Raising Kids — the Empathetic Basics – Introduction

Father and Son, Misool, West Papua

My wife, a trauma psychologist, and I are collaborating on a new project — a set of short pieces on raising children, that she can translate into Mandarin for both the Taiwanese and Chinese markets. The hook is around raising a child to be an entrepreneur. My own son is one — he’s 21, and didn’t want to go to college. So, after a short stint working for in programming a UAV autopilot, and a brief attendance at L’Ecole 42, he and a buddy punched out and founded what is now Unstoppabledomains.com. They relatively recently closed their Series A round, so they’re on their way.

His brother, two years younger, is a little more typical, but even he has no problem standing up a small business. I never taught them any of the business stuff — so trust me when I tell you it’s not that.

Will they be successful? They’re doing great! Statistics say 25% of all companies making it this far survive, so we’re still pretty far from a successful exit. But he’s on the journey, and there are numerous things he and his brother did learn along the way that I’ll write about.

So, without further ado, here we go! This is the introduction of a multi-part series.

Raising the Entrepreneurial Child

With the rapidly changing global economy, there are lots of conversations going on now on how to raise one’s child to succeed in the new, entrepreneurial economy.  I am lucky enough to have a unique vantage point on how to do this.  I have run a large entrepreneurial engineering clinic at the university level for over 25 years, as well as raising both of my own sons to be entrepreneurs.  

Whether they are “successful” entrepreneurs, I leave you to judge.  They are a bit young for final analysis – one is 21 and the CTO of a cryptocurrency/blockchain start-up, and recently closed his Series A round. He now supervises about 11 programmers both locally and remotely.  My second son is a bit more traditional – doing well in college, but also has run a series of smaller (much smaller!) ventures, including a car detailing business, as well as a boutique tennis shoe resale operation. 

The three principles I will start our discussion with are not just the key to raising an entrepreneurial child.  They are also key to raising a child that will love you, and care for you in your old age.  But raising such a child will also require you to do work on yourself, as your behavior must serve as the gold standard example that the child will emulate.  If you expect to raise a child that is much better a person than you, without doing the work on yourself, it may happen.  But the odds are much lower.

The three principles that we will elaborate on in this class is teaching your child the following:

  1. Pay attention.
  2. You are responsible for yourself.
  3. You are responsible for others.

The idea behind these three basic principles is that you will raise your child first to be aware of his/her surroundings, so they are equipped with awareness.  Secondly, you will teach the child to process external events within the context of taking care of themselves, and their own safety. Finally, you will expand the child’s ability to see others and seek to understand THEIR needs outside of their own interests.

How does this fit into the idea of raising the entrepreneurial child?

  1.  The child that is aware of their surroundings, will grow into an adult who is also aware of their responsibilities and their environment, and will see and seek opportunities for starting a business.
  2. The child that can take care of themselves knows how little they actually need for their well-being, so when they go through the difficult part of launching a business, they know they can survive the tough times, because they have persevered through similar experiences in their childhood.  They also know how to self-regulate so they can run the long race necessary to launch a business.
  3. The child that can take care of others will, of course, be a loving and caring child to their family.  But by mastering this skill, they will also develop empathy to read customers, and maintain a customer base – a vital skill for any entrepreneur.  Far too often, young entrepreneurs fall in love with their ideas, instead of thinking how to adapt their ideas to a business model.  A child that learns to take care of others does not sit passively by and waits to be told what to do.  A child that can take care of others reads others’ needs, and adapts their business model to the current situation. Plus, a child that has been paying attention AND taught to take care of others will look outward into the world for opportunities that will generate a successful company.  You must have both characteristics to succeed.

These are the three principles.  As you can see, they are not just principles to make money.  When properly exercised, they will make the child a successful business person.  But they will also make them a successful husband, or wife, and bring blessings into the family far beyond money.

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