EVEN in elementary school, I was an assertive, aggressive kid.
In the second grade, I punched my music teacher in the eye because I didn’t think he knew anything about music!
I’m not proud of that, but it’s clear evidence that even early on I had a tendency to make my opinions known in a forceful way. The difference now is that I use my brains instead of my fists!
As an adolescent, I was mostly interested in creating mischief. For some reason, I liked to stir things up and test people. I’d throw water balloons, shoot spitballs and make a ruckus in the schoolyard and at birthday parties.
When I turned 13, my father decided to send me to military school, assuming that a little military training might be good for me. I wasn’t thrilled about the idea, but it turned out he was right.
I attended the New York Military Academy in Cornwall, N.Y., from eighth grade through my senior year. Along the way, I learned a lot about discipline and channeling my aggression into achievement. As a senior, I was appointed a captain of the cadets.
Our family was very traditional. My father, Fred Trump, was the breadwinner, while my wonderful mother, Mary MacLeod, whom he married in 1936, not only took care of us five children, she cooked and cleaned and darned socks and did charity work at the local hospital.
We lived in a large house, but we never thought of ourselves as rich kids. We were brought up to know the value of a dollar and to appreciate the importance of hard work.
Growing up, the most important influence on me was my father. Fred Trump was born in New Jersey in 1905. His father, who came here from Sweden as a child, owned a moderately successful restaurant, but he was also a hard liver and a hard drinker. He died when my father was 11 years old.
During high school, my father began taking night classes in carpentry, plan-reading and estimating, figuring that if he learned a trade, he’d always be able to make a living. By the age of 16, he’d built his first structure, a two-car frame garage. Few homes had attached garages at the time, and my father was able to establish a very good business building prefabricated garages for $50 each.
Besides being focused and ambitious, my father just plain loved working. From as early as I can remember, he’d say: “The most important thing in life is to love what you’re doing, because that’s the only way you’ll ever be really good at it.”
I learned a lot from him. I learned about toughness in a very tough business. I learned about motivating people, and I learned about competence and efficiency: “Get in, get it done, get it done right, and get out.”
But I also learned very early on that I didn’t want to be in the same business as my father. He did very well building rent-controlled and rent-stabilized housing in Queens and Brooklyn, but it was a tough way to make a buck. I wanted to try something grander, more glamorous and more exciting.
I also realized that if I ever wanted to be known as more than Fred Trump’s son, I was eventually going to have to make my own mark.