3 Key Lessons for My Kids About Becoming Entrepreneurs

Because when the time comes for them to enter the working world, I want them to be damn good leaders.

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By David Mandell

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

I come from a family of entrepreneurs -- my mother, father and stepfather all ran and managed their own businesses. Watching them work when I was young taught me fundamental skills that enabled me to bring success to the companies I worked for in the corporate world and ultimately pushed me start my first business 15 years ago.

Now that I have kids of my own, I want to empower them with skills that will help them to think like an entrepreneur. I want them to be confident thinking for themselves, and I want them to be problem solvers in every situation. Because when the time comes for them to enter the working world, I want them to be damn good leaders.

So this is what I tell them.

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1. Embrace the pain

One of the best ways to think like an entrepreneur is to think about pain. Every day, we're faced with things that are difficult and that cause frustration. Public transportation is never a walk in the park. Keeping track of all of your company documents is a total drag. It's impossible for a startup to find office space in the Bay Area.

But instead of saying, "That's life!" or apologizing for the pain point, I ask my kids: How would you make it better? Do you think there are other people who feel the same way? Are there enough people who would pay to make it better?

Getting your kids to think critically about and then solve problems is a crucial step in learning how to think like an entrepreneur.

2. Ask for help and reciprocate

Nobody can go it alone -- it's too damn hard. We tell kids that there are no dumb questions, but as adults we're too scared to ask for help. This has to stop.

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I tell my kids to ask for help, and then I tell them that the first step in asking for help is offering to help someone else. The more often you help others, the more help you get in return. It just works that way.

The more open and supportive you are as an entrepreneur, the more successful your entire community will be.

3. Don't be afraid of uncertainty

I'm on my fourth startup. Though I've had a couple of successes, I've also crashed and burned. Sometimes you have a good idea, but the timing is off. Sometimes the timing is perfect, but you fail anyway.

Sometimes you decide to work for a big company instead of starting your own because it's the more "certain" thing to do. But then the business does a round of layoffs, and you're out of a job.

I let my kids know that uncertainty is everywhere, but failure is only failure if you stop trying. Keep going.

These tips are not just for kids -- I share them with the startup CEOs I mentor at Techstars and remind myself of them constantly.

Being an entrepreneur isn't glamorous -- we can't all be WhatsApp. But every day is a new challenge, and you get to do what you believe is right, as opposed to trying to fit within somebody else's structure.

By instilling these values in our children today, we cultivate progress and drive success within the generation that will soon be society's leaders. By teaching our children to be leaders, we're educating a community of entrepreneurs for tomorrow.

Related: Institute 'Spring Training' for Your Business

David Mandell

Co-founder and CEO of PivotDesk

David Mandell is the co-founder and CEO of PivotDesk, a TechStars Boulder 2012 company that helps find room for growing businesses.

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