13 Lessons My Nearly 13-Year-Old Taught Me About Life & Entrepreneurship
By In Her Shoes Guest Mompreneur: Latham Thomas
I’m an entrepreneur at the core, I’ve always been on the path of building something to serve the world. As the mother of a successful DJ who has built a career that began at the tender age of eight years old, I realize that my business influence has rubbed off on him. I also realize that I learn so much by watching how my child applies himself in business. Believe it or not, your child can teach you a lot about how to run your business. Children are so tapped into their emotions and untainted by worldly pressures. They are little capsules of energy and full of wisdom. Kids can be wonderful mentors, and as much as we think we are teaching them, they are here to be our teachers as well. I find that I get my best ideas when putting my son to sleep, but I learn a great deal from him by watching how he navigates the world—with no sense of limitations or boundaries, he pursues his dreams and I gently guide him along the journey.
His example of leadership has given me some valuable lessons that I have taken and applied to my own business:
1. Remain Calm
If my son is deejaying a gig and something goes wrong with the equipment or otherwise, he remains completely calm and poised. He doesn’t get flustered; he simply troubleshoots and signals a technician if he help. He was opening for Pit Bull and Microsoft at Rockefeller Center and had to use a brand new device and new software and instead of getting flustered, he remained calm and stayed focused and knocked the performance out the park. I would be stressed in that moment, but somehow he doesn’t stress out. “Freaking out doesn’t fix anything, Mommy,” he says. It’s a great lesson in how to handle unexpected situations that come up in your business. Just take deep breaths and stay calm.
2. Dream Big
When my son was only five years old, he would speak about his desire “to travel the world and make people happy with music.” He would even tell his teachers to give less homework because he knew he was on a mission to make the world happy with music. He was speaking his dreams into being. In a few short years, he met his mentor DJ Cassidy and has already traveled around the country and world playing the music he loves for crowds young and old. Now, he is talking about the hotel and restaurant he is going to open when he is nineteen. I learn from this lesson to reach for my dreams and harness my goals and that there is no limit to what I can do if I believe and put effort into it, and this has been the root of my work with Mama Glow.
3. Get Outside
Kids thrive in the outdoors; they need green space for sanity, and so do we. With Vitamin D deficiencies on the rise, it’s important to schedule a little outdoor fun. My son loves to ride his bike, play basketball and play soccer. He makes friends and uses his imagination to create epic outdoor adventures in the ambient landscape. We should do this too! Whether at your lunch break or on your way to and from the office, find an excuse to be outside. It feels nice to be barefoot in the grass and lay in the sunshine, even for ten minutes. It will change the course of your day. I make time for outdoor exploration to attune my energy, so I am excited and engaged when I get back to my desk. Nature allows your mind to relax. When possible, I take my meetings outside at my satellite office—a.k.a. Central Park.
4. Play Games
I watch my son play chess, checkers, and monopoly, which have taught him strategy as well as patience. Monopoly taught him about money and mortgages. He is comfortable with money, and his mind is very sharp. He also finds games to be relaxing. I make sure to fit in a game of tic tac toe while we ride the train to school. And when I am alone or with friends, I’ll play, not on my phone but a crossword or something that engages my mind. I find that some of my best ideas come from unorganized and unstructured playtime.
5. Systems Thinking
Entrepreneurs have to be solution oriented and nimble minded. One day when my son was very small we had gone to the park late in the afternoon and the gate was locked. My son said, “Take out your keys and unlock the gate to the park, Mommy.” I replied that my keys won’t work, to which he replied, “How do you know? You didn’t even try.” Granted my keys would not have opened the gate, but there is always an answer, and we should be open-minded to what’s possible. Being open to seeing different solutions makes you an agile parent and a savvy businessperson.
6. Glow Time
My son loves to spend time in nature and insists on his downtime upstate to connect with snakes, lizards, and kittens, read books, skip rocks, and hang with his grandpa. He is not on the computer or watching television all day. This is how he finds peace. I learn from him to take weekends for myself. I unplug from the media, internet, and phone and do what I love to do—spend time with friends, take baths, relax, and let my mind be at ease. When I get back to my work after these moments of taking some personal time, I am sharper and more focused.
My son is a masterful negotiator and orator. He doesn’t take “no” for an answer because he thinks there is always a way to get what he wants by talking things through. It’s great to see a kid operate this way. One weekend, my son was writing a copious letter to his teacher, and I asked him what it was for. He replied, “I know I should be skipped to the next reading level, and I am writing a persuasive letter to tell my teacher why.” He was in first grade and knew with such conviction that he needed to be challenged and that there was a way he could work something out with his teacher. After reading his letter and testing him, she bumped him up to the next level. In business, we often second guess ourselves and wonder whether or not we are worthy of asking for a certain consulting fee, a raise, we often doubt ourselves, or we fail to negotiate and leave money on the table. Speak up and ask for what you want and deserve. If a child can do it, so can we.
8. If It’s Not Fun, Don’t Do It
This is a great lesson. Kids are concerned with having fun. Life is about joy, and kids embody that. My son has always been one to do what is the most fun, so cooking, soccer, deejaying, rapping, tending to animals, reading books—these are all things he lives for! And he packs these fun activities into his schedule on a daily basis. If something comes along that is outside of the sphere of things he is interested in doing and is not fun, he disengages and goes back to playing or doing the stuff he likes. This is huge for me because I used to perform tasks that didn’t give me joy because they simply needed to get done. I now know that my energy should be funneled into doing what I love, what comes naturally, and what I do best. I can delegate the tasks that I don’t like as much. This keeps my work exciting and allows me to focus my resources into creative output!
9. Know Your Niche
A gift and a curse of entrepreneurs is that they have so many ideas and have a hard time focusing. As parents we are also trying to focus our children. My son is a DJ, and that led to music production. He plays instruments as well. His world is music, he loves a lot of things, but spends the majority of his free time focused on music. He knows that his core talents lie in music and his passion does as well. And the marketplace has responded as well. He gets premium bookings without marketing because people know exactly what he does. I’ve learned to focus my energies on not only what I love, what I’m great at doing, but also on what the marketplace desires. I serve a cross section of the population – expectant and new mothers.
10. Be Impeccable
Having a practice of being your best self is something I learned at an early age. It’s something that I strive towards and I see my son employing the same practice. He used to say he wanted to be the best DJ in the world. It’s the attitude of doing what ever you do- the best. Be the best, not focused on being better that everyone else, but being better than you were last time and out doing yourself. I get such wonderful feedback from his clients because he is very professional at his events. His team is on point as well, which is a reflection of on him. Even if you’re at the budding stages of your business, its important to approach with an impeccