What I Learned From Watching My Teenage Son Start and Grow His Side Hustle
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Over the years, after starting and consistently growing my own business, I have come to find inspiration for my entrepreneurial journey in different places: in a book, in an article or from watching the adventures of other successful entrepreneurs. The last place I expected to get inspiration from was my kitchen table.
My son, Will, turned 16 years old this year. Will has been home-schooled for the past few years, and one year ago he decided he wanted to learn all about starting an online business. He had been watching me design my career to match my lifestyle and, at the same time, get the chance to live on my terms, and he thought that was fun.
So, I started teaching him everything I knew. He was an amazing student and we had so much fun together. Then when the time came for him to apply all the things he had learned, he carefully started to implement all my advice, from choosing his business idea to getting the first leads.
In May 2018, he sent out his first cold email. By mid-July, he had already earned five figures from his LinkedIn lead generation services for coaches and small-business owners.
These are the top five takeaways I learned from watching my teenage son's entrepreneurial journey, and by implementing these lessons I ended up reinventing my own business as well:
1. Start before you are ready and learn as you go.
When kids want to do something they don't wait until they feel they have everything under control. They just go for it. And even if they don't get it right the first time, as long as they think the new activity is fun, they won't stop for anything in the world. Kids don't get trapped in the "analysis paralysis." Good for them; I say, "being ready" is a myth.
When Will told me he actually thought he knew enough to start his side business, I almost told him to give it some more time. I was convinced he was not ready because I knew it had taken me much more time to come to the point of starting my own business. But, I didn't want him to get disappointed, thus I let him do it and learn from his mistakes. And so he did.
Some things he did right, other things he had to repeat several times. But, not once did he complain or contemplate the possibility of stopping. He was having too much fun.
2. It's OK to ask a lot of questions.
If I distinctly remember one thing from the time I was teaching Will all about starting an online business, it must be the substantial number of questions he always had. He was eager to learn everything.
Asking questions is one of the most important things that all entrepreneurs should do continuously. Only by being truly curious about what's happening in our market, what the needs, hopes and dreams of our clients are and how we can improve our products and services, can we thrive.
One of the most dangerous places for entrepreneurs is when they think they know it all. So, never stop asking questions.
3. There is an entire world out there waiting to be explored.
I had the privilege of watching Will explore diverse business ideas and different audiences with the same enthusiasm. For him, this whole new world opened up and he was ready to delve into it. He dived in without questioning himself and his abilities; he was just happy and excited to do it.
The ability to enjoy new possibilities is something that we seem to lose when growing up. As kids, we are not afraid, but always excited to explore every new activity. As adults, we seem to be more and more fearful of failure and what people might say about our lives and actions. This constraint limits our creativity and can often result in never starting a business at all.
4. Don't stop playing and having fun.
My son treated his business as a fun game to play. He had the time of his life and he would do it all over again even if he would not get one cent out of it. Not surprisingly, the more fun he had, the harder he worked, and the better his results were. So, I made a mental note to myself to never lose the fun factor in my business, even in the days when I feel overwhelmed by paperwork.
5. Dream big and keep your dream alive.
When I asked Will to set up a business objective he wanted to reach in his first month of business activity, he said he wanted to make £10,000 in sales. For him, that was a lot of money, so I was quite surprised to hear him say that. I might have even suggested picking a more reasonable objective.
Will chose to dream big and that was not scary to him, simply exciting. He also kept his vision alive in a very natural way. To my surprise, it was not about all the things he could buy with his first £10,000, but instead, he would talk about how he would feel when he reached that point. Words like "being on the top of the world" would come up repeatedly in our conversations.
I don't know if and how long my son's entrepreneurial journey will last. Maybe one day he will wake up and decide to do something else and that will be fine, too. For the time being, I am happy he enjoys every moment of it and I try to pay attention and learn as much as I can from watching him chase his dreams.
You don't have to be a parent or have a "kidpreneur" at home to learn these valuable lessons. You can always think about how you approached all aspects of life differently when you were a kid and this can make a huge difference to your entrepreneurial mindset.