Family rule: We stop at lemonade stands. If it's a cold April day and we're running late it doesn't matter; count us in for a few Dixie cups. In a 20-second way, this small act of support encourages the budding entrepreneurs shouting at cars from the end of their driveways. (Our addiction to sugary drinks happens to dovetail nicely.)
Like most parents, my husband and I feel it's important that our kids understand the fundamentals of business. We also fervently hope they'll develop the resilience, generosity, confidence and grit consistently found among successful entrepreneurs, according to Amy Wilkinson, author of The Creator's Code. Wilkinson knows her stuff: In the past five years, she's conducted over 200 interviews with the most successful, high-stakes entrepreneurs of our time, collecting more than 9000 pages of transcripts. Here's what she discovered that the best have in common:
1. They never stop learning... or struggling.
"Becoming a successful entrepreneur is about becoming comfortable being uncomfortable," notes Wilkinson. Rather than resting back on an area of expertise, entrepreneurs push themselves to tackle new challenges. As a parent, I need to get comfortable with my children experiencing this kind of discomfort -- and sometimes watching them flat-out fail. I'll keep this in mind as I watch them struggle with a task, assignment, or set of shoelaces.
2. They're curious.
"Entrepreneurs are always asking questions, figuring out how things go together, challenging the status quo, and not accepting 'no' for an answer," Wilkinson says. Sounds like a typical day at our house -- especially the 'not accepting no' part. I'll try to remember that asking questions is essential. Sounds easy, feels hard when you hit question #867 by noon. I can encourage my kids to explore their curiosity more on their own. (That said, the little buggers will have to accept a few rules. I bet Elon Musk went to bed more or less on time, and Sarah Blakely appears to have brushed her teeth regularly as a child.)
3. They have relentless optimism (a.k.a. grit).
Wilkinson writes: "Today's challenges can be hard to define, and they require perseverance. You can't be dissuaded by obstacles, but are willing to get out there and get dirty doing the difficult things." Good reminder that we want our kids to view failure as not only inevitable, but essential. Nobody succeeds without overcoming failure and setbacks. I remember reading that Ron Howard made a point of telling his kids how bummed he was when one of his films got overlooked during Oscar season. Then, of course, they got to watch how he dusted himself off and started the next project. I'll make sure my children know when I flop (such opportunities being more abundant for me than Mr. Howard), and maybe I'll even tell them what I learned from my failures. (A good children's book that makes a similar point is Rosie Revere, Engineer.)
4. They have the ability to work with people who have very different backgrounds and perspectives from their own.
Wilkinson suggests that schools should be rewired to have students regularly working together in diverse teams. Makes sense -- tomorrow's challenges will be too complex to conquer as a single individual, and kids will have to know how to collaborate.
As the on-demand economy grows and more workers must approach their careers as micro-entrepreneurs, untethered from companies and fending more for themselves, these entrepreneurial qualities will become more relevant than ever. Not to mention, these traits ultimately transcend the professional realm and make for a more interesting, fun life.
Lemonade today. Tomorrow, the world.