You know "that kid" when you meet them.

That kid is often perceived as too loud, too opinionated, too energetic. That kid is called a troublemaker, a rule breaker, a misfit. We tell them to calm down, to focus, to do as they are told. But they can't help it. They want to bend the rules, test their teachers' limits, feed their insatiable curiosity -- sometimes making their parents' and teachers' lives harder in the process.

Joi Ito, prominent activist, entrepreneur, and investor said the below about himself:

"Structured learning didn't serve me particularly well. I was kicked out of kindergarten for running away too many times, and I have the dubious distinction of having dropped out of two undergraduate programs and a doctoral business and administration program. I haven't been tested, but have come to think of myself as 'neuroatypical' in some way [or not what society perceives as 'normal']."

But that didn't stop Ito from becoming one of the most well-known names in tech, and the current Director of the MIT Media Lab, considered among the top academic and innovation institutions in the country.

There are many examples like this.

Look at Richard Branson, founder the billion dollar Virgin Group. Of his business endeavors as a child, Branson's mother said: "Almost without exception they all ended in some form of a disaster with us picking up the pieces--literally and metaphorically--but we'd soldier on and just kept hoping that one day the lessons learned would help you in life." Even Branson's Facebook profile today reads: "Tie-loathing adventurer, philanthropist and troublemaker, who believes in turning ideas into reality."  

But somehow that doesn't help alleviate society's anxiety around dealing with That Kid. In the words of astrophysicist and science communicator Neil De Grasse Tyson:

"If you're a child, you are curious about your environment. You're overturning rocks. You're plucking leaves off of trees and petals off of flowers, looking inside, and you're doing things that create disorder in the lives of the adults around you.  

"And so then so what do adults do? They say, 'Don't pluck the petals off the flowers. I just spent money on that. Don't play with the egg. It might break. Don't....'  Everything is a don't. We spend the first year teaching them to walk and talk and the rest of their lives telling them to shut up and sit down."

I Was "That Kid"

I grew up most of my life labeled as a troublemaker, and it wasn't a term of endearment. I would get report cards with good grades, but get a zero for attitude, or fail in discipline. I spent dozens of hours in "time out" outside of the classroom, and I spent many weekly allowances paying back friends or school for devices that I broke open just so I could see inside.

But as an adult looking back, I wouldn't change a thing about my childhood. Nothing could have prepared me more for being an entrepreneur, a maker, a creator. I've relished a life of exploration, discovery, and skepticism about the state of things -- and now I am trying to cultivate those characteristics in the next generation.

It's hard not to love that kid. At littleBits, we strive to reassure parents and teachers; to offer a place for that kid to see themselves as part of a larger community of "those kids." After all, there's something to be learned from those kids: take risks, follow your heart, take things apart, don't take no for an answer.

As entrepreneurs, we are made stronger by our inner kid. It reminds us to question authority, to pursue our passions, to make mistakes, and to fall down. A lot. But when we solve a problem, create something new, learn from our mistakes, and get back up -- it's magical.

These are the lessons that every entrepreneur will benefit from -- and maybe, if you were that kid, you already have.

Published on: Nov 1, 2018