Six things kids can teach us about business

SmartCompany, August 16 2016

When I was first asked to mentor a group of high school kids who were budding entrepreneurs I thought, “sure, that’ll be easy – I can add value”. What I didn’t realise was just how much I would learn from them.

Here were a bunch of kids, seemingly unfazed by usual teenage problems, focused entirely on chasing their dreams. There was not an ounce of self-consciousness. They see a problem and a solution, wasting no time dwelling on the barriers between them and their dreams. Money and notoriety is not their motivation, but passion. These were 14-year-old kids doing better in business than I was – don’t you just love them?

While life-experience goes some way to helping your business thrive, there are big lessons you can learn from the younger generation. Here are a few of my takeaways:

1. Take everyday as a new adventure

As we grow older, we begin to settle into the humdrum of adult-life. We silence our dreams because of the the uncertainty it brings, in favour of a regular income and the luxury of being able to afford the weekly grocery bill. However, it only takes meeting with an enthusiastic set of kidpreneurs to wake you up from auto pilot and start engaging with life.

Kids are experts in searching for the adventure in everyday life. They’re constantly exploring and experimenting. Their youth means they’re not hindered by their experiences. They’re open to the possibility of anything, making them more agile and accepting of suggestions and opportunities. If you’re too busy focusing the end goal, you shut yourself off to the possibility of things that are presently available to you.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask ‘why?’

Kids are constantly asking questions. Their thirst for knowledge knows no boundaries.

They’re information seekers – constantly asking, “why? Why? Why?”. Kids instinctively ask “why” and work backwards.

While this trait is present in most children, the question “why?” is the starting point for all great leaders and organisations that have inspired action. Think, Apple, Martin Luther King and the Wright brothers. Long before Apple was a world powerhouse, it was a startup founded by the big-dreamer, Steve Jobs. His brilliance was in his positioning and making the complicated simple by answering the question “why?”. All inspired leaders and organisations start with “why?” because it establishes purpose for what they’re doing and why other people should care too.

3. Ignorance is bliss

Kids are able to dive into things head-first because they often don’t have the knowledge or life-experience to shock them out of starting a business. While knowledge is an incredible resource, it can be detrimental if harnessed incorrectly. If you overanalyse your business model, giving too much weight to the risks, you’ll never start a business in the first place. No business is completely risk free.

Taj Pabari is the creator of the Fiftysix coding kit for kids and one of the high school students mentored by Jock Fairweather.

4. Live like there’s no such thing as stress

Don’t take your life so seriously – have fun in business! You don’t need to be chained to a desk for 12 hours of the day to be productive. Kids are constantly learning throughout the day but, to them, it feels like they’re playing because they’re enjoying what they’re doing. While your daily tasks may be a little more mundane than tasks assigned to a kid, how you feel about these tasks and how your body responds to them is within your control.

Try mixing up your work environment – maybe start the day reading work-related materials in a coffee shop. Or if you need to solve a problem, go for a short walk to consolidate your thoughts. Even though you’re working, you will trick your body into thinking you’re in a more relaxed state.

5. You don’t need coffee for energy

Do you jump out of bed bursting with energy? Kids do. This is because they’re enthused and energised by what is to come. Kids have no concept of what day of the week it is – everyday is a new day, with new adventures and things to learn. What drives them is curiosity of what will be different from the previous day.

If you wake up feeling lethargic, try energising your brain by taking a new route to work or striking up conversation with someone who would usually pass you by. All these actions are unpredictable and will automatically alert your brain to the possibilities of the day.

6. Chase the dream, not the money

Kids are intrinsically motivated; they read, play and paint because they’re interested in these activities. When you do something for your own enjoyment, it is because you’re intrinsically motivated. Kids are motivated by their dreams and not by extrinsic factors such as money or fame. If you look at those who are the exceeding professionally, like Warren Buffett or Bill Gates, they’re motivated by passion for what they do. Money is a result of their success but not the driving factor.

Jock Fairweather is a Brisbane-based entrepreneur and owns co-working space business Little Tokyo Two.