If you ask me what entrepreneurs I want my sons to emulate as they grow up, the top three that come to mind are: Bill Gates, John Zimmer of Lyft and Elon Musk. I believe each of them has different and inspiring stories about how they've found success and how they've changed the world in positive ways.
All entrepreneurs have to start somewhere and regardless of who they are or what they've accomplished, the lessons they've learned in life start with their parents. I've already taken a look at the lessons Bill Gates learned from his parents, particularly his father, and here I look at what we can learn from the lessons Elon Musk's father, Errol Musk, taught him.
1. New experiences are important for expanding young people's minds.
Elon and his siblings traveled all around the world with their father, allowing the kids to see and experience all kinds of things.
What we can learn from this: Experiencing new things is extremely important for people to grow. Obviously it would be great if everyone could zip around the world in private jets experiencing new things in person, but even if we can't (and most of us can't), that shouldn't stop us from trying our best to give our kids new experiences. Between the internet, books, science centers, educational television, inexpensive workshops, classes and even ethnic restaurants there are myriad ways to try new things to expand your child's mind (and your own).
2. Even introverts can be successful leaders.
Elon's father describes him as an introvert thinker, pointing out that if he were at a party, Elon would more than likely find the host's library and go through their books rather than mingle.
What we can learn from this: Even the most ardent introvert can not only be successful, but be a successful leader. As Elon has proven, being an introvert thinker can drive big ideas, but also be an asset in leadership.
3. It's never too early to encourage your children to get involved in something they're interested in.
When Elon was just 11, his father took him to a lecture about computers just as they started coming out. At the end of the lecture, Elon engaged the world's leading computer experts at the time in conversation about the new machines. The experts implored his father to get Elon a machine, which Errol did, and Elon taught himself computing language on it.
What we can learn from this: It's never too early to encourage your kids to explore their interests and try their hand at something. As adults, we can apply this to emerging technologies. If something new comes out and it piques your or their interest, check it out, even if they seem too young to be interested (keeping safety in mind, obviously).
4. No matter how affluent you are, it's important to instill your children with a sense of responsibility through work.
The Musks were an extremely affluent family in South Africa, but despite that, Errol Musk insisted that his children perform chores like cleaning the house and mowing the lawn. These are the types of chores that are usually done by maids and hired servants in South Africa, so it was quite unusual to make one's children do them.
What we can learn from this: It's far too easy for children from affluent families to feel entitled to a certain way of life. No matter how successful you have become and no matter how comfortable you are able to make your children's lives, giving them a strong work ethic through actual work is important.
5. Take a risk on your children because even if you lose money, the lesson will be priceless.
Obviously we don't all have $28,000 ($45,000 in today's money) to give to our precocious kids so they can start a company at an alarmingly young age. Errol Musk did just that with his two sons back in 1995, allowing them to start an internet-based business when most people were just getting used to the idea of the internet existing. It worked out well for everyone, with the Musks selling that company later for over $300 million.
What we can learn from this: While most of us would have to start with a much smaller gift than what Errol was able to offer, showing this type of confidence in a young entrepreneur is crucial for their development. Even some modest startup money that doesn't generate any kind of return will go toward lessons they can use later in their entrepreneurial career. (Just make sure they're actually going to use the money for business purposes.)
For me, the most important lesson is to support your budding entrepreneurs. Elon Musk and his father have had a bit of a rocky relationship, but despite what he may have said over the years about his father, I'm sure he could not have experienced the success he has without the guidance and lessons he learned from his dad. And we can apply these lessons as we raise the next generation of world-changing entrepreneurs.