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Will entrepreneurial success turn your kids into wankers?


sahil_merchant_iconWe all want the best for our families, and building successful companies is one of the better ways to provide for them. But while you’re off establishing your empire, will your kids turn into spoilt brats?

I know a lot of really, really rich people. Many of my friends are top lawyers and doctors, but these aren’t the people to whom I am referring. From a learning perspective, I have tried to surround myself with successful entrepreneurs, and some of these guys are richer than sin.

It just happens that this week I caught up with four individuals who are very wealthy. I am not (yet). It really got me thinking. I gave up my corporate life to chase the entrepreneurial dream. As I said in my first post, my intention was, and still is, to make my fortune. None of this ‘make a difference and contribute to society’ crap. All of that is ancillary and worth nothing if I can’t put food on my kids’ table.

Two of the four people I caught up with were born wealthy. They have made lots of money on their own, but they had millions to start with. They are smart, innovative and driven. Yet, they have never felt the fear of not being able to meet their rent. They don’t know what it is like to beg for funding from friends and family. They were born into advantage, and have done very well from a privileged position. It was easier for them. Or so I tell myself. There is not the same sacrifice involved when you know that failure involves a slap on the wrists from the family patriarchs and punishment via confinement to your beach house.

The other two succeeded from a zero base. I find myself attaching more value to their entrepreneurial pursuits than those who had a running start. Is this right? Why should I discount the achievements of the first two simply because of their parents? It wasn’t their fault who they were born to, yet I will never truly afford them the same level of respect I have for the ‘self-made’ entrepreneurs.

I crave respect. The fact that I am doing this the hard way is something I take pride in. I have scars. I’ve been around the block. Many people close to me know I have everything on the line and tell me that they have the utmost admiration for the courage I show in following my dream. Is it courage or stupidity?

I don’t need all that much money to be happy. I take pleasure in spending time with my three kids, reading a good book or watching my beloved Blues. So why do I work 27 hours a day, pay myself a mere fraction of my market worth, still rent a house and have no accumulated assets after having invested everything into mag nation? All my education and professional achievements, and yet I currently have no material wealth to show for it. Why am I doing it? Is it really courage, determination and persistence towards a vision? Or is this something I tell myself to justify my life choices?

I tell myself I am doing this for my family. But who am I really kidding? Other than the two born-wealthy blokes I caught up with this week, most of the born-wealthy kids I have met are wankers. So many take their privilege for granted and have no ability to distinguish their issues from the more basic struggles of paying bills and feeding a family.

I will never take these things for granted, but what about my kids if I do succeed and make my fortune? Will my kids grow into the types of people that I condemn? I tell myself that I have brought them up differently; that my family’s values will ensure that wealth doesn’t affect them. But surely most of the self-made entrepreneurs said the same thing, and yet, their kids often come across as spoilt brats once into their early adult years. Why would it be different for my kids and me? What makes us so special?

Perhaps plenty of money corrupts children’s sense of normality as a default. If this is the case, then why the hell am I striving for entrepreneurial success and the wealth associated with it? Is this what I want for my kids? Or were my motives for starting my own business more selfish? Perhaps it has everything to do with meaning for my life, looking forward to work and having more self-pride. In which case, my choices were all about me and nothing to do with my family.

I am as motivated as ever to make my business a global brand. If it works, the financial benefits that will accrue to me will be staggering. Yet, what is the price of this success? I have reconciled myself with the time requirements and work commitments taking me away from the family, but what if my success creates little monsters. From what I have seen from most of the 20-30 years olds with highly successful parents, they are no happier than their peers.

Will entrepreneurial success turn your kids into wankers? We all think we are different, but I have seen it too many times to ignore the odds.

Sahil Merchant is founder of mag nation. Follow him on twitter: @sahilmerchant. His launch post can be found here.