"The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” We’re hearing this wonderful admonition a lot these days. Apparently, the original source is an old Chinese proverb, one more importation from America’s trading partners and it’s a good one.

But, we’ve slipped in regards to the first part of that advice. For decades, life coaches and master teachers have been promoting “living in the now,” which many have taken to heart, but what of tomorrow? What about rainy days?

Accounts are dire regarding American bank accounts. Last year Bankrate.com reported more than 75 percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.

It is puzzling, though. We see plenty of money for tech gadgets and fresh fashions on school kids, even among those families on government subsidies. And you would have to live in a cave not to know the severity of our government spending. We’re a mess.

Well, not all of us. There are some who are successfully planting for tomorrow. Find details in a hot new book, written by gutsy authors and Yale law professors Amy Chua and her husband, Jed Rubenfeld.

Their research tells us what traits drive successful Americans. The book’s descriptive title: “The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America.” Chua is best known for her last book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” in which she shook up the entire American, mommy culture.

Triple Package is also controversial because it highlights three traits which the authors claim are responsible for individual and cultural success. It’s causing a stir amid the politically correct crowd, bless their sensitive hearts. Once you learn what the “Triple” stands for and who uses it most, perhaps you’ll be irritated, too.

The authors claim that the combination of a “superiority complex,” then, ironically, “insecurity,” plus “impulse control” tend to motivate a person to achievement. The three can be identified with certain cultures and races who are viewed successful. And, that’s the rub, of course.

Staying with the topic of planting for the future, the trait that catches my attention is “impulse control.”

The authors note that impulse control goes against the current indoctrination of “live in the moment,” which has turned into a societal addiction manifested via instant gratification.

In support of the author’s conclusions is the famous marshmallow test that Stanford social scientists developed in the ’60s, an analysis I reported on several years back.

The test apparently can identify very early in a person’s life who will succeed in the adult world. It goes like this: Young children are given a marshmallow and told if they will wait to eat it while the teacher is out of the room, they will get a second marshmallow when the teacher returns. In the research the children were then tracked for years. Those who waited were far more successful adults than those who succumbed. Not only did they thrive financially; they also did much better in relationships.

Chua and Rubenfeld are taking heat over their Triple Package premise, mainly because it identifies the ethnic groups, which are most successful, as well as cultures and religions, offending those who don’t qualify.

It’s my take that the authors could have dropped the first two points and just focused on self-discipline. It’s clearly the missing element in today’s lifestyles.

What’s powerful about it, and promising, is no matter which color or faith, every American can choose to activate it. Ahem. But, that would require planting today and waiting a while for the harvest.

• East Valley resident Linda Turley-Hansen (turleyhansen@gmail.com) is a syndicated columnist and former Phoenix veteran TV anchor.

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