Up and At ’Em

Posted By on August 11, 2009

Every morning in my youth, my late father used to wake me by saying, “Get up, boy—you can’t make a crop lying in bed!” As a father now myself, I rouse my sons with the same saying. My parents instilled the importance of hard work in me from an early age, and it’s one of the most powerful advantages they could have given me. Virtually every RMIT told me that the biggest factor in their success was neither education—only ten of the 100 RMITs attended an Ivy League school, three dropped out of college (including Bill Gates), one went to community college, and fourteen didn’t go to college at all—nor a secure financial basis to start a business. The biggest success factor they all pointed to was the fact that they started early and hit the ground running.

This is true both literally and metaphorically. Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “The sun has not caught me in bed in fifty years.” Making the most of every minute is one of the hallmarks of an RMIT. I’ve written before about how highly successful people love what they do, can’t wait to get to work, and stay longer at the office. But in larger terms, RMITs also start building their businesses early in life, often while still in school.

Harvard University psychiatrist George Valliant spent most of his career studying the factors that lead to future success, and he found that one of the most accurate predictors of adult success, mental health, and even the capacity to love, was a strong childhood work ethic. Valliant’s conclusion was based on a longitudinal study of 456 young men from inner-city Boston whom he began studying when they were 14. Each young man was assigned a rating for his ability to work as a teenager, and was then re-interviewed at ages 25, 31, and 47. The results were impressive: Those who had the highest rating for work ethic at 14 earned five times more than those who ranked lower. Not only did they far outpace their less motivated compatriots financially, but more important, they were generally happier, and had far more successful marriages and social relationships.

Even if you’re no longer 14, though, that doesn’t mean it’s too late to learn from Valliant’s study or the example of the RMITs. If you can’t take advantage of an early start in life, your time is much more precious, so get up early every day. You can’t make a crop—or a business—lying in bed.

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About The Author

W. Randall Jones is the author of The Richest Man in Town. Visit the About W. Randall Jones and About The Richest Man in Town pages to learn more.