Being an entrepreneur takes guts, another level of courage, and a total different mindset.
The earlier you learn, the better — as cited in Developmental Psychology.
During the first 5 years of life, the brain develops more rapidly than during any other subsequent period. It is the time in which the brain begins to maximize efficiency by determining which connections to keep and which to eliminate.
I had the priviledge of growing up with parents who placed a lot of importance and pride on the intelligence levels of their children. Luckily I grew up loving learning (aka I was a nerd). I made sure I studied before class so I could answer the teachers’ questions when they asked and that I was always a step ahead of the other students. I was always encouraged to learn and to study. I never got turned down for any course or anything I wanted to take — be it piano, guitar, extra math courses that teach those math hacks and data visualisation, drawing, paining, languages, writing, speaking, computer, design, etc. My mom believed that even though these skills might not get used in life later on, learning them will help developing both left and right brains to be able to process more complex tasks, skills, and puzzles more effectively.
On the other side, I have my dad who is a real entrepreneur. Growing up with him, I have adopted his mindset and approach to life. He is a big influence in my life and a huge part of who I am. He helped shape my vision and how I look at the world and things around me. At the time, I did not get everything he said. But I’ve grown up, and now I do understand all the wisdom he shared.
I’d like to share what I learned, how it shaped my entrepreneurial mindset, and how you can fuel the entrepreneurial mindset in your child.
1. Encourage the “Why”
My dad never answered my questions directly. Rather, he encouraged me to think further, to ask the question “why” to myself, to never stop thinking and trying to find the answer to a puzzle.
Back in 1994, “Googling” was not such a normal thing. Cell phone didn’t yet exist. It took us a good ten-minute to dial up the Internet connection. We still used one of those Motorola pagers back then.
So googling any questions I had was out of the way. My dad is a creative physics entrepreneur. He always came home with a new toy, a new gadget, a new “thing” I didn’t know what it was, what it was for, and how to use it. But he never taught me how to use them. He never told me what they were! How was I supposed know how to use the tool? He encouraged me to use my brain to figure it out. If I gave up because I couldn’t be bothered, he’d start pulling out an incentive — if you could figure it out I’ll give you $10. So I kept on thinking … possibility A, B, C.
After a while, I got used to thinking on my feet and just automatically got into the thinking mode and start figuring things out. There’s no Google back then remember? I just had to think until my mental energy was totally used up. Then he’d start giving me hints.
Benefit: Teach your kid to get into the habit of thinking on their own feet.
2. Play quizzes and puzzles
Besides playing sports and running around, one of the things my dad liked to do was coming up with some brainy puzzles and strategic games. At first, you’d feel like you couldn’t be bothered trying to solve the puzzle, but after a while you started to love to challenge. And you’d like them to become more and more challenging.
Benefit: Teach your kid to love figuring out challenges and solving problems
3. Let them earn the money
Besides the little pocket money I got, I was always encouraged to find ways to earn money. Starting from earning money from giving dad a massage or doing extra work he asked for. When I was in year 1, I repackaged a big bag of some rare candy you could only get from my grandmother’s hometown into smaller packages and sold them to my school friends for $2 a bag because I got sick of people asking me for free candy all the time. As I got a little older, I started doing a side project translating games from English to Thai for a translation company, sold postcards made of my drawing and painting at school art fairs, and participated in competitions after competitions and won prize money. My parents always encouraged me to be entrepreneurial and to find ways to earn extra on my own without their help.
Benefit: Teach your kid to earn money off their passion
4. Ask them to come up with a business idea and pitch to you
My dad always asked me to come up with a new business idea, write a business plan, and pitch it to him. I was asked that questions over and over since I was 10.
“Think about the problem people face in their daily lives with no exisitng solutions. And come up with an idea of how we can solve the problem.”
That was really hard to think about as a kid especially idenitfying problems, let alone coming up with innovative ideas to solve them.
Benefit: If you start thinking about business ideas and problems people face since you’re 10, how many amazing, innovative ideas would you have by the time you’re 20?
5. Inspire them to be their own boss and work for themselves
Growing up with dad, I didn’t see it as a big deal owning your own business and being your own boss. But now that I am facing it myself, I realise it’s no easy game. It takes a lot of mental strength, courage, and perseverance to be an entrepreneur. Let alone scaling your businesses to go beyond a 1-5 man business to a 20-50 man business, and to multiple offices in several cities around the world.
Benefit: Plant that mindset in them. It’s normal to not wanting to do a 9-5 job or working for someone else. Sometimes society tells you otherwise.
6. Teach them the importance of communication, marketing, and sales
My dad, although is more of a manager than a marketer, has always placed importance on marketing. He’s always said to me that no matter how good your product or your business is, if you don’t know how to market, you just can’t sell, the business can’t scale. Luckily marketing has become my forte. It is second to nature to me. I was a born marketer and I know it I cannot do anything else but to be a marketing expert.
Communication is crucial and even just communicating with dad in a father-daughter context, he always points out how I should communicate — be it in person, over the phone, in email, or SMS. Headline + Body + Summary. Make it clear, sharp, and to the point. Make sure the structure flow. Use bullet points. Use big fonts and highlights on important bits.
I’ve also learned the art of negotiating from him — justifying the cost with benefits gained. When I wanted to ask for money for something, I knew I had to come up with reasons that are good enough to justify the cost aka the benefits I’ll gain from the product or ROI.
Benefit: They will start thinking about how they would market their product and their target market as soon as they have a new business idea. The sooner you can put this into your mindset, the more natural it becomes.
7. Show them the art of managing, outsourcing, and time-management
I wanted to study a lot of things. My mom always encouraged me to study a lot of things. My dad, on the other hand, values the art of managing — “Don’t spend all your time doing everything because you can’t be good at everything. Instead, hire people who’re amazing at what they do and have them working for you.”
My dad always encouraged me to hire people instead of learning the skills on my own. He is also a big fan of outsouring. My mom didn’t want to get a cleaner as to save money. My dad, on the contrary, is a shrewd calculator of time versus money. He believes that the headache and energy you save from doing all the house work helps you earn more money (to pay for cleaner(s) and possibly a driver). He’d rather hire a driver to drive him around so he could do work while being stuck in traffic.
Benefit: They will not adopt the typical mindset of hours versus time, but rather think about value, cost versus revenue, and the art of the 4-hour work week.
8. Show them the value of teamwork
One thing my dad always said was,
“No matter how smart you are, a bird cannot fly without wings.”
What he meant was I needed a great team to help me achieve my goals. I can’t achieve goals on my own. People are the most valuable asset of a company. Although people are the biggest source of headache that comes with running your own business. Hire right. Treat people right. Show your passion. Live your values.
Benefit: Embrace and develop a great people skill and the art of influence at a very young age
Although I am still at the beginning of my journey, the things I learned as a child that I might have forgotten are all coming back to me and are reclaiming their places in my life.
Looking back to how far I’ve come and what I’ve achieved, it’s the little steps in life that keep progressing that count. It’s the courage to keep moving forward, going against fears, and getting out of the comfort zone. It’s the self-reflection I make to turn life experiences into wisdom. It’s the new people I meet and continue to meet in order to broaden my horizon. It’s the new skills and new ways of thinking I learn. It’s the relentless drive and zest for life and constant self-improvement.
Cheers to all the entrepreneurs out there.
Cheers to all the kids with inspirational, open-minded parents.