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Ramit teaches kids, bribes them

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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?


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9 Comments on "Ramit teaches kids, bribes them"

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Dan Esparza
10 years 2 months ago
What an amazing story! I have 2 daughters — my oldest is 10 (or entering 5th grade this next year). I recently gave her a ‘summer challenge’ whereby if give her $100 and she can turn it into $150, I’ll double it — and she’ll end up with $300. It piqued her curiosity, to say the least, and it also inspired a very interesting conversation on how she could do such a thing. Ever since then she’s had visions of using her creativity and what interests her now (knitting, jewelry-making, etc) to make money. It’s been a very interesting adventure.… Read more »
10 years 2 months ago

Dan, so many people criticize parents for giving their children money and spoiling them. Many parents do indeed do this and should take notes on what you’re doing with your daughter. It is constructive, educational, and definitely helps her to understand money’s value. Kudos.

10 years 2 months ago

Cute story… the teachers should be grateful, now the kids will always want to raise their hands, with or without the answers.

10 years 2 months ago

Wow, what a perfect example you used in your talk. It illustrated your point but in a context the kids would understand. I don’t think I could have come up with that idea.

10 years 2 months ago
I recommend “The First National Bank of Dad” (David Owen) for a quick read about a refreshing way of dealing with kids and money. It’s probably too simple to summarize here, but basically he emphasizes: 1) Letting kids be responsible for their money at a very young age (learn value from the toystore, not from the real estate market) 2) Teaching kids about interest/stocks/etc by giving them a child-appropriate bank (I think he recommends 5% per month interest). You may not agree with everything he says (e.g., he takes a “contraversial” stance on teenagers working), and I view this as… Read more »
ian MacBean
10 years 2 months ago

very cool. kids are sol malleable at this age and these are the sorts of simple examples that can leave alongstanding impression.

10 years 2 months ago

That’s a great idea, Ramit, although I think Dan (comment #1)’s example illustrates the point in greater detail.

Its never too early to start teaching kids about the perceived-grown-up world of money. Like the above commenters have said, these principles of personal entrepreneurship will be instilled in the children at an early age and will contribute greatly to their success.

jinal shah
10 years 1 month ago

Very inspiring 🙂

10 years 13 days ago
Kids yearn to know their place in the world and how THEY can make a difference The Way We Were… We adults grew up in a world where we actually referenced a big thick phone book to find someone’s address or flipped through the newspaper to find when a movie starts. New Breed of Info Seekers Today’s kids are a whole new breed of information seekers. They have the world available to them through a keyword search engine. And today’s kids can send pictures back and forth to a kid halfway across the world through a phone in an instant.… Read more »