For any parent, knowing what to teach your children--in the limited time you've got--is hard.
As an entrepreneur, that difficulty only intensifies. All around us are studies that reveal more and more young people are entering adulthood ill-equipped and entitled.
We all want the same thing: to raise children who live and breath the entrepreneurial spirit. Not only so they'll be financially successful, but because entrepreneurship gives children the freedom and ability to "put a dent in the universe."
That's why--as the father of three preteen daughters and a son who knows that love lives in the details--I wanted to share 18 bite-sized lessons on how to raise entrepreneurs.
1. Ask questions
Children are naturally curious, but often get stifled when their questions are met with pat answers or--worse--annoyance. Do more than just engage your kids when they ask, "But why?" model asking questions yourself, both of them and of the world.
2. Praise effort
Stacks ofscholarly research indicate that "kids who are praised for being smart fixate on performance, shying away from taking risks and meeting potential failure. Kids who are praised for their efforts try harder and persist with tasks longer." Instead of celebrating on their wins, celebrate their sweat.
3. Encourage risk
Being an entrepreneur is risky. Success isn't a guarantee. Inspire your children to embrace their own risk, anticipate failure, and to get back up when it doesn't pay off.
4. Fear inaction
In their book A Moving Child is a Learning Child, Gill Connell and Cheryl McCarthy write: "Fear is the greatest container of all." Teach your child to be bold and that doing nothing is the only great failure.
5. Allow failure
The urge to encompass our children in bubble wrap is strong. But if they aren't allowed to fail, they'll never know the value of success. Instead of saying, "Anything worth doing is worth doing well," give you kids the permission to fail: "Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly."
6. Practice gratitude
Thankfulness doesn't come naturally... to any of us. Instead, gratitude is a muscle that must be exercised to grow. Take the time to intentionally revel in everything from a raise, to a discount, to everyday amenities life food, clothing, and shelter.
7. Disagree openly
Disagreements happen to everyone, entrepreneurs included. The important thing to teach your child is that they're inevitable and healthy. Disagreements lead to better thinking and better solutions, as long as their pride doesn't blind them.
8. Sleep first
Sleep affects every area of your child's life: growth, emotions, health, attention span, and especially learning. Make sleep a cornerstone so they can be at their best, which means making sleep a cornerstone in your own life.
9. Seek joy
Gary F. Halbert--easily one the world's greatest marketers--wrote to his son, "The money is where the enthusiasm is." Teaching your child to relentlessly pursue their own happiness--and to spread that happiness like wild fire--gives them a cushion against setbacks and a North Star.
10. Take breaks
Hitting pause allows your child to work out their wiggles and persevere through frustrations. Never be afraid to say, "Let's set this aside for now and do something fun."
11. Lower expectations
This lesson doesn't mean you should expect the bare minimum from your child. It means keeping your expectations reasonable and age appropriate.
12. Expose heroes
Superheros are icons of hope. But human heroes show children that you don't have to be perfect to do great things. Heroes often hide in plain sight. Look for these everyday people, so that you can show your child what real inspiration looks like.
13. Nurture humility
Rockstar entrepreneurs aren't exactly known for their humility. But they should be. Jim Collins called humility the "X-factor of great leadership." Being quick to admit when you're wrong is the best way to help your child grasp this essential quality.
14. Say no
Saying no to your child is non-negotiable. But kids also need is to hear you say no to other people. Like Warren Buffett put it, "The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything."
15. Iterate often
Perseverance is an entrepreneurial must. Bullheaded ignorance isn't. Give children the freedom to "pivot." When one course of action isn't working, ask questions to help them think of alternatives and then move in a new direction.
16. Test everything
Don't take facts at face value. Instead, investigate. If they're got a crazy idea of how to invest their own time and money, encourage them to start small and validate hypotheses before jumping in.
17. Prioritize relationships
Teaching your child how to build and maintain quality relationships gives them the most vital tool there is for succeeding with investors and clients. But it also solidifies what a truly happy life is composed of: people.
18. Love freely
Giving your child unconditional love sounds like a no-brainer, but expectations and approval sneak up on us. As one of my favorite authors describes grace as one-way love: love free of qualifications: "One-way love lifts up. One-way love cures. One-way love transforms. It is the change agent of life."
Just start with one
Eighteen of anything is a lot to take in. So don't try to tackle them all at once. The last thing you need as a parent is more guilt. Just pick one lesson and start running with it today.
Oh, and let me know if I've left off your own favorite lesson in the comments or on social.