Ben Stein is one of my favorite financial writers and his column from Christmas of last year is a classic that every parent should give to their children. Read the column, and forward to as many young people as you know. Stein writes:
I know a lot of really successful people -- in finance, in government, in politics, in Hollywood, in journalism, in literature.
Their common denominator is a modicum of talent and a capacity and an eagerness -- not just a willingness, but an eagerness -- to work like Trojans to get ahead. I don't know of one really successful, famous man or woman who didn't work insanely hard to get there and to stay there. (I don't count heirs and heiresses as successful.)
In a similar vein, Will Smith recently told 60 Minutes what he thought had made him so successful: "I've never really viewed myself as particularly talented. I've viewed myself as slightly above average in talent. And where I excel is ridiculous, sickening, work ethic. You know, while the other guy's sleeping? I'm working. While the other guy's eatin'? I'm working. While the other guy's making love, I mean, I'm making love, too. But I'm working really hard at it."
I've asked a number of other successful people that I know, and most have told me the same thing: the primary determinant of success is work ethic: really, really successful people have really, really strong work ethics.
If you can communicate that to your kids -- You're wonderful and smart and special and none of that matters -- you'll have given them the best Christmas present ever. But they'll still want a Wii.
Will Smith has some career advice for you: Work hard!