Why is it that some people live successful lives, contributing to the betterment of society while others live failed lives and become a drain on society?
One of the fancy terms economists like to toss around is inter-generational poverty. A few other related terms are low economic mobility, the wealth gap and income inequality. They all have different meanings inside the minds of those economists but to ordinary folk, they all mean pretty much the same thing: if you were poor as a child you’ll probably be poor as an adult. When a country has high economic mobility it means kids who grow up in poor homes have a good chance of breaking out of poverty as adults. America has always been perceived as the land of opportunity. A place where the masses of Horatio Algers around the world could raise themselves up by hard work, smarts and taking on a little risk. But that’s not happening in America. Hasn’t been happening for some time. According to a study led by Harvard’s Raj Chetty (http://www.equality-of-opportunity.org), your ability to escape poverty has not improved over the past fifty years in America.
Education and expanded government initiatives were supposed to be the great emancipators of the poor and huddled masses. LBJ’s War on Poverty pursued hundreds of taxpayer funded initiatives that were supposed to lift people our of poverty permanently and put an end to generational poverty, making society better for everyone. These numerous and expensive government initiatives were supposed to raise people out of poverty, reduce civil unrest and make society a safer, better place for everyone. Since the War on Poverty was declared in 1965, $22 trillion has been spent on anti-poverty programs. But despite the fact that millions more today are offered educational opportunities, government programs intended to lend a hand and safety nets our grandparents never dreamed of, not much has changed.
In fact, it’s gotten worse. The poverty rate was 13% in 1988 and today it hovers at close to 15%. Even in 2008, before the Great Recession unleashed its devastation, the poverty rate was 13.2%. Worse, inequality is growing, despite the trillions spent by government, and civil unrest has never been so great. It seems lately, there is riot after riot breaking out somewhere in cities accross America. So, clearly, government entitlement programs do not work and are, in fact, having the opposite effect. Something else is causing poverty, civil unrest among the nation’s poor and a growing inequality between the haves and the have nots. But what?
The cause of generational poverty, civil unrest, the wealth gap and income inequality is parenting. Bad parenting to be more specific. Parenting creates individuals dependent upon government, criminals, and is responsible for the blight in many of America’s poorest communities. Parenting is also responsible for creating successful individuals who add value, lifting up society.
We have a parenting gap in America that is responsible for the wealth gap, the income gap, the economic mobility problem and the growing poverty in America’s poorest communities. How do I know? My research tells me so – my five year study of the daily habits that separate successful people from unsuccessful people. 233 of these self-made millionaires and 128 who were living in or near poverty, answered 244 questions. I analyzed their responses and discovered over 300 differences between the habits of the rich and the habits of the poor. So, you might say, I know a little bit about the habits that make you rich, poor or keep you stuck in the middle-class.
When I finished my research, I identified twelve places where individuals picked up their habits in life. By far the single greatest source of good or bad habits were from parents. Many adult habits, I found, are forged in childhood. You pick up habits at home. Kids watch what their parents do and then emulated them, good or bad. The self-made millionaires and poor people in my study picked up habits from their parents that unknowingly set them on the path to wealth or poverty. Don’t believe me? A recent study by Brown University, in which nearly 50,000 families were surveyed, concluded that habits in children are unlikely to vary after age 9 (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/school-thought/201502/study-finds-habits-in-children-take-root-age-9).
While there is not much you can do about the habits you pick up from your parents as kids, there is a great deal you can do as adults. You can choose which habits you adopt or cast aside by changing who you associate with. Associating with the right people dramatically affects your habits. By right people, I am referring to success-minded individuals; upbeat, positive, goal-oriented people. These individuals represent only about 5-10% of the population, so you have to make an effort to find them. They can be found running charitable groups, business groups, religious groups, within mentor groups (Boys and Girls Club, iMentor etc.), at the best companies (http://fortune.com/best-companies/), in trade organizations and in mastermind groups. Your lifelong objective should be to associate with those who possess certain habits that are essential to success in life. What are those habits? You can find all of the Rich Habits on my blog page of my website, or just read or listen to the media interviews about the Rich Habits on my “In The News” page, also on my website: www.richhabits.net. I post all of my research on my website, to the great displeasure of my publicist.
Why are habits so important? Here’s why. What you do every day matters. Consistency drives success, failure or mediocrity in life. Your actions, on a daily basis, determine if you will succeed, fail or just get by. Those who succeed in life, consistently avoid bad habits and consistently follow good habits. Those who fail in life consistently avoid good habits and consistently follow bad habits. Those who get by in life are inconsistent in their application of good habits and bad habits. Consistency forges a life of success, failure or mediocrity. Habits, by definition, are consistent, repetitive behaviors we engage in frequently. Many are daily habits, some are weekly, a few monthly. According to a 2006 Duke Study, 40% of all of your daily activities are habits. So, yes, habits are important. In fact, your habits dictate what social strata you will occupy in life. And since a vast majority of them come from your parents, parenting causes the wealth gap, income inequality and your economic status (economic mobility) in life.
If you’re a parent reading this, you have two choices, as I see it. You can either get angry and defensive at me, in which case nothing will change, or you can do something about it. You can change your habits from Poor Habits to Rich Habits, or help your kids form Rich Habits. If you do this, your kids will grow up with habits that make success automatic. And when your kids are raised with good habits it will increase their chances of success in life, making society a better and safer place for all of us.