"It delighted me with a wider view of life and inspired me with new ambition. For so poor and friendless a boy to be able to become a merchant or a professional man had before seemed an impossibility; but here was [Benjamin Franklin], poorer than myself, who by industry, thrift, and frugality had become learned and wise, and elevated to wealth and fame. ... I regard the reading of Franklin's 'Autobiography' as the turning point in my life."
--Judge Thomas Mellon, scion of the American banking empire, upon reading Benjamin Franklin's autobiography at the age of 14.
All good parents want their children to become happy, productive, and successful human beings. But how do you foster this? How do you ensure that your children develop the tools that are needed to succeed in this world? As a parent, should you just fly by the seat of your pants and hope for the best?
The answer to this question, at least in my opinion, is a resounding "no." As a parent, it's incumbent upon you to position your children to succeed. But how do you do this? And, more specifically, how do you work around all the time constraints in your own life as you earn a living, maintain a home, and cultivate your relationship with a spouse or significant other?
It's with this in mind that I've begun combing through books about the nation's most successful entrepreneurs. What personal traits and characteristics abetted their success? And, more specifically, what can we glean from their experiences to pass on to our children? This is my first such endeavor: a look at 40 things that Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), shared in his autobiography that we can use to teach our children about attaining success.
- Be confident; believe in yourself
- Be humble; eschew pride
- Be friendly and respectful toward others
- Have high personal standards; never make excuses for not trying your hardest
- Choose something you're passionate about, whatever that may be, and then commit yourself to it fully
- Embrace competition; don't be intimidated by it
- Regularly seek out and identify your own weaknesses as well as those of your competitors
- Harness the good ideas of others; don't reinvent the wheel
- Never stop learning
- Embrace change
- Experiment constantly
- Push the limits
- Learn the rules and then break them
- Be fiercely independent
- Be optimistic
- Covet success, but not wealth -- the latter will flow from the former, but not the other way around
- Adopt a bias toward action; eschew inaction
- Set ambitious but achievable goals
- Be relentless in the pursuit of your goals; don't compromise
- Never stop trying to improve
- Embrace failure and mistakes; don't fear them
- Don't dwell on the past
- Do your research; always be prepared
- Educate yourself continuously; never rest on your laurels
- Channel your emotions productively; don't allow personal politics to influence your actions or decisions
- Take risks
- Work hard; be industrious
- Open up to criticism and suggestions from others
- Get involved in your community
- Motivate others
- Be a team player
- Be frugal; appreciate the value of a dollar
- Be honest
- Have a long time horizon
- Be studious; always do your homework in school, work, and life
- Surround yourself with smart people, and learn how to delegate to them
- Be energetic
- Focus relentlessly on the immediate task at hand
- Act responsibly at all times
- Appreciate the role of luck in your life; but don't rely on it or use it as an excuse for not achieving your goals
John Maxfield has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.