I once coached a 43-year-old man who lived at home and had never worked a day in his life. At the time, interest rates had fallen to all-time lows, so the annual interest on his trust fund principal had diminished considerably. To continue living in the style to which he was accustomed, he simply withdrew money from the principal. When his trust fund was all but lost, he asked his parents to replenish it. They refused. They told him to get a job. But he had a problem with that, so they asked me to help him find a niche in the workplace.

Nothing worked. Getting a paying job was totally alien to him. He wouldn’t have anything to do with it. He didn’t even want to discuss it.

He was a 43-year-old boy, weak in all the ways that make someone a man.

It’s hard to earn your way in the world and make a life for yourself. These personal strengths are among the top behavior patterns of a strong work ethic:

Initiative – Doing what needs to be done, even without being told

Excellence – Doing what’s needed to achieve a high standard

Effort – Working hard, working long, even when tired

Self-discipline – Staying on track, saying no to distractions

Perseverance – Not giving up on a difficult task

People aren’t born with a strong work ethic. It doesn’t transfer in the family culture from generation to generation. The only way to build these personal strength habits is to wire your brain for them when you’re young. To acquire a work ethic, you have to make a habit of going to work and giving a 100% effort to earn money.

Kids who aren’t encouraged to ingrain the habits of a strong work ethic will be professionally disabled as adults. Their employers usually let them go, after which they often return to live with their parents.


I was fortunate because I came from a large family with a lower-middle-class background. My parents couldn’t afford to give me an allowance. So from a young age, I looked for ways to earn money. By the time I was 16 I had worked a half dozen different jobs.

And helping your child develop vital thinking skills is perhaps the best way to prepare them for leaving the nest. My new book: How Your Teen Can Grow a Smarter Brain.

You can grow the bond with your child through better listening. Download the FREE ebook, Listening to Understand.