When my first startup went out of business, I was both emotionally and physically distraught. Burned out and unmotivated, I decided that I wanted to devote a few weeks to visit family before taking my next plunge into entrepreneurship.
During my time off, I was frequently in charge of looking after my 5-year-old cousin. Given that it was the first time I'd spent a significant amount of time with a child, I couldn’t help but wish that I could act like a 5-year-old myself in certain situations when running my business.
While running your startup like a kid 24/7 is not the best strategy to take, there are some moments where acting like a child is actually a smart thing to do. Here are three lessons I learned from my 5-year-old cousin about running my business:
1. Learn To push past "no."
Children are the best salespeople in the world. Unlike adults, they have no fear of rejection. Tell a toddler "no" to ice cream, and the kid will come back to you with ten more requests until you finally give in.
Imagine if more of us could adopt this mentality when going after our first customers, pitching for investment, or recruiting top talent. The best salespeople I’ve seen are the ones who don’t take no for an answer. They may adjust their strategy, or get creative with their product offering, but they don’t move away from their final target.
It’s as if they still have the same stubborn mentality that children do. The surprising thing is that even as an adult, this works. Most people won’t keep pushing for the big sale. They'll give up on starting a business because they can’t get capital, and will settle for subpar talent. But the best of the best, the Jobs, Zuckerbergs, and Musks of the world, still keep that kid-like resiliency, and that’s why they’re the ones who change the world.
2. Move past failure.
One of the things my cousin taught me that helped me overcome my first startup failure was his ability to get over problems so fast. One minute, he was crying about his toy car breaking, and the next minute we were playing soccer and he was smiling cheek to cheek.
For many business owners, the thought of failure is a nightmare. Facing friends, family, and peers, and telling them you failed is unacceptable. In reality, though, failure is just a part of the journey. No one displays this more than children. Since everything is new to them, they mess up all the time. And while they might cry for a little bit, in a few minutes they're up and ready to try again.
If we, as entrepreneurs, could stop worrying about falling on our faces once in a while, how much more would we accomplish? Would we take more risks? Handle adversity better? Have happier careers?
For me, the answer is an absolute yes. Nowadays, I care less about failing and more about taking smarter risks. I realize that going out of business sucks, but it’s not the end of the world. I just brush the dirt off and get up again. If a kid can do it, so can I.
3. Network like a pro.
When I took my cousin to the playground, I saw some of the best networking of my life. Little kids were playing basketball, swinging or flying on the monkey bars, and he jumped in as though he'd known them for years. Instantly, he was striking up conversations and playing games for hours. By the time he left, his mom had exchanged contact information with ten other parents. Not bad, little cuz.
Have you ever been to a conference and seen somebody who looks like he or she knows every person there? Without any effort, such people strike up conversations, and by the time they leave it looks as though they've gotten every single person’s business card at the event. These people don’t believe in "strangers." To them, everyone is a friend and a potential connection. As we get older, we begin to overthink the networking process. We worry about how people will view us, imagine the worst and as a result hold ourselves back.
Children don’t think as much, and as a result they are the best networkers out there. The message: Find one to mentor or, even better, let him/her mentor you.