How I Became a Millionaire (Part 1: Childhood)

One of the most complicated questions I’m asked is, “How, exactly, did you do it? How did you become a millionaire?”. I find myself scratching my head and “uhmm”-ing in response, not because I don’t remember, but because it was a process rather than one identifiable event. My short answer is this: we lived below our means and invested in our future. But it’s way more than that — you’ve likely learned bits and pieces about many of the actions I took as I sprinkle them throughout my blog posts. Today, I’m putting the pieces together to illustrate how it’s a culmination of the little choices we make that add up to something big.

I’ll start at the beginning with some lessons I learned as a child. (Parents take note: perhaps you can glean some useful information for your children.)

Part One: Childhood

I didn’t grow up with money: When my legs outgrew my pants, Mom sewed extra fabric around the cuffs. Our family of five shared a cozy two bedroom apartment. We kept our cars until the wheels fell off (literally, once). My parents were frugal role models.

After their divorce, Mom, who was admittedly terrible with keeping her checkbook balanced, assigned this task to me. I was 13. She gave me and my siblings $25-40 each a month – which was a generous allowance back in the day – with the stipulation that we pay for our own clothes, school lunches, books, recreation, yearbooks, bus fares, etc. I quickly learned that if I spent too much money at the movie theater with my friends, I could kiss hot lunches and new socks goodbye. This taught me the value of money and forced me to budget and delay gratification at an early age.

If I wanted more, I had to work for it. At age 13, when I was old enough that my peers started poking fun at me about my well-worn clothes (kids can be cruel!), I took my first job: delivering the morning newspaper before school. Oh, but I am not a morning person, and I struggled to wake before dawn. Misery was my motivation for invention; I created ways to make money that were in alignment with my interests. I loved animals, so I started a dog walking service. An entrepreneur was born.

During my 14th summer, after hearing one too many whiny complaints of “I’m sooooo bored!”, Mom helped me arrange an unpaid apprenticeship with a dog trainer at a boarding kennel. I fed the kenneled dogs and shoveled sh!t in the mornings, and in exchange, the trainer taught me how to train dogs. Through apprenticeship, I learned a valuable new skill that years later, I would turn into a thriving business of my own.

I thought I wanted to be a veterinarian when I grew up. Thankfully I explored this option – before enrolling in veterinary school – by “shadowing” a vet for a few days. I observed the vet as he performed his daily work to see if the profession was a good fit for me. After fainting repeatedly at the sight of blood, I learned it wasn’t my dream job after all. I discovered I liked working with healthy animals, not sick ones. Exploring my options via shadowing spared me costly tuition and many years of study that would have been for naught.

…to be continued, next, in Part Two: Early Adulthood

10 Essentials for Success

Publisher and Editorial Director of SUCCESS magazine, Darren Hardy, offers the following advice on how to make 2009 your best year ever:

1. Decide to be Successful – Success is not a dream, hope or fantasy; it is a decision. Make the decision to change, improve and act on your ambitions.

2. Design your Best Year Yet – As an architect would design a skyscraper, write out the goals, plans and actions it will take to achieve the life you want to live.

3. Identify Your Passion – What are your unique interests, talents and gifts? Passion attracts success. Find what you love to do – you will never “work” again.

4. Program Yourself for Success – You will see, perceive, expect and create what you think about. To program your mind for success – read watch and listen to materials that will support your success.

5. Surround Yourself with Success – You are the combined average of the five people you hang around the most. Surround yourself with healthy, success-minded achievers.

6. Model Success – The best way to learn to be successful at anything is to find someone who is where you want to be and model their success habits.

7. Master the Fundamentals – Don’t complicate it. About a half a dozen things make up 90%+ of what it takes to be successful at anything. Keep it simple.

8. Get Fit – The mind cannot achieve what the body cannot perform. Your family, friends and career and future depend on your good health. Make it priority No. 1.

9. Remember What’s Important – At the end of the journey what will have mattered most will be your relationships – the people you love and those that love you. Make sure they are on your goal list.

10. Make a Difference – What do you want your life’s legacy to be? You have the power to make a positive difference – to a single person, a neighborhood, a community, a nation, the world. Realize that power in 2009.

Is Your But Too Big?

Do you have a big but problem? You’ll never be successful, happy and wealthy if your but is too big.

Here, let me show you why…

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“But I have so little to offer.”

“But I’m too scared.”

“But I don’t have anything worthy to offer.”

“But everyone in my life keeps bursting my bubble.”

“But I’m not pretty or skinny enough.”

“But I’m broken.”

“But no one believes in me anymore.”

But I’m a victim

“But I’m a victim.”

“But everyone tells me I can’t do it.”

“But no one loves me.”

“But I’m the ugly one.”

“But I’m too old.”

“But I can’t keep up with all this new-fangled technology.”

“But my life is too complicated and I’m too entangled.”

“But it’s a dog-eat-dog world and I’m terrified of dogs.”

“But my wishes never come true.”

“But I don’t have anything unique to offer.”

“But I’m stuck (in a boring job; in my marriage; in this godforsaken town).”

“But I don’t know where to find what I need.’

“But it takes too much work.”

“But I’m broke.”

“But no one wants to help me.”

“But there’s not enough time.”

“But it’s too complicated.”


Please, already…. Shut your big but up!

The next time you hear the “big but” voice in your head, confront it. Put up your dukes and pound it to pieces. Shove those poisonous buts into your garbage disposal and pulverize them. Wash the toxic remains away and watch as they swirl down the drain and become one with the rest of the sewage.

Kick your big but’s a$$.

Until you conquer your “big but” problem, it’ll hold you back and prevent you from achieving success.

Our lives are nothing but the stories we tell ourselves. If you don’t like the story your life has become — tell yourself a better one. Think about all of the things you can do instead of the things you can’t. Start a different internal conversation and you’ll become wealthy in more ways than one.

Imagine the kind of person you want to be and think the thoughts that person would think. Act the way that person would act. Once you start behaving like this person, others will start treating you like that person. You’ll start to believe it. Then it will be true. Then you’ll be open to learn. Open to change. Open to grow. You’ll be ready to allow success, wealth and happiness into your life. Researchers find that an optimistic personal outlook is more than just seeing the bright side of things. Believing in yourself actually produces increases in good health, motivation, and achievement in most people. (Schulman, P. 1999. “Applying Learned Optimism to Increase Sales Productivity”)

Make no excuses. Allow it to happen. If it works for me, then why not you? Your new life will astound you.

(Hey now, I said no more buts!)