Yesterday, after being invited by Ben Casnocha, I went to San Francisco to teach students at a BizWorld Foundation event. They were between 2nd grade and 5th grade and I spoke to them about personal entrepreneurship.
Now let me first say that I’ve given talks to CEOs and VCs and a lot of others, but there’s something unnverving about speaking to children. This is mostly because they don’t give a damn about my blog or my company or whatever. Also, if you read yesterday’s post on my knocking a child over at a BBQ, it becomes even worse. So I cleared my head, took a deep breath, and tried to talk to these harmless children about entrepreneurship and why failure doesn’t really matter when we’re young.
After giving them a simple overview of entrepreneurship–”entrepreneurs think about failure differently, take initiative, and challenge assumptions”–one of the things I said was, “Who thinks they can do something risky right now?” A few of them raised their hand, so I picked one of the students out and asked him to come up to the front of the room, where I gave him $5 and had everyone applaud him. His name was Em. See, I told them, there are 2 lessons I see:
1. Sometimes you can get great things just by raising your hand.
2. The world isn’t really fair. A few students raised their hand, but I picked him for no good reason. It’s easy to get discouraged, but the people who want to succeed will shrug it off and keep trying next time something like this happens.
Then I asked Em if he thought he could turn the $5 into $20 by the end of the month. Although he must have been in 2nd or 3rd grade, he looked right back at me and said, “Yeah, I think so.” How? I asked. “Maybe I’ll put it in the bank and get interest.” I gave him the $5 and asked him to email me at the end of the month.
What can we expect from Em in 10 or 20 years?