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Best Ticket to Success? Start with Nothing.

Best Ticket to Success? Start with Nothing.
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Want to give your children a big advantage in life? Then give them nothing.

I know it’s natural for parents to want to give their children advantages they didn’t have, but Ned Spieker says the best thing you can do to help your kids succeed is to let them start from zero.

Ned knows a thing or two about success -- he’s a self-made billionaire who was thrown out of the house at 18 (he was something of a cut up), worked his way through college and made his fortune in commercial real estate. In 1993 he took his company public and in 2001 he sold the company for $7 billion. Today, at age 70, he’s still working, now for the mental exercise, as well as racing cars, skiing, hunting, fishing and trying to stay out of his wife’s hair.

So how did he manage to not just have a marriage and family -- and be present for both while he was building a billion-dollar company? Simple. He made sure he was always home for dinner.

Related: 5 Tips for Maintaining Work-Life Balance, From People Who've Been There

“It’s all about work-life balance,” says Ned. He explained that one thing feeds the other, but in order to make it work you have to set parameters.

“The reason I only did my real estate business in the western states was so I could be home in time for dinner and coach little league and soccer,” he says. Priorities matter, and family was his top priority. Hearing this, you might think it was too easy, or too simple. But you’d be wrong. Ned has a pretty straightforward philosophy and you can see how it works.

Related: You Should Love Your Work. Instead of Work-Life Balance, Think About Work-Life Fusion.

  1. Be disciplined. Keep your mind sharp by keeping your body strong. Ned was a college athlete (water polo) and has been working out ever since.
  2. Live your life. Make time for the things that really matter to you. Without them, nothing else will mean much.
  3. Be the best at what you do. Even if you’re starting out as the janitor, be the very best.  Put in the extra work and time. Excellence gets you noticed.
  4. To be a good leader, be a good servant. Leadership is all about service—serving your enterprise, serving your people. Good service builds trust and trust builds relationships, loyalty and the desire to impress you.
  5. Give your people a stake in their own success. If you give everyone a piece of the pie, they’ll be highly motivated to succeed and you won’t have to sweat the details alone.
  6. Learn to earn while you sleep. You may have to start out as a salaried employee, Ned certainly did, but by building a portfolio your worth won’t be tied to the numbers of hours you work.
  7. Develop your mental fortitude. Building grit will help get you through life one day at time and tackle problems as they come up.
  8. Start small. Ned started out building small warehouses but he made sure they were so good he became known in the industry for them. Focus on one thing and do it well, then use it as a stepping stone to build your success.
  9. Keep your perspective. What seems like a major crisis at the time is only a blip on the radar when you take the long view.
  10. Adversity is the road to success. Ned says that giving someone $1 million is like giving them a poison pill. You’ll never love or respect yourself if it’s just given to you. You can’t buy self-esteem—you have to earn it.

Related: The Truth About Work-Life Balance

Who knew becoming a success was that simple? Now get out there and earn your first billion.