The Big Advantages of Being Little
When you’re a kid, life is full of wonder, free of cynicism, and ripe with opportunity. And what did most of us long for at that age? Adulthood. Like Tom Hanks’ character in Big, if we could have one wish granted, we’d wish to be big. To have a paycheck big enough to stock a fridge with whatever we wanted. To see something we want and buy it. To drive that car, see that movie, and go on that date. When we finally arrive at adulthood, what do we long for? Life without bills, without responsibility, and full of wonder.
It’s no wonder George Bernard Shaw once wrote, “Youth is wasted on the young.” But we couldn’t disagree more. For more than a decade, we’ve profiled hundreds of real young entrepreneurs who’ve harnessed their youth to tear down walls, get meetings, secure funding, tackle hurdles, sell products, grow companies, and make it…big.
Of all the fine qualities we’ve seen, there are a few that stick out. Qualities that kids have by the ton. And qualities that can actually give kids a major advantage over adults when it comes to starting and running a business.
Trends have no better spotter than teens. Did you hear about the private school that hit a jackpot when SnapChat went public? A savvy dad heard his kids talking about the app and invested $15,000 of the school’s endowment. When the company went public, the investment had ballooned to more than $41,000,000. Kids have an ear to trends that few adults can replicate. Kids and teens determine what’s hot and what’s not at lunch tables, sidelines, and recess huddles. Listening to their observations—and declarations—can actually prove profitable.
The human heart is a marvelous thing. It is capable of hurting for the brokenhearted character through a glass screen, and of celebrating the victories of strangers on a field thousands of miles away. Yet years have a way of making a heart callous. Of justifying inaction with “what difference will it make?” Yet kids see the world in more black and white terms. “Mom, she needs food!” “Dad, what will happen to their house?” Of the many young entrepreneurs we’ve profiled, the philanthropists have amazed us more than any. They see daunting tasks as fixable. Massive problems as worthy of their investment. Others’ hardships as theirs to fix. In other words, they see empathy as a guiding force.
The eyes of the young contain something grown up eyes lack, and lack something grown up eyes contain. What do they have? A lens for creativity. What’s missing? Cynicism. Nothing hardwired in a kid gives them any reason to say, “it can’t be done.” Instead, kids have a way of seeing things for the first time. They can appreciate the good, devise solutions for the bad, and do it all while asking one simple question: Why not?Why not…make a kite from that old sail, craft a solution for transporting a basketball, or make candy that kids actually like that’s good for your teeth?
As we celebrate #InternationalYouthDay this week, let’s take note of the bigger picture: kids are powerful not when they act like grown ups, but when they lean in to the qualities that make them unique. Yes, there’s a big advantage to being little.