Youth is wasted on the wrong people.
This has been my cranky opinion for some time now, as I have been witness to a great many apathetic and unambitious young adults who carry on their sleeves a sense of entitlement that, in my youth, would have been squashed instantly by my mother with a single, sarcastic clearing of her throat.
Fortunately, my attitude got a significant recharge recently, all thanks to an inspiring group of youth entrepreneurs.
Last week, my co-founder at Wild Creations and I were honored to be asked to speak at a conference and mentor a small group of remarkable young entrepreneurs from Independent Youth. The weekend long retreat brought together several talented boys and girls ranging in age from 11 to 16. All had already started at least one business, and most were well into advanced growth stages.
What this young group of entrepreneurs lacked in age, they more than made up for in unbridled ambition.
Probably most striking about my time with these kids was what I learned from them. It was not that they offered profound business insight or taught me new business skills (although I was introduced to Snapchat and schooled in an intense game of Guesstures). Instead, they lifted me out of my callused shell by offering me their own unique and refreshing dose of inspiration.
They reminded me of what it was like to be a young and ambitious entrepreneur.
So, if you are an entrepreneur who is a little low on motivation, here are four reasons you should consider taking on a youth mentee.
1. Wildly creative. Kids think up the strangest things, especially when it comes to business ideas. Over the weekend, I was pleasantly shocked by the ideas pitched. I suppose I went in with low expectations, expecting to dole out encouragement for a lemonade stand or a T-shirt company, but the broad spectrum of ideas, which included business consulting to unique pet products to non-profit schools, were impressive. If nothing else, having young entrepreneurs with whom to bounce ideas around would be a huge benefit to you.
Related: 7 Tips to Guide Young Entrepreneurs
2. Contagiously enthusiastic. The one thing that is certain is that these kids have energy, which clearly pulsed throughout the entire weekend. Their excitement and passion for their businesses was invigorating, and if you can handle this energy level, having their enthusiasm around will undoubtedly rub off on you.
3. Crazily optimistic. Although these kids were not old enough to remember the start of the Great Recession, they understand it. Regardless, they were crazy optimistic about the future. It is exactly the kind of drive and optimism that is often curtailed by the business failures of experienced entrepreneurs. Engaging in the exuberance of young entrepreneurs will remind you of a time when you ambitiously looked beyond roadblocks, paradigms and potential failures.
4. Youthfully elastic. Mentoring a young entrepreneur is like mentoring a younger you. More important than foretelling risks and mistakes, however, all of which should be experienced firsthand, you should instill in them the idea that failure is an option and, in fact, inevitable. This is more difficult for older entrepreneurs to accept, but kids have a youthful and carefree elasticity that makes it easier for them to try. They just need the push. Having this conversation with them will remind you that it is never too late to start.
Entrepreneurship was not a big focus when Generation X went to school. The upcoming generation, however, is being taught about entrepreneurship at a very young age, and it will be the means by which they make their impact and forge a better life than the generation before them. They need guidance, however, and becoming a mentor and leveraging your entrepreneurial experience will help refine what is sure to be an incredibly talented group of future business leaders.
And be assured, you will find that the benefit of becoming a mentor goes as much in your direction as it does in theirs.
Do you have an experience mentoring youth entrepreneurs? Please share with others below.