People say that determination and entrepreneurship can't be taught, but recently I met an entrepreneur who not only disagrees with that, she built an entire company focused on getting high school teens on the entrepreneur track.
Sarah Hernholm, Founder of WIT- Whatever It Takes, believes that kids can be determined and successful if they start at a young age. She believes it so much that she left her classroom teaching job to launch an organization that helps high school teens become determined social entrepreneurs. And it isn't make believe. These teens actually design, launch, manage and measure social enterprises!
Sarah believes all parents should be getting teens into entrepreneurship now, not later, to build up their determination for the long haul.
Here's 5 reasons why:
1. Teens need to learn how to fail and get back up
Sarah regularly encounters the "helicopter" parent. This parent is determined to do everything possible to get their child into the best college, even if it means hovering over them and doing the work for them.
If the child messes up, this parent is right there to fix it or get it excused.
Because the goal is a top college, not self-accountability.
Even schools don't allow opportunities for students to learn from failure. Too many academic failures could equate to poor school reviews.
So what ends up happening?
Teens head off to college and experience a variety of failures. Yet, when there is no parent around to fix the problem, the impact is more severe and detrimental.
Because they take failure personally instead of viewing it as feedback.
2. Teens need to see the value in taking risks
Evaluating whether or not to take a risk is an important trait. Both scenarios give us life lessons that we wouldn't be able to get if we were sitting on the sidelines.
Sarah has talked to many entrepreneurs that say they wish they had something like WIT when they were younger because it would have given them a chance to gain the confidence when it came to navigating risks. Teens today aren't given the chance to negotiate risk, because, ironically, there's too much at stake. Kind of like with scholarships.
3. Teens need a place to get their ideas and voice heard
During a typical teenager's day, most interactions involve adults telling the teen what to do and what not to do. From the teacher's homework and class lectures - to the parent assigning curfew and lecturing about the importance of attending a good college. There is little room for the teenager's voice.
However, teens have A LOT to say.
Sarah loves to ask teens, "Well, since adults can't seem to figure out how to solve education inequalities, end homelessness or even get the country out of debt... I'm wondering if you have any ideas?"
Not surprising, teenagers have some amazing ideas.
It's up to adults to listen to them and support the execution of those ideas.
4. Teens have a good amount of rebellious and anti-authority energy
The exact thing that makes adults wary of teens is the exact ingredient Sarah believes makes teens the perfect candidate for entrepreneurship. Some teens are chomping at the bit to rebel and go against the norm.
For them, entrepreneurship is the perfect outlet!
It's the field where they are actually encouraged to second guess rules and regulations.
That in itself is a teen paradise!
5. Teens have less baggage (unlike adult entrepreneurs)
Adult entrepreneurs come into the game with baggage. That baggage prevents us from taking risks, makes us fearful of failure and at times, it cramps our creativity.
But here's the thing about teens. They have been on the planet for less time and that can mean less baggage and more fearlessness. Teens aren't burdened with whether or not the risk might result in losing a home, or if that failure could impact their children's college fund.
With less on the line, they have more room to invent and create without limits.
5. We need our teens bought in and contributing to society
Sarah whole-heartedly believes that if adults were willing to listen, engage, and include teens in conversations about how to improve our society, our world would be a better place. She knows how cliche that sounds, but she stands by it.
Sarah believes engaged teens equates to a better society. She says she has never seen teens hustle more than when it has to do with their entrepreneurial endeavors.
Given Sarah's reasoning, she may be onto something!
When asked if she is excited about the interest in WIT and its growth around the country, her response is, "Of course! We love seeing teens from all over becoming determined entrepreneurs... but I'll be even more excited when every adult starts listening and valuing the ideas of these entrepreneurs."
What do you think? Would your experience and determination level as an adult entrepreneur be different if you had a chance to get into the game as a teen?