If there were ever an author who needed no introduction, it would be Mark Victor Hansen. Cocreator (with Jack Canfield) of the Chicken Soup for the Soul publishing phenomenon, Mark is also author of the #1 New York Times bestseller The One Minute Millionaire, among literally dozens of other popular books. Over the past three years, Mark tracked down the wealthiest child entrepreneurs in North America who had “acted on nothing but an idea to propel an innovation product or service into motion,” interviewed these kids and their families, and has now presented their stories in his latest book, The Richest Kids in America: How They Earn It, How They Spend It, and How You Can Too. Yet Mark says the biggest surprise he had in researching the book was the extraordinary relationship that all these supersuccessful child entrepreneurs had to giving. Evidently, the richest kids in America understand well the larger definition of the word “rich.” — J.D.M.

Mark, these young people you interviewed for your latest book made quite an impression, not only in terms of their success, but especially in their relationship to giving.

I had a list of questions I asked every one of these kids, and the tenth question was, “How do you feel about giving?”

Now, I wasn’t going anywhere special with this. Giving is a big topic for me personally. I have tithed the income from every book I’ve ever written; I’ve even written a book called The Miracle of Tithing. But I never expected them to have any special connection to this idea.

I was blown away. They were good contributors, they were phenomenal contributors, every single one of them. In fact, every one of them overtithes, which is called alms. Every one of them takes good care of something or someone, right down to the twelve-year-old. I went, “Whoa! My gosh!”

Not one of them was not a giver. I was amazed.

These kids are what makes America great, and they are what has always made America great. America was made great by great givers—for example, Ben Franklin.

Franklin gave two cities each $10,000. He gave $10,000 to Philadelphia and another $10,000 to Boston, each to do with as they wished, to make their cities better.

And in those days, $10,000 was a fortune.

That’s right. So what happened? Boston invested it and became the Athens of America. Philadelphia squandered it all: they spent it all at once and lost it. And the city has suffered as a result.

This is one of the secrets to truly successful people. Those people who are outrageously successful are all givers. Most of my peers are millionaires, and I am constantly amazed at how much these guys and ladies give.

I teach a principle called 10/10/10: from what you make, first you give 10 percent, then you save another 10 percent, and then you invest another 10 percent—and you live on 70 percent or less.

And all these kids are practicing that! Every one of them has their own war chest. I didn’t know about that when I was 9 or 19. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t until I went bankrupt at 26 that I learned these principles. But for whatever reason, these kids have come through eclectically wise, whether it’s because they’re indigo kids or whatever—they’ve got what we need every adult to understand in America.

Those guys you see on television doing their song and dance about, “I earn $100 an hour and all I’ve done is screw on nuts all my life,” number one, they should have learned something, because that isn’t much of a contribution—thirty years of screwing on the same nut on the same tire, you don’t deserve $100 an hour—and number two, if you had saved $10 of those dollars and contributed $10 of those dollars, you would have been learning something, and not just drinking at night and being a dolt on a bolt.

I sometimes hear people say, “These kids these days have no attention span.” But it seems to me, kids these days are extraordinary. Where did they learn this?

They didn’t get it from their parents, at least not all of them, because I met most of their

parents. There are some exceptions, like Cameron Johnson’s [featured in the July-August 2004 issue of Networking Times] parents, who are educated entrepreneurs who own a car dealership. But by and large, of the twenty kids I interviewed, eleven of whom made it into the book, their parents were pretty much normal everyday people.

And let’s face it, the vast majority of people live with a poverty mentality, and don’t have any idea of how true prosperity works.

So I can’t tell you why, or how it happened, but what I can tell you is that these kids started studying all the success principles. Every one of these kids reads. Cameron studied Napoleon Hill and Clement Stone. They all read The Richest Man in Babylon, which is where you’ll learn about 10/10/10.

This generation, Generation Y, also seems to have an exceptionally well developed sense of social consciousness—a lack of bias, keen sense of social justice, and a great level of social caring. It’s like they want the whole world to be in good shape.

Yes, and most of them desperately want to travel. They want to see the whole world. And they don’t want to go see a world that’s crumbling and falling apart.

You and I are in 100 percent agreement about what Gen Y is doing. I’ve got kids in that age group. As a matter of fact, they’re going with me tonight to a social event, with their friends.

The people you interviewed all seem to have reached inside and tapped their true gifts. Is that something that characterizes their generation? Or do you see them as being the exceptions?

Let me try to answer that right. I think it typifies their generation. And it may just typify their generation as it goes with ones that I meet.

Now, understand that people who come to my seminars are either forced there by their parents or another kid said, “Oh my god, I saw Mark and he’s funny, and he just talks the truth, and he likes us kids,” which is also true.

As a result, they go out and do wonderful stuff.

Right now, the two top women in America offering financial advice are Suze Orman on TV and Loral Langemeier. What’s astounding to me is that Loral has been my student since she was 14—and now she and I are partnering on deals.

They start out as a mentee, and then look what happens! There’s no question that we’re going to see greatness from our friend Cameron Johnson. I think he’s at the beginning of his trip, not at the end of it.

