Misfit, oddball, geek, nerd, outcast, and misunderstood rebel, these are some of the terms used to describe future entrepreneurs. So parents, I wouldn’t be too worried if your child isn’t popular and hanging with the cool kids…yet.
Chances are they’re already in line to be the next Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook founder) or Do Won Chang (Forever 21 founder). Both of these entrepreneurs started from very unpopular beginnings. Zuckerberg still doesn’t let being perceived negatively get in the way of his success:
“This is a perverse thing, personally, but I would rather be in the cycle where people are underestimating us. It gives us latitude to go out and make big bets that excite and amaze people.” – Mark Zuckerberg
You’ll find that it takes only simple tweaks in everyday behavior to cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset in your kids.
1. Never say: “Do as I say, don’t do as I do”
It is far better to lead by example. As a child, I heard, “Do as I say, don’t do as I do” with my mother’s index finger wagging in my face countless times. In theory, it sounds like it might work and encourage your child to listen to your recommendations and do better. But it’s an illogical approach when the laws of nurture come into play. Children are far more likely to imitate your actions rather than your noble speech. My 3-year-old daughter asked me for her own desk in my home office. It isn’t because desks are cool among 3-year-old’s; you know what is cool? Being like mommy.
2. Create An Environment Of Play
When did life get so serious? When did we stop playing in puddles, laughing at randomness, being silly because the mood struck us? Don’t take that away from your kids. Let them build a fort in the Ikea-chic living room. Let them imagine the pencil has magic powers and can turn you into a parrot. (Be the freakin’ parrot!) Part of being an entrepreneur is about creating, questioning, exploring, and playing. That’s how ideas are born and life becomes a majestic board of possibilities. Never let them stop playing with possibilities. Ever.
3. Manage What They Consume
Create more, consume less. In our savvy technology world, anything you can imagine is available on an iPad. Utilize the parent-protected feature to only provide them with access to content that will teach them, develop their thinking, and inspire them to be their best self. Focus on games that represent leadership and critical thinking, and promote kindness and being responsible. Visuals that encourage positive self-image and self-regard are also important. If your child is anything like my kid, they’re probably on some type of device a lot. Create a bubble and regulate their media consumption. Safeguard what filters in, and you’ll always be proud of what filters out.
4. Interrupt Negative Self-Talk
The thing we usually cannot manage is what our children hear outside of the home and away from our guidance. This is where they can pick up foreign habits that stray from the path we would most prefer them to be on. Not everyone around us will or wants to be an entrepreneur. And the journey of entrepreneurship requires a person who has thick skin, even when faced with their own self-talk.(Don’t we tend to be our own worst enemy?) The “I am dumb”, “I always mess up” and “I suck at this” self-talk will creep into your child’s vocabulary. Don’t let too much time pass before you interrupt their negative self-talk. Interject with “Remember the time you hit that home run?” Or “You did awesome when you got a B+ on your spelling test.” Replace the negative statements with positive wins they recently had. This reminds them of how phenomenal they really are and re-frames their outlook on the current situation. It reminds them that their situation is only temporary. Their awesomeness isn’t.
5. Actively Remind them to be Grateful
Our mental space often gets crowded with all the things we think that we want. “I want…I want…I want…” How many times you’ve heard your kids say this over and over? Think of when they were asking for the brand new toy that came out last week or asking to watch the movie Frozen another 101 times. Always wanting without being thankful for what they already have sets our children up to expect immediate gratification. You and I both know that there is no such thing as getting instant results when running a business. It takes time, months…even years to see any positive results sometimes. A simple reminder of all we have to be thankful for in this present moment creates a conscious child and one who is open to receiving more in time.
6. Make Rigid Routine Days Mandatory
You may be thinking how does this create an entrepreneurial mindset? Don’t entrepreneurs purposefully avoid routine? That’s why entrepreneurs don’t have jobs, right? Not true. Part of being an entrepreneur is learning to do the boring stuff…repeatedly. That’s how great minds are built, like Mark Cuban, Steve Jobs, and Oprah. Nobody ever talks about all the times they had to re-write their business plan, set up mundane systems and master a skill before they began to see success. There’s one simple reason for is: there’s nothing sexy about routine. But a routine must be mastered. This creates discipline and yield results. As time passes, due to our purposefully scheduled days focused on mastering a craft, we are eventually able to live free from such a rigid routine.
7. Encouraging Curiosity and Asking Questions
In this case, lack of curiosity…killed dreams. To ask why and question the status quo is what entrepreneurship is built on. The greatest entrepreneurs have asked “Why not?” when facing risks or unconventional choices. Have your children explore places, sights and sounds. Encourage them to try new foods, and to meet different and interesting people. When dancing with the idea of doing something out of their comfort zone, allow them the freedom to ask “how”, “what”, “who”, “where”, “when”- and most importantly…”why not?”
“Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not.” – Pablo Picasso
8. Encourage Independence From Diaper Years
If you’re reading this and you’re one of those parents who love to coddle their child. You’re not going to like this one…not one bit. Here goes: coddling sets them up for dependency and there is nothing entrepreneurial about that. Allow them to get their own utensils before dinner, set the table even. It teaches them responsibility. Let them correct their misbehavior before you tell them that they’re wrong. It teaches them accountability. Don’t rush to kiss their boo-boos after a fall. It teaches them how to get back up…on their own. We as parents won’t always be there and they will have to learn how to conquer the jungle of life independently eventually. Be there to support them, the whole way- just from a distance.
9. Never Teach Them Ugly Ideas About Money
“The rich are evil”, “The rich do whatever it takes to get what they want”, “The rich profit off of the poor”. These ugly lessons are false and will block your child from making money from any future business ventures. They’ll get as far as that belief will take them- just enough to satisfy their basic needs. Entrepreneurship is about being in a position to help others. If you’re not in a happy financial situation, chances are you cannot help anyone else but yourself. Sure, there are a few bad apples that reach financial success but it doesn’t outweigh the countless others who don’t fit that description.They continue to support communities and the creation of positive technological advances because they are in a financial position to do so.
10. Let Them Have A J.O.B.
This goes against everything an entrepreneur stands for. A job! Yuck. But we all start somewhere. How will our children learn how to do things differently, without first knowing how it’s done? Then they have the chance to realize they can do it better…much better. Give them small tasks to do each day around the house. Let them pick up a paper route. Have them learn the fundamentals of hard work! This only prepares them for the incredible work involved when running your own business.
11. Answer Their Questions With A Question
Don’t give up answers so easily.
“Why do I have to go to school?” Your response: “You tell me, why?”
“How do stars stay up in the sky? Your response: “You tell me, how?”
“What makes the TV work?” Your response: “I’m not sure…you tell me, what makes it work?”
This allows them to THINK about their question and allow critical thoughts to flow. When we easily hand over the answers, what opportunity do they have to be resourceful? This doesn’t encourage them to formulate their own reasoning around why things happen, how things work, and what things are. It also doesn’t offer them the chance to come up with their own conclusions. Having a discussion around their findings is one of the best gifts you can give them.
12. Pour On The Hugs and Kisses
This is probably the most important tool in your arsenal. An emotionally stable child is going to take failure a lot better, get back up a lot faster, and have higher self-confidence. They will know without a shadow of a doubt, they can be and do whatever they’ve set their mind to. It just takes one person to believe in them…just one. After that, not even the sky’s the limit.
Soar my little eagle, soar.