Try to remember back to when you were a kid. What were you like? What games did you play? What made you happy?
If you've ever been on the other end of one of my Skype calls I've probably asked you these very questions. That’s because my coaching clients are looking to get in touch with their true identities so they can match who they are with how they live.
And I think that pretending to be a kid again is a pretty fun way to start tapping into who we really are—as raw and uncensored as only childhood will allow. My clients and I have all had a lot of fun with this little experiment, and it actually proved to be way more powerful than I had anticipated.
Not only are these childhood insights useful on a personal level, but I’ve also noticed similarities between my girlhood games of make-believe and my adult experiences with entrepreneurship.
Grownups tend to think more rationally and conservatively than kids. I used to have big crazy dreams, but now that I’m an adult I find that even my wildest dreams have more than a hint of realism in them. The thing is, none of these practical grownup ideals are much use in the world of small (or big) business owners.
I’ve put the acting-more-like-a-kid theory to the test in my own business, and I’m digging the results. For instance, I’ve tried to stop making my writing sound super polished and professional. Instead, I write like I talk—the way a kid would. Can you tell?
It feels more natural, it’s a lot more fun, and everyone seems to respond better to authenticity.
Building your own business takes focus, conviction, imagination, and unyielding determination. I think our childhood selves can teach us how to embrace these things. Here are three ways in which entrepreneurs should act more like kids.
1. Be Selfish
Kids are notoriously self-centred. They know exactly what they want, and are highly resistant to doing anything they don't want to do. They shout and stomp their feet when they don’t get their way. They take the last cookie without considering whether their sister may have wanted it. And they simply fall asleep whenever (and wherever) they feel tired.
But in the adult world this behaviour is seldom tolerated. It’s inconsiderate and immature. But sometimes it’s still necessary to consider yourself first. While throwing yourself on the floor in a display of utter frustration may no longer be appropriate, a little bit of selfishness could serve you well—especially in business.
As all entrepreneurs know, building your own business takes long hours and literal blood, sweat, and tears. Which means your heart has to be in it—you must be doing what you love. You have no time to waste on things that aren’t important to you.
And since you're working so hard, you're going to have to take really good care of yourself. Know when to take breaks and nurture yourself—make time for milk and cookies and colouring books.
2. Be Imaginative
Do you remember when the cardboard box your family’s refrigerator came in could be instantly transformed into a house, or a phone booth, or a rocket ship with nothing more than a pair of scissors and some felt pens? Just me?
Kids have boundless imaginations. They’re naturally creative and industrious. One kid’s fleeting idea about making pirate hats out of newspaper can quite quickly and easily turn into a summer-long adventure for the whole neighbourhood.
Building a business is like making pirate hats. You have to use your imagination to dream up something that makes you so excited that you can’t wait to tell people about it. You have to think big—unrealistically big!
Great ideas do not come from thinking small or playing safe. So it might be time to let your particular brand of crazy loose on the world.
3. Believe with all Your Heart
Kids have seemingly unshakable faith. Even the most unbelievable feats of magic are considered to be reasonable possibilities in the eyes of a child. Once they’ve decided something is true…it is.
Santa Claus. Need I say more?
Entrepreneurship sounds like Santa Claus to a lot of grownups. When we announce that we are starting our own business, I am pretty sure most adults hear something more along the lines of I’m moving to the North Pole to make children’s toys (with the help of magical elves, of course) which I will then—singlehandedly—deliver to every little boy and girl in the world. And I’m going to make this an annual thing.
It’s easy to get swept up in fear and doubt and the statistical probabilities of your business never even getting off the ground. But the rest of the adult world is already doing that for you. Which means your job is to believe with all your heart that your business will be a success.
Just the way Tinkerbell will only survive if you clap your hands and vehemently profess that you do believe in fairies, your business will only flourish when you believe in yourself and all you've set out to accomplish.
So go forth and build your big crazy dreams! Be the kind of entrepreneur you would have wished to be when your were eight years old.
with truth and elegance,
Vanessa has been an unofficial coach her entire life. Friends and family have always sought out her practical advice and her listening ear. So she made it her life’s work. After receiving her bachelors degree in psychology, she became a professional certified coach through Erickson College. She also received intensive business training in Marie Forleo’s B-School. She runs her own coaching business, helping Twenty-somethings match who they are with how they live. If you'd like more guidance on how to reconnect with your inner kid (and make your work feel a lot more like play), check out Vanessa’s free Kid Wisdom Mini Training Session at vanessabork.com/kid-wisdom.