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Can children learn from failure in business?

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Published on 18/02/2022

When my 12-year-old son came home from school one afternoon, I immediately noticed that something was wrong. His head was hanging low, his shoulders were hunched and he was about to burst into tears. I was surprised because he’s usually a very cheerful and energetic kid. 

“What is wrong?”, I asked him. “It’s my candy business, Mum”, he answered. “The principal found out about it and informed all students that it is strictly forbidden to sell anything on school premises. It is over.” He sounded utterly devastated.

Well, I cannot say that it came to me as a surprise. Many schools are not in favour of children carrying money with them, let alone spending it on something that is not good for their health. At home we are also trying to have a healthy lifestyle, so I was not a huge fan of his new venture either.

Nevertheless, I admired my son’s entrepreneurial spirit. He spent the entire summer creating a business plan. He watched YouTube videos from experts, he developed a financial forecast, he came up with a marketing plan and then he spent most of his savings on purchasing inventory. No wonder he felt crushed when he heard the news.

As a mother, my instinctive reaction was to try to ease his pain and buy his complete stock. However, as a professional, who has been working with high performers for many years, I knew that it was not the right solution. A few years ago I did a research for my psychology master’s about what makes extremely successful business leaders different from the average population. Other people solving their problems was definitely not part of my key findings.

After giving it some thought, I sat my son down and we ended up having a really deep conversation, talking about why some people have thriving businesses. I explained to him that, according to my findings, there were three common patterns that connect them.

1. Growth mindset

Every single person faces adversities in their lives. Some of them are major traumas, others are smaller challenges.  What makes high performers different is that they do not regard adversity as a setback, rather look at it as an opportunity to learn. They actually welcome difficult situations because they understand that it is a way for them to grow. As Samuel Beckett famously said: ‘Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.’

2. Emotional intelligence

Successful people have high emotional intelligence. It starts with having increased self-awareness, where they understand their own strengths and weaknesses and know how they would react in certain situations. They are able to regulate their emotions and have great social skills. They also have clear values and a strong sense of purpose that goes beyond their own needs. 

3. Positive character traits

High performers have several character traits that help them achieve their goals, including curiosity, optimism, humility, courage and most importantly: grit. Angela Duckworth, the well-known psychology professor from the University of Pennsylvania, found that grit is the combination of passion and perseverance and is the hallmark of high achievement.

At the end of our conversation, I told my son that he had the choice. The first option is to perceive himself as a victim of external circumstances that are beyond his control and blame the world for this terrible injustice. Option two is to gain inspiration from people who achieved tremendous levels of business success.

You have probably guessed correctly which option my son went for. Instead of giving up, he started working on a new business idea. As for myself, I am really happy that he went through this invaluable learning experience. And if he can remember some of the key success factors, I know that he will be a step closer to live a happy, successful and fulfilled life.

About Nora Szanto:

As a high-performance strategist for business leaders and professional athletes, Nora Szanto has helped hundreds of clients overcome subconscious blocks and limiting beliefs to reach their full potential. Since the breakout of COVID-19, she has turned her focus toward supporting families.

Nora has a master’s degree in psychology and is a certified EFT, Matrix Reimprinting and PSYCH-K practitioner. Based on her research, she wrote a fictional adventure book for children aged 9-14, called The Celestina Code. This merges all the excitement of a thrilling quest with the added advantage of stimulating the brain into a state of learning. It aims to inspire the readers to believe that their dreams are attainable by empowering them with essential high-performing traits to rise from adversity, overcome obstacles, step into their truth and reach their goals with integrity. The book is available for pre-order at nora@noraszanto.com

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