Great Entrepreneurs Flourish In Spite of This
Since I was 18 and discovered “The Four-Hour Workweek”, I’ve attempted to escape the “rat race”…even before I joined it. After a lot of twists and turns, meeting the right person (my wife) to help me get focused, and some very good timing, I’ve been able to establish a business that affords me some time to really reflect on entrepreneurship. It took me 12 years to get there, about the same amount of time I spent in grade school, so it definitely makes me wonder how much faster I could have gotten there (and beyond), had the seed been planted in my mind sooner.
I have also been reflecting lately on this idea, can entrepreneurship be taught, especially to young kids? After all, no one really taught Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, or Bill Gates, how to be an entrepreneur, however they did receive ancillary training and support that might have given them permission to do so.
The Everything Store, the phenomenal book that covers the life of Bezos, begins by tracing back to a day in the life of Bezos at Green Oaks Elementary in Houston. While the school did not teach entrepreneurship, it certainly encouraged creativity, discourse, and a love of reading. It also offered access to technology from an early age.
Recently diving into some forums on the topic, I came across the interesting viewpoint as well, that kids are naturally geared towards the “fail fast” mentality of entrepreneurship, naturally think outside the box, and are chronic takers of massive action, so really they don’t need someone to teach them how to do those things.
And while I believe that to be true, why, then, are there so few great entrepreneurs? In my mind, these individuals are the lifeblood of society, and especially in this day and age will be responsible for helping the world to maintain stability and to continue growing the American economy in particular as other parts of the world double down on their own growth.
If anything positive can be said about the United States, and certainly everyone has their own opinion, it’s that our focus on individuality, and our belief that we can accomplish just about anything, has fueled the success, not only of these 614 billionaires, but of course hundreds of other highly successful entrepreneurs who disrupt, and create, new industries.
So yes, maybe a natural entrepreneur like Bezos doesn’t need to be taught entrepreneurship. But I found one piece of his story very interesting, where he describes being 4 years old, and not being able to actually help on his grandfather’s farm, which, however did not stop his grandfather from acting like Bezos was truly helping.
In a totally different scenario, virtuoso bass player Victor Wooten describes his brothers putting a “play guitar” into his hands at 3 years old and making him feel as if he were part of the band.
My point being, school shoves math, english, social studies, and other subjects down our throats. Granted, it might be hard to naturally just pick things up, however we don’t use most of it, most of the time. By contrast, schools typically don’t ever touch the subjects of entrepreneurship and business building, especially on an elementary level when kids are the most open to new ideas and creative. We also don’t want to put these topics into a box and stifle the natural tendencies of creative thinking in students by trying to standardize a subject like entrepreneurship.
But, that being said, a focus on individuality, creative thinking, continued learning, and giving kids opportunities to feel that they can be of value, solve problems, and create their own “patented” solutions in the process, could help ensure that the future holds many more Bezos-level entrepreneurs.