She's moody, messy, opinionated. She stomps around and glowers a lot. She occasionally pauses to be sweet and deliver a hug. It's all so confusing as she brings a tornado of energy into the workplace, which happens to also be our home. I'm talking about Lucy, my newly minted middle-schooler. Yay, me.
I got to wondering one day recently about whether Lucy, who considers herself my executive vice president, might have qualities that would serve me well in my communications and public relations business -- or entrepreneurs in general. It's hard to fathom. But perhaps it pays to be overly dramatic? I turned to Michelle Icard, author of Middle School Makeover and a middle school adviser to teachers, students and parents, to see if there was anything to this idea. Turns out that entrepreneurs can learn a few things from their middle-schoolers or by imagining themselves back in their middle-school Reeboks.
1. Being passionate is a good thing.
In her book, which I've been quoting back to my husband and daughter, Icard explains that the big thing with middle-schoolers is that they think with the emotional part of their brain (amygdala) and not the critical thinking part (prefrontal cortex). Hello, mood swings. But passion is good. Remember, it's what drives a lot of entrepreneurs.
What ignited your middle school soul? Tap into it. For me, it was -- and still is -- writing. When my work doesn't include enough writing, it doesn't matter how much work I have or how well I'm doing bringing in business. I always have to find ways to incorporate writing into my life and work or I get pretty cranky.
Icard said we adults often push aside our passions, because saying things like "I just want to make muffins" sounds so Pollyanna. But some people do get paid to bake muffins, so ignite your intellectual curiosity and in the words of Irene Cara, take your passion and make it happen.
2. Being impulsive and taking risks are also good. Scary, but good.
Middle-schoolers are also known to be impulsive and prone to taking risks. It's that whole not working with a fully formed brain thing again. I know this is coming with Lucy, and pray that I'm ready. Professionally speaking, takings risks can be key to making more money, advancing the corporate ladder or finding happiness in unexpected places.
I wouldn't call myself a risk taker, but there have been some chances I've taken that have made my life richer in all sorts of ways. As a senior in college, I turned down my first job offer -- and a more lucrative one at that -- for the chance to live in an entirely new-to-me part of the country. Before I had kids, I ziplined with my husband in Costa Rica. In 2016, I left a well-paying corporate job to start my own business from scratch. No regrets. Not one.
I won't say I'm looking forward to the risks Lucy or her younger sister Penny take as middle-schoolers, but I'm going to try to remember it's important for them now developmentally -- and in life. I hope they won't be afraid to take risks and that they never feel stuck.
Icard said one good way that middle-schoolers take risks -- and where working adults can take note -- is around their brand. For kids, it's all in how they dress and present themselves to the world, and I've already noticed this with Lucy. Icard suggests grown-up entrepreneurs consider their brands. Maybe get out there with a blog, new headshot, public speaking engagement or networking group.
"We might be inclined to say `This is who I am; I have always done it this way,' whereas a middle-schooler will say `That's how I used to do things. Check me out now.'"