I Grew Up Rich But Didn’t Know It

I grew up a rich kid. My parents passed along to me the most precious gifts. I'm not talking about having a lavish lifestyle, or being raised by parents with deep pockets. Oh no. My parents were dirt poor. Rather, I was given the keys to life, and these keys were far more precious than anything money could buy.

Even if my family were financially wealthy growing up, my mom would’ve likely squandered it all. Love her dearly, but we all knew she had a spending problem. Like an addict who had to have her drugs, mom was weak with temptation to buy unnecessary things like shoes, purses, and clothing. My step-dad had a set income that could have largely supported our family, but mom proved to us time and time again that she could not control her spending habits.

As a result, we ended up getting evicted from our home…a lot. Practically every year my siblings and I had to move to a new home, and we were in and out of different school districts trying to find our way.

In Inglewood, California during my high school years, we were homeless for about eight months. We ate our meals at church often. I remember the uncomfortable and embarrassing feeling of going to school wearing the same dirty clothes day after day.

During that eight month stint, all six of us lived in one hotel room. My siblings and I would trade off between bed and floor. One night, two of us slept on the bed while the other two slept on the floor, and the next night we would switch.

Thanksgiving that year was a can of chili that we shared amongst the six of us. We were grateful. We sat around that can of chili and gave thanks.

When I graduated from high school in 1991, I never looked back.

I became a hustler, trying to get money any way I could. I worked up to three jobs at one time at places like Dominos, Blockbusters and grocery stores, just to make ends meet. I was willing to work hard not only to make money and buy things, but also to complete my education.

I now have three master’s degrees which include a master’s in business administration, a master’s in education specializing in curriculum and instruction, and a master’s in special education. It took me 12 years of schooling to get all my degrees, and I’m seriously considering the idea of pursuing my doctorate degree in time.

You see, when I left Inglewood, California, I was determined to be successful. During my childhood, even though we didn’t have a lot, my parents gave me two invaluable gifts that I believe lead to the success in my life.

#1. Encouragement that lead to a strong believe in myself. My parents spoke favorably of me and praised me often. “Ken,” they’d tell me, “you’re destined to do great and wonderful things.”

Their words always pumped me up because I really believed them, and I was excited for my future! I believed my gifts and talents would lead me to do something far beyond our expectations. I didn’t know what it was, but I believed it would come to pass.

As for my step-dad, I had so much respect for him, and I really didn’t want to let him down. Though I lost him in 2007, his words and belief in me still influence me today.

#2. Faith in a loving God. My parents demonstrated a life dependent on God. We prayed often and went to church. Although I experienced many hungry nights with a growling stomach and often wanted simple things like a warm bed, our needs were always met and we survived.

Now, as an adult, I consider myself fearless; I’ve felt a high level of freedom. I believe this is because I know how to make something out of nothing, and I've always felt like my faith was a safety net. This means, I’ve continually felt like God was helping me along the way.

I’ve noticed in myself that it has been easier for me to take risks and chances. For example, when I no longer enjoyed one career, I felt confident that I could pursue something in a completely different industry. In fact, I’ve enjoyed the thrill of learning and doing different things, working in technology, retail, logistics, travel, gaming, and education, all while handling my own businesses on the side.

All in all, I truly believe that my challenging and difficult childhood has worked together for good in my life.

Don’t wait to get or do the things you want. You’ve got to be determined and willing to work hard for it. Truly, the satisfaction is greater when you experience the sweat on your own brow.

If you’re in a do or die situation, just keep moving on and stay the course. Don’t let yourself get depressed because through the ups and downs, everything will work out for your greater good.

When asked, “What inspires you?” I joke around and answer, “I don’t want to get evicted!”

The truth is, I know exactly what inspires me. It’s the wealth that comes from the two key gifts my parents freely gave and taught me: Faith in my own abilities coupled with faith in God.  These two principles are what made me rich. When you truly understand these keys, it can lead you on a pathway to a life beyond your wildest dreams.…and I wouldn’t exchange the keys for anything.

Ken T - Houston, TX

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