My mastermind groups discussed the topic of ambition last month, one of the questions that we’ve contemplated together is can you bestow ambition on your children?
It’s a good question because it causes the asker to open up the question itself a little more and think about your overall influence on your children. The more time we spend with our kids, the more traits they are going to pick up from us. Our behavior directly impacts those around us, especially our children, who are particularly impressionable.
As a resource when answering these types of questions on ambition, I’ve been reading Seth Buechley’s book Ambition: Leading with Gratitude. One of the things Seth mentions throughout the book is that his early experiences shaped him. He talks about how his father’s work ethic and ambition were bestowed on him and led him to become an entrepreneur. While he picked up these positive traits from his father, I also think it’s important to note that we can also pick up bad habits from our early experiences. This also means we have the benefit of learning from our parents’ mistakes, and not making them ourselves.
In my own book, View From the Top, I share an example of something that my dad learned the hard way. He was an excellent carpenter and a very hardworking man, but he was very risk averse. He would do something the hard way because he knew how and wasn’t willing to try new ways that he was less sure of. He had an amazing amount of grit, perseverance, and determination, but he also had a sense of pride that never allowed him to ask anyone else for help with anything. He could have been far more successful if he had asked for help with a few things, but he didn’t because he never wanted someone to think he didn’t know what he was doing.
I learned from my dad that I didn’t want to work as physically hard as he did his whole life. I saw first-hand the toll that it took on his body. I also learned not to be afraid to ask for help or advice when I didn’t know what I was doing. Having a circle of wise advisors can help you channel your ambition and keep you from making a big mistake. Even as I coach my own clients and mastermind groups, I always seek out experts in different areas from which to glean wisdom. When I don’t know how to do something, I’ll be the first to admit it. I’ll try to find someone that knows more than I do and ask them to share their knowledge with me. One of my favorite quotes is “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.”
While I learned some lessons from my dad’s negative experience, I learned much more from his successes and from the way he carried himself every day. He was all about having good character. If he made a promise, he was going to keep his word. He bestowed that upon his children too. The grit, perseverance, and determination that I learned from growing up under his leadership are wired into my DNA and have played a key role in getting me to where I am today.
I might exhibit more ambition than my father did, but my parents were the ones that taught me how to channel it. They always told me “If you want something, then get busy figuring out a way to get it.” They taught me that no one else would ever do the heavy lifting for me and that I could achieve great success if I put in the hard work. Each of my parents helped me open up doors for my first opportunities to work hard and make money, and I dove through those doors headfirst and never looked back.
When I think about whether or not you can bestow ambition on your children, I think back to my childhood and remember that my parents always guided me to be ambitious by displaying the principles that hard work will get you what you want, and entitlement will get you nowhere. As I put it in View From the Top, “Entitlement at my house was as extinct as a prehistoric dinosaur.”
We too have the powerful opportunity to shape the lives of our offspring. Are you spending enough time with your kids? No matter what age they are, NOW is the perfect time to bestow good character traits upon them. Spend time with your kids. Lead by example. Show them the benefits of having good work ethic, and instill great character into their DNA.
Part of your legacy is giving your kids every opportunity to be the best person they can be.