Wouldn't you love to have a chance to have a conversation with the mothers of some noteworthy entrepreneurs, like the founder of TOMS Shoes, the CEO of YouTube, the founder of WordPress, and the founder of Under Armour, about how they raised their children to think outside the box? A newly released book, Raising an Entrepreneur: 10 Rules for Nurturing Risk Takers, Problem Solvers and Change Makers by Margot Machol Bisnow (New Harbinger, 2016) gives us that opportunity.
I heard Bisnow interviewed recently, and she's a powerhouse herself, having raised two rather amazing, entrepreneurial sons while she worked as a Federal Trade Commissioner and Chief of Staff of the President's Council of Economic Advisers. As our economy continues changing, Bisnow has some terrific ideas about ways to parent our children that help them focus on what they are passionate about, developing an expertise in that area, and setting out to solve a problem or provide a better service than currently exists.
Bisnow notes that most of our daughters will work either full or part-time, and so helping prepare them to think about their own business helps them to create the flexibility they will want and need as they combine work and parenthood. In her interview, Bisnow reflects on her journey as a working mom that there are three choices related to parenting for women: work full-time, work part-time or be a stay at home parent. There is guilt, she reflects, with each choice.
Making lots of money probably isn't the best route to satisfaction in one's life. It wasn't the primary intention of the successful men and women that she interviewed. Most of them followed something that they were passionate about that felt like a cause, or like play. Their mothers also encouraged their exploration and interest.
What were some of the other commonalities in the parenting of these individuals?
Children need support from parents to explore, and follow their passion.
Parents believed in their children, and expressed it.
Children were supported in learning to win, but also to lose. It can be sports, or something else, but children need to learn that disappointment does not mean defeat.
Don't make the focus getting straight A's. Schools don't always encourage future entrepreneurs.
Mentors are helpful to young people who think outside the box. They can inspire and encourage bold and courageous choices, even if it's a non-traditional path to success.
Instill confidence in your child or teen. Point out what they do well with. Trust them. Encourage your child's curiosity and sense of adventure.
Develop your child's growing sense of independence, giving them more operating room as they develop and you can reward good choices. Let them fly more each year if you can.
Help your child embrace adversity as a teacher. Don't let them get stuck in victim-hood. None of the successful entrepreneurs in the book came from from advantaged families, and many overcame significant obstacles, including financial stress, the early loss of a parent, the divorce of parents, bullying and more. Parents encouraged them to define themselves by their circumstances growing up. I'm guessing that the mothers tried to role model that resiliency as well.
Help your child to become compassionate to others. The founder of TOMS, Blake Mycoskie, has a great story in this book about how he learned compassion from his family adopting needy families at Christmas, and his family's outreach projects through church while he was growing up.
Be a close family. Express love. You may not have dinner together every night, but create traditions of your own. Create a culture of your own. Several families in the book were all about reading, service to others or building entrepreneurial spirit, even in the kids.
This book is an excellent, practical read from someone who understands parenting and encouraging entrepreneurship. I especially loved that her grown sons wrote the forward to the book. Helping our children to identify and use their unique gifts to connect to the bigger picture and make the world a better place is a noble cause and well worth the ideas about how to incorporate this bigger picture into your parenting.