As adults we have come to adopt a set of norms by which we live. We accept the rules of social interactions and likewise, accept certain actions as “no-nos,” things we learned throughout our childhood. What we don’t realize is that we accept these blindly. We’ve grown so accustomed to these imposed limitations that we no longer challenge the rules or push the boundaries like we did as children. By the same token, also fail to accept our flaws like we did as children. The unfortunate truth is that in our quest for success in adulthood we’ve forgotten the most valuable lessons from childhood.
1. Be Indomitable.
Translation: Dream big.
Having worked with many children, I can verify that their aspirations are limitless. They have their dreams and they are determined to meet them. If you ask a kid what they want to be when they grow up, and they reply “a fire truck,” there is no amount of explaining that can convince them that a fire truck simply isn’t an option. Go ahead and try—I dare you.
That’s not to say that we should all aspire to the impossible, but that we should harness the drive we had as kids, to reach the impossible. Telling a kid “no, you can’t be that when you grow up” doesn’t work, so why should a closed door to an opportunity limit your success? Which leads us to:
2. Be Innovative.
Translation: Use whatever you have on hand.
“Wait, I can fix that!” is probably my 7-year-old nephew’s favorite phrase. Whenever someone says, “that doesn’t work” he has concocted a solution—generally McGyver style and involving a lot of tape. But I have to hand it to him, he’s made it in minutes, didn’t have to go to the store or even learn rocket science to make it. And it usually works to some extent.
The point being, as adults we become so used to taking things at face value that we fail to see what else it can offer. We have the fancy buzzword “innovation” for what children do
every day: taking something they already know and using it for a different purpose to fit a new need.
3. Be Humble.
Translation: Learn to apologize and admit your faults.
Kids make millions of mistakes a day, from misspeaking, committing social faux pas, to kicking someone when they’re mad. But what they do next is the important part. They admit that they’re wrong, and try not to do it again. Of course this usually has a precursor of “I didn’t do its” and “it was (insert name here)’s fault,” but eventually they come around and admit fault and apologize. Then their friend says “it’s okay” and they go play. Sometimes, if it was really bad, they write a note. Likewise, if they don’t know something, they don’t pretend to. They say, I don’t know. They’re not ashamed. They simply acknowledge their faults.
Nothing up there is something adults can’t do. You messed up? Apologize. You didn’t know an answer in your meeting? Admit it. Then, go on to:
4. Be Forgiving—of yourself and others.
Translation: Drop it. It’s not that important.
The most amazing part about when kids are wrong or are wronged, is that thirty seconds later they’ve forgotten the entire incident and have moved on. They’re back to playing with their friend who pushed them in the sand box like nothing happened. Because they didn’t think it was a big enough deal. And it wasn’t.
Remember that answer you didn’t know in that meeting? Well forget about it. Everyone else has by now. You can dwell on it and get nothing else done, or you can find out the answer, drop it, and have a productive rest of your day. Dwelling on the small stuff keeps you away from how you really need to be spending your time. Which brings us to:
5. Be Forward Thinking.
Translation: Remember the big picture and just make a decision.
Let’s talk about sand castles. Think about a kid, or maybe you as a kid, making a sand castle. You come up and ask if they want help. They will likely say yes (another tip we can learn from kids – take help when someone offers) and happily hand you a shovel or plastic mold. Then you say, “How about I put it here?” To which you receive an emphatic reply of either “yes” or a startling “NO!!”, but not anything in between. That’s because kids know what they want. They have the final sand castle in their head. And they don’t get caught up on whether that castle should go right there, or 2.73 centimeters to the left.
Your business has a goal in mind. There are lots of decisions to make, some big some small. But you have to decide something on each of them. Know what your plan is and know what needs an emphatic yes or resounding no. Getting caught up in the minutia of day-to-day decision-making causes you to lose sight of the big picture, and if you don’t have the final sand castle in mind, how can you possibly make it?
These simple ideas—that are nothing new to us as adults—will lead to a more successful business and business environment. Next time you’re around kids see what else you can learn from them.