Do you see any kind of larger shift or greater appreciation for the value of giving these days?

What happens is, the worse times get, the more people don’t want to give. And then there are those who understand that if they give, it almost instantaneously opens up opportunity to them.

Let’s say that you went out and made $100 today, and that was all you could make. But if you gave $10 of it, two things would happen. Number one is you would start getting telephone calls from unknown sources that you weren’t expecting, offering you new business. And number two is, you’d start to hear inklings, like red flags, that whisper in your ear, “Don’t work with him,” or “Don’t go there,” “Don’t do this deal. This is going to go sideways.”

When you give, you open yourself up to two things. One is infinite opportunities, and the other is that you start to become alerted in time of danger. If something’s going sideways, or you’ve hired the wrong employee, or whatever it is, something’s about to go south, you get a warning to get out of the way.

So stepping into the flow of giving not only puts you in the path of good things, but also steps up your perception and discernment.

I think it actually does. All you have to do is look at my life and compare it with anyone you want. You look at my life and you say, “This guy was lucky.”

Well, I also work hard—but it’s true, I got a lot of great breaks that no one else got. Why? Because I spent my full time giving.

When you tell the story of the Chicken Soup books, does it not feel like a whole series of “I have no idea how that happened”?

It does.

And yet, it certainly keeps happening. You have sold a few books.

A hundred fifty-seven million so far.

It seems like giving so often goes hand in hand with network marketing culture. Is that perhaps because it’s such a people culture?

Network marketing is the most giving form of business model in existence. Somebody who owns the right to give away work, which is what network marketing does, owns the gift of gifts.

There ought to be a mission in their commission, because networkers are paid in direct proportion for what they give. So, they offer it to somebody, and whether that particular person accepts it or not, somebody will accept it.

Giving the gift of freedom, the gift of employment and the gift of a future opportunity is the greatest gift ever. Opportunity is the greatest charity.

Teach a man to fish.

Go use your talent. But most people don’t understand that in the parable of the talents, what the big guy said is, you’re supposed to double it every year. Doubling it from one dollar to two dollars is easy. But some of the people I work with earn $1 billion a year, and going from $1 billion to $2 billion, that’s serious.

You’ve touched on this point before: if you make this action happen in this direction, the response will come back—but not necessarily from that place, and more often from some place you don’t expect.

Exactly. And that’s the way it really works—because the universe isn’t linear. It looks linear to you and me; it’s linear at the level that if you give, it will be given unto you. But that doesn’t say that if I give something to you, you’ve got to give something to me. It just says I’m going to get something back over time, from somewhere.

It always seems that when people really put their energy into prospecting diligently and with good values, they’re going to get their biggest partner—but from someplace that they never expected it to come.

Exactly. It would be amazing if we could get everyone in network marketing to start really contributing at every level. And when I say “at every level,” I mean this: if you haven’t got any money, then you can contribute from a heart level. And if you’ve got money, then you’re supposed to contribute at a financial level. If you’ve got time, energy and effort, then contribute that. We can all contribute on a daily basis.

Any other message for our network marketing brethren before we close?

I believe network marketing is the key to solving the economic problems of our time. Not, “it may be the key”—it is the key. Everybody should be in a network marketing company. Because even if they’re inactive and just use the product, when they lose their job or have a problem with their employer, they can immediately go to this business, turn on the spigot, and a month later be making money—and sometimes faster than that, because some companies pay weekly.

The point is that everybody can do it, and you can do it as young as 18 and up to any age. I’ve met people at the age of 98 who are still giving. And as long as they’re engaged and contributing, they’re alive. As long as they’ve got problems and they’re dealing with other people, they’re alive—because they’re feeling contrast.

But the minute they shut that down, they shut off their own life. There’s nowhere in any spiritual literature I can find that says, “Go thou and spend the rest of your life golfing—you are now 65.”

When Otto von Bismarck set up social security to kick in at 70, people were dying at 45, and he never expected to pay off. You know that, right?

Yes—the Prussians were surprised when they saw what happened 100 years later!

We’ve got to figure out how to pay for all that now. The best way to pay for it is if everyone gets into a network marketing company, they’ll never retire. Because what are you going to retire from? You’re having fun, your company’s paying for you to go on trips, you’re meeting with people you like, and your social skills go up whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert or an omnivert!

Mark, I love how you put that: everybody should be involved in this, not just for the economic benefit but because it engages them in the process of life.

That’s exactly correct.

One last question: since network marketing is still predominately a baby-boom phenomenon, what would it take to get this generation more involved in this business we’re doing?

Well, this Richest Kids book may be the greatest door opener ever, because it gets to the people’s kids. And by the way, reaching their kids also gets them to listen to you.

If anyone wants a signed copy of the book, all they’ve got to do is buy a copy through our toll-free number—800-433-2314—and I’ll gladly sign one and send it. Tell us who you want it signed to, and I’ll sign it to anybody who orders. It takes a little while, because I’m not here to sign books every day. But I do it as fast as I can—because I really believe in giving.