Entrepreneurs are always busy. They have little time for anyone. Or anything.
And yet, the best of them always find time to learn. Whether from a mentor, or a podcast, or an online resource, or a conference, we entrepreneurs are constantly looking for small, incremental ways to improve what we do. We often look up to industry pioneers, and C-suite execs for inspiration.
However, as adults, we often tend to ignore the little people around us, and the inspiring, wacky lessons that we can potentially learn from them.
And do you know what’s unique about this?
You can hire a motivational coach or pay to listen to a few speakers, but you can’t set an agenda for learning with kids. When the student is ready, the teacher (or should I say the kiddo?) appears.
From my experience in conducting workshops and teaching young kids about STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics – I have distilled some key habits and characteristics that entrepreneurs and small business owners can develop in order to survive and thrive in a chaotic and competitive business world. Let’s examine these one by one…
1. Question Everything
We all are born curious – the urge to find out something new begins as a ubiquitous and extraordinarily powerful psychological characteristic. Talk to any kid and you’ll know curiosity is ever-present and obvious in them.
But as we grow older, environmental influences – be it teachers, parents, other children, or the physical environment we live in – begin to whittle our curiosity into something narrower and often more fragile.
In a session titled The Rise and Fall of Curiosity at the Aspen Institute, Dr. Susan Engel named four key influences to children’s curiosity:
- Role Models
As a result of these influences, we grow up to adopt preconceived notions about what is possible and what isn’t, what we can do and what we can’t. These spill over into every facet of our lives!
Children don’t suffer from this syndrome. They are innately curious and they just ask about stuff that they want to explore and know nothing about. This quality is something every successful entrepreneur must have.
Just like curious kids, you must seek out information, grow new theories, convert theories into actionable ideas, and then execute them. Asking questions and taking a game-based approach to critical thinking will make sure you remain nimble and develop potential solutions for problems your customers are facing.
2. Make Every Penny Count
Another crucial lesson that toddlers and preschoolers can teach to all aspiring entrepreneurs is to make full use of available resources.
Finances play a crucial role in the establishment and sustainability of a business. In a report by Guidant Financial, 33% of surveyed entrepreneurs cite “lack of cash flow” to be their biggest challenge.
Can you remember how you, as a kid, were introduced to money? Getting a few pennies or cents was a huge deal. You used to make dollars out of cents, save them for months, and use every last penny to get maximum quantity or the best models of the stuff that you wanted.
And the journey of saving up money for something, in itself, used to be exhilarating. This is how children go through the process:
- They know what toy they want and how much it costs.
- They keep a close eye on their finances – chances are they know exactly how much money there is in their piggy banks down to the last cent.
- They play nice and put in extra efforts to reach their finance goals quickly.
There are valuable lessons hidden in the above steps for every entrepreneur. Knowing what your business goals are and how much money you’d need to reach there is definitely a great starting point.
And how are you going to achieve this? By staying on top of cash flows, making accurate ROI calculations, budgeting and taking on the extra gig or side hustle whenever you can. In other words, count every penny and make every penny count.
3. Don’t Be Afraid of Hearing and Saying “No”
As adults, we don’t keep count of the number of times we say (or get) a “NO” from kids. And yet, they relentlessly keep bugging us for things they want while denying outright the things they don’t want.
Every successful entrepreneur should be accustomed to hearing, and should be decisive enough to say “No” just like kids.
And if you can’t convince them, confuse them. Brannon Poe, Founder of Poe Group Advisors, recounts how his young son used to say, “I can’t want to do that.”
Pick any successful journey and you’ll be amazed to see how frequently these entrepreneurs heard and said “No” – be it to their investors, employees, friends or family.
More often than not, successful entrepreneurs don’t become so by compromising or backing down after being rejected several times, just like kids.
4. When You Fall, Get Up and Try Again
When asked the secret to his entrepreneurial success in a Q&A hosted by Business Insider, Mark Zuckerberg said, “Just don’t give up!”
And it’s not just Mark Zuckerberg. In a 2013 interview, Jeff Bezos revealed that he had to schedule 60 meetings to raise $1M during early days of Amazon.
Among the potions that make for any and every successful entrepreneurial journey, persistence always holds a special place. This is something that every adult, irrespective of the fact whether they are aspiring entrepreneurs or not, should learn from kids.
Kids don’t have preconceived notions about anything and, unlike adults, they don’t hold on to anger & frustration from the last time they failed. This is why they keep trying new things & failing, only to get up and try again!
5. Think – And Live – Outside the Box
The concept of the “box” develops as we grow old. Toddlers don’t know about this box – with walls of virtual barriers of what and how things should be done. When they enter preschool, they’re slowly but surely put in this box. By the time they’re out of college, they’re firmly imprisoned.
Later in life, it stops them from testing out their ideas. Or even believing in them.
Give a kid a car and he will try to float it in water.
By thinking outside the box, kids try anything and everything to feed the curiosity cat of their minds. Entrepreneurs should always carry this zeal to think and try things outside the box.
By doing things the same way everyone else is doing, you can never expect to get different results or differentiate your product or service in the market. And kids can definitely show wantrepreneurs a thing or two about thinking outside the box and have fun while doing it.
Entrepreneurship requires consistency and patience. Inspiration is available in abundance around us; we should be open to learning and getting inspired when it comes our way!
Remember this golden nugget of advice from Mark Cuban: “It doesn’t matter how many times you have failed; you only have to be right once.”
Finally, a personal request: If you are a business owner and a parent, don’t forget to pass on the smarts and raise your kids to be entrepreneurs like yourself!
Shreiya Aggarwal-Gupta is the owner of the early education startup Kidpillar, which aims to provide developmental opportunities and resources for young children in the field of STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) via kid-friendly journals, practical DIY-kits, and simple project-based learnings and workshops. Shreiya is also a passionate blogger, computer science engineer, finance whiz, and “perfect mommy” to her son.