The Millionaire Next Door

The Spirit of Valentine’s Day All Year Long

My research over the past three decades indicates that one’s home environment has much to do with the overall success of people whether in terms of accumulating wealth, being a leader, building one’s own business, or even overcoming great adversity.  As just one example, of the 944 millionaires surveyed nationally for Stop Acting Rich, those who indicated that they agreed with the statement “I was raised in an atmosphere filled with love and harmony” outnumbered those who disagreed by a ratio of better than 4 to 1.

In the last blog I mentioned the top fighter ace in the history of aviation.  I often lectured from his biography, The Blond Knight of Germany, at the breakfast table about the extraordinary integrity, leadership, character, focus, discipline and sacrifice of this man.  Erich Hartmann was destined to attend medical school like his father, but WWII interrupted his plan.  While fighting the Russians he was so prolific that Stalin put a bounty on his head.  Near the end of the war, other senior officers tried to convince this 22 year old major to join up on the Western Front, inevitably to surrender to the Americans and the British.  He was assured that he would spend less than a month as a prisoner of war.  But this leader of 100s of men steadfastly refused stating, “I will not leave my men.”  As a result he spent 10 1/2 years in a Soviet slave labor camp.  In spite of the Russian tactics, they were never able to break Hartmann. 

Hartmann was the de facto leader in all the prison camps in which he was placed, and he was very analytical.   He carefully studied the characteristics of those prisoners who were never broken.  He observed that rank had nothing to do with one’s ability to survive.

Those who survived the ordeal the best were men who drew their strength from one of two main sources. Men who could maintain their integrity were those who had known an absolutely harmonious family life. . . .  These men wore a kind of armor of love.  They were at once protected and powered by this arcane energy.  Religion [also] provided men in Russian with a powerful personal bastion . . . the religious man could resist his captors.

The spirit of Valentine’s Day incorporating love and family harmony is a strong factor in building the character and prosperity of one’s family as well as a society.   And this spirit should continue throughout the year, not just on February 14. 

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