Richard Branson. Elon Musk. Grandpa Joe. It’s not hard for me to rattle off the names of successful people who have inspired me along my journey of entrepreneurship. From their stories and legacies, I have learned enduring tenets of what it takes to own and grow a business (or two).
But rewind a handful of decades and you’ve got inquisitive children who just so happened to grow up and make their mark on the world in big ways.
It’s easy to forget that the youngest among us often have some of the most profound lessons to share, even when it comes to business. The truth is, we all start out as little entrepreneurs and scientists. Children are naturally inclined to learn about the world through a system of trial and error. Ask any parent and they are bound to share countless stories of their kids’ ingenuity.
One thing is certain: it doesn’t hurt to let children teach you a lesson every now and then.
Great Things Come in Small Packages
1. Cultivate Curiosity
Neil deGrasse Tyson said that “Kids are born curious about the world. What adults primarily do in the presence of kids is unwittingly thwart the curiosity of children.” Kids naturally seek to understand the world around them by asking questions and problem solving. Curiosity is a key ingredient in finding new adventures and discoveries. What if we remembered to stay curious, even when considering everyday business decisions?
2. Lead with Conviction
If you’ve ever heard a sales pitch or idea from a kid, you know what I mean. They invest incredible time and belief in their passion and share it with whoever is willing to listen. Having conviction also means you are able to confidently explain your how and your why. This is a valuable skill to harness in both professional and personal settings.
3. Don’t Resist Delegation
I love to watch how kids interact in groups and utilize teamwork to their advantage. They are adept at identifying skill sets and efficiently delegating tasks in order to meet a goal or complete a task. Kids are unattached to ego and make no qualms about allowing others to share in their success.
4. Recognize a Market Need
The classic example of a lemonade stand is significant because it showcases the way in which children easily recognize a need and then fill it. With a compelling mix of compassion and intellect, kids find excitement — and payoff — in identifying needs and offering solutions.
5. Practice Persistence
Relentless in their quest for problem solving and innovation, children remind us of the power of persistence. They also demonstrate how important a solid support network is when it comes to being tenacious and taking risks to achieve extraordinary results.
6. Think Outside of the Box
Isn’t it funny that adults often have to be reminded and guided to “think outside of the box”? To kids, this skill is instinctive. Children know that there are an infinite number of solutions to most problems and that no idea is a bad idea. Novelty, questioning, and even silliness are welcome when considering things in an unconventional manner. Think outside of the box, even when you are in it.
Children are the ultimate, and original, disruptors. They know how to discern when a construct or system isn’t working anymore and how to create a new one that will add value. Innovation is about planting new seeds and being unafraid to see what will blossom.
8. Redefine Quitting
Not everyone will like to admit this, but kids remind us that knowing when to quit is just as essential as knowing when to persevere. Both require a healthy awareness of boundaries and a willingness to be vulnerable. Conscious quitting, when coupled with a desire to grow, can teach us where and how to most effectively focus our efforts. Not surprisingly, it also forces us to practice non-attachment and the art of letting go. Quitting doesn’t have to mean failure, but rather an understanding of how to better succeed in the future.
The next time you are experiencing a mental block when it comes to an important step in your business, ask your 10 year old self how they would proceed. Then be prepared to watch them take the reins like a pro.