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Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


Why Kids Need to “Think Rich”

Napoleon Hill wrote a classic book years ago, called “Think and Grow Rich.” Others have come along and re-written his thoughts that are based on timeless principles and universal truths about success.

Hill suggests in his book there is a “rich” way to think and a “poor” way to think. And it’s not just about money. It’s an entire worldview that informs how we live our lives. Claude Bristol wrote, “Thought is the original source of all wealth, all success, all material gain, all great discoveries and inventions, and of all achievement.”

Get Smart

Brian Tracy wrote a book called, “Get Smart! in which he updates this truth. Here is what he says in the chapter called, “Rich Thinking vs. Poor Thinking:”

Rich people are always looking for ways to create value, to develop and produce products and services that enrich and enhance the lives and work of other people. They are always willing to put in before they take out. They do not believe in easy money or something for nothing. Rich people believe that you have to justly earn and pay for, in terms of toil and treasure, any rewards and riches that you desire. 

Poor people lack this fundamental understanding, the direct relationship between what you put in and what you get out. They are always seeking to get something for nothing or for as little as possible. They want success without achievement, riches without labor, money without effort, and fame without talent. 

Poor people gamble, buy lottery tickets, come to work at the last possible moment, waste time while they are there, and then leave work at the first possible minute. They line up by the hundreds and thousands to audition for programs like American Idol, thinking that they can become rich and famous without ever having paid the price necessary to develop the level of talent and ability that enables them to rise above their competitors.

One of the great secrets of becoming wealthy is to always do more than you are paid for. If you do, you will always be paid more than you’re getting today. And there is no other way.

Go the extra mile. Be willing to put in far more than you are taking out. There are never any traffic jams on the extra mile.

So how do we teach this mindset to our students? 

Three Simple Actions We Can Take

Being “rich” is not merely about money. It’s about friends. It’s about work. It’s about family. It’s about studies. It’s about how we interact with strangers out in public. It’s an entirely different approach to life. So how do we teach this to today’s emerging generation? Let me get the ball rolling with a list that you can build upon:

1. Practicing Service – Offer an experience where they practice service to others.

Research shows that 2-year-olds are natural altruists, showing the same amount of joy when helping others as they do when receiving gifts. Kids want to give, but over time they are conditioned to look out for number one; to grab what’s theirs; to store up the “stuff” they don’t want to lose. Re-introduce them to people less fortunate and let them feel again what it’s like to add value to others.

2. Perspective Shift – Remind them to Think Long-term, High Road and Big Picture.

Becoming “rich” isn’t merely a mindset, but it sure starts with one. I believe we must be counter-cultural and model for students what it looks like to: (1) think about the long-term ramifications of our decisions; (2) to think about taking the high road when we interact with others; and (3) to see the big picture every time we have a choice to make. This will be a paradigm shift for many, but it will revolutionize their minds.

3. Problem Solving – Introduce problems and equip them to stop complaining and start resolving.

Today, we are all conditioned to complain about problems or situations that are inconvenient. We like things to be easy, quick and helpful to us. What if we developed their “problem-solving muscle” and diverted them from grumbling, by helping them to creatively solve those problems? What if we minimized their fear of failure (or making mistakes) and taught them to attack situations that need improving?

As a high school sophomore, Ann Makosinski spoke to a friend on Facebook who lives in the Philippines. When Ann asked her friend how she was doing in school, her friend grew quiet, then confessed she had flunked a grade in school. Ann could not believe it, knowing her friend was very smart. When she asked how it happened, her Filipino friend replied that her home didn’t have electricity. So, at sunset, she could not longer work on homework. Her studies failed. Ann said later:

“My Filipino friend told me how she had failed her grade in school because she didn’t have any electricity, no light to study with at night. I had to do something.”

Ann went to work on solving this problem and came up with an ingenious idea. She invented a flashlight that was powered by the body heat from your hand. The 98.6 degrees from your grip lights up the bulb and allows you to brighten a room. Later, Anne created a light that is attached to a hat, for her friend to wear on her head. Problem solved. People served.

This is how rich young leaders think and act.

New Book: Marching Off the Map

Our new book is now available for preorder! Leading today’s students often feels like being in a new country with old maps that don’t work. Understanding and connecting with the generation in this land is often times frustrating and draining. We need new strategies on how to march off our old maps and create new ones.

This new resource collates decades of research and experiences into one practical guide that helps adults:

  • Inspire students to own their education and their future
  • Lead students from an attitude of apathy to one of passion through metacognition
  • Enable students to push back from the constant digital distractions and practice mindfulness
  • Raise kids who make healthy progress, both emotionally and intellectually, through their teenage years
  • Give students the tools to handle the complexities of an ever-changing world
  • Understand and practically apply the latest research on Generation Z

Pre-Order Here


  1. Katie Mehrer on April 19, 2017 at 8:37 am

    Think and Grow Rich was written by Napoleon Hill, not Og Mandino.

    • Tim Elmore on April 21, 2017 at 3:50 pm

      Thank you for the correction. I’ve updated the article.

  2. JosephE Richmond on September 9, 2021 at 12:51 am

    Both were recruiting prospective members from the students on campus, but both were disappointed. They couldn’t seem to keep committed members

  3. gustavo woltmann on September 12, 2021 at 8:56 am

    “It is so nice to read and hear if someone got his name in Forbes. I want to be a successful businessman. Your website explains the stories of rich persons and it is very inspirational.+
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Why Kids Need to “Think Rich”