even mean a private education. Early education is all about engagement and enthusiasm. Parental support at home is supremely important and can inspire a lifelong passion and ability for learning. After all, learning is a skill. It may sound meta, but a strong early education in the art of learning will serve an individual throughout their entire life. Successful adults are always learning. If someone can learn to acquire new skill sets and to adapt to new environments in childhood, they will be miles ahead of the competition once they reach adulthood. You do not need an expensive private school or an ivy league education to get ahead – you need a strong foundation in the art of learning and the desire to learn new things. That starts very early.
Have you ever heard the adage that the person with the most excuses is often the most successful? Of course, you haven’t, because it is the opposite of the truth. People who constantly blame others for their problems are never the people that willingly face and often overcome their obstacles. In contrast, people who take accountability are much more likely to face challenges head-on. People who take accountability also understand just how far their own responsibilities extend and rarely shy away from those responsibilities. Accountability and self-reliance are two extremely important characteristics in successful people. Learning to take accountability is difficult and uncomfortable, which is why it is incredibly important for a person to learn how to do it early. A child can learn accountability without major consequences or judgment. In contrast, those same lessons are much more painful and challenging. A child who can take accountability will be able to flex those muscles later in life, and it will only serve them well.
Most entrepreneurs I know saw a problem in an industry, or a hole in the marketplace and thought, “If no one else is going to do something about it, I suppose I will have to do something about it myself.” The entrepreneurial mindset demands the ability to tackle problems that other people find too intimidating to even begin to attempt. Starting a business is not easy. Founders have to do a lot of the grunt work themselves, and so self-reliance and self-motivation are crucial. A child who can manage themselves and solve problems independently is on their way to becoming a self-sufficient adult with a strong entrepreneurial mindset.
It is important to note that nothing listed above is a hard and fast rule for determining success. I have known plenty of successful people that once ran with bad crowds, struggled in school, and had to learn accountability and self-motivation in adulthood. However, overcoming those things was a major challenge. A large portion of the successful people I know report that good company, education, accountability, and motivation were all strongly represented in their childhoods, and that’s because these traits and characteristics are strong indicators of success.
Remember that the children around us today are the innovators and leaders of tomorrow. It is worth instilling these skills and characteristics into them now. The later someone starts, the harder it will be. Even as adults, we have to do away with the idea that successful habits can come later in some mythical future when the stars align and we are ready to get going. That attitude will never serve you. Adjust your mindset and your habits today. Behave like a successful person and success will follow. Waiting is never the answer, so no matter where you are in life, start today.