This post was originally featured on HuffingtonPost.com
Most kids want to be a variety of things when they grew up. Think about it: for boys (and some girls), there’s the superhero phase, the astronaut phase and, of course, the cowboy phase.
But, as the Ed and Patsy Bruce song says: “Momma, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys.” To which I agree, with the addendum, why not let them grow up to be entrepreneurs instead?
Cowboy dreams fizzle quickly, and when adult kids take on new quests, it can be difficult for parents to be a source of inspiration. We’re all more insecure at 22 than at 12 when everything still seems possible. But 22 is the time to be brave. It’s the time, if the situation calls, to follow entrepreneurial instincts instead of burying them.
Your child is a responsible adult now, so there’s no sugarcoating the tough road ahead. But that doesn’t mean you can’t guide them and foster a spirit of entrepreneurship in this critical stage of life.
As an entrepreneur myself, I know that creativity is a big part of building a thriving business. I’m proud to say my son has become a real estate entrepreneur in his own right, much like I did as a young woman in the 80s. For those with adult children still looking for direction, here’s how to encourage their entrepreneurial pursuits with both realism and support.
Tell them you’ll love them, even if they fail.
The proverb, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again” was popularized in the mid-1800s by W.E. Hickson, but its truth has been proven over and over again by countless entrepreneurs.
According to this fun infographic from Entrepreneur James Dyson created 5126 prototypes of his vacuum cleaner before he had a model that really did the job. He is now worth $4.2 billion.
The same applies to your children as they grow into young adults. Taking risks means failing sometimes, but without failure (or the possibility of it), the reward won’t be nearly as satisfying. According to Bloomberg, a shocking 8 in 10 entrepreneurs who start businesses fail within their first 18 months. If your graduate wants to start their own business, they should know the odds are against them, and be prepared to go the extra mile to beat them.
It’s your job to let them know that their failure will not disappoint you, though you do expect them to handle the consequences like an adult.
Encourage visionary thinking.
Visionary thinkers innovate, but it’s hard to visualize when a bulk of your time is spent playing video games, drinking, or sleeping. Post-college, it’s natural for young adults to get lethargic. They did work hard in school for 16+ years, after all.
You can’t force your child to be productive and try new things when they are adult — so don’t try to. Having deep conversations with them, often, but not too often, can encourage them to get out there and experience things before launching a business endeavor. Pique their curiosity about the world, different cultures, age groups, talents, and possibilities. With luck, they will take this into consideration when starting a business, and embrace the multifaceted perspective needed to be truly visionary.
Don’t shoot down “out of the box” ideas.
There is rarely only one, right, way to solve a problem and there is no such thing as a problem-free life. Certainly not in the real world of either having a job or building a business.
A lot has been said about the need for critical thinking in the workplace. But, as pointed out in this article from U.S. News and World Report, critical thinking “is only one component of this higher order skill: the creation of new solutions. It is far easier to be the art critic than the artist.”
New solutions require the ability to think about a problem differently, approach it from a new angle. For some problems, ignoring the box entirely is required! Help your child be the artist, not the art critic, by stepping out of their comfort zone in their approach to new endeavors and ideas. Parents and older generations are notorious for shutting down impractical or untraditional ideas; we should resist this urge if we want the next generation of leaders to create lasting impact.
This isn’t the same as allowing (or worse, enabling) a permanent “starving artist” lifestyle… Which leads us to:
Emphasize the importance of financial responsibility.
Forbes has an excellent article about which lessons to teach at what age. But, the basic notion that money is to earned, saved and spent, invested or donated can permeate almost any conversation.
This is a lesson, I’ll admit, that best starts at a young age. Your child still wants to be a cowboy? Okay, how much does it cost to own a horse? ($2,500 annually, on average, according to the American Quarter Horse Association.) How can that money be earned? How long will it take to save up to buy the horse and stable it for a year?
But the reality is that many young people graduate college without a sense of financial literacy; in fact, financial literacy in America is low across the board. When education ends, financial responsibility begins, so it’s imperative that this knowledge is imparted as soon as possible. Starting a company, or building a prototype, takes money as well as time, energy and the desire to do it in the first place! Have this conversation about money early on so they’ll know what it can do when handled properly.
Ultimately, young adults need to know they can follow their passions and still be smart about it.
Forbes magazine cites a Deloitte University Press study that found “up to 87.7 percent of America’s workforce is not able to contribute to their full potential because they don’t have passion for their work.”
Parents often instinctively urge their adult children to play it safe, ignoring their passions in favor of realistic goals, an understandable (if flawed) attitude to have in times of uncertainty. But know that entrepreneurial success is not impossible, so don’t shoot down the notion: build it up by asking the right questions. For a chance at success, they will need to have a plan — and a plan B. What sort of education is needed? What resources are available? Who can help, either through mentoring or emotional support?
As a daughter of Jewish immigrants, I wasn’t afforded the most substantial resources as a young adult, but I’m happy that my hard work has allowed me to be a support system and role model especially as my son entered the workforce. Allowing your children the professional and parental guidance they seek is incredibly rewarding, so long as they can stand on their own two feet at the end of the day.