During weekends, an activity that I look forward to most is the time I spend with my eight-year-old cousin. We would always have something new to do, whether it is playing pretend with her dolls or solving puzzles when she would visit.
However, the part I most enjoy is when I become curious about the most banal things in life, such as following ants to see where they take bits of food or examining seashells that we collect from the beach.
Although my cousin looks up to me for answers, I admit that I learn so much from her. Below are some valuable lessons that entrepreneurs can learn from children.
The importance of curiosity
In your daily grind, you may not have enough time to be curious the way you once were as a child. The time I spend with my cousin reminds me of the importance of questioning things and to not take everything for given, especially in business. She would always ask me why a machine worked in a certain way, or why we couldn’t do something differently. Curiosity not only expands your horizons and helps you learn about other topics, but I believe it’s a key ingredient behind innovation.
Think outside the box
My cousin always finds ways to improvise. When we wanted to eat cake but didn’t have the ingredients to make one, she piled pieces of fruits on top of each other, and made her own version of a cake. She reminds me of my childhood and how, as children, we were imaginative enough to get what we wanted. This is important in business, especially when entrepreneurs are stuck. Bring out your inner child, and think of creative ways you could come up with a solution.
During the time we spend together, my cousin would ask me various questions, and wouldn’t think twice about it. As we grow older, entrepreneurs may feel shy to ask for guidance, or we may not want to appear uninformed. I used to feel that way at the beginning of my career, but then I realised that even the most accomplished entrepreneurs have a team of advisers, or mentors. My cousin taught me that no question is stupid, and that by asking questions, not only will we get to know the answers we are seeking but it will also help us to make quick decisions.
When I was a child, I would try new games all the time. I didn’t conduct risk assessments or think things through for the long run. While that doesn’t mean that we should live life without caution, we should be open to taking risks. Entrepreneurship is all about taking risks. Things may turn out exactly as you had anticipated or you could lose everything. But that’s the beauty of it. Think things through, but also don’t be afraid of taking risks. You would never know an outcome of something unless you tried. What you wish for could lie on the other side of risk for you.
I love having my cousin over because I know I will be too busy to check my phone since I will be having such a great time with her. As entrepreneurs, we’re often guilty of working all the time and that could negatively impact our well-being. Earlier in my career, I did not know how to tune out on weekends and that left me feeling burnt out. I resented my work until I knew I had to schedule in time for fun the way I did for work. Not only did I learn how to calm my mind, but I also fell in love with my work all over again.
Sometimes life’s best lessons are learned not from experts but from children. Don’t be afraid to let your inner child out.
Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati journalist and entrepreneur, who manages her marketing and communications company in Abu Dhabi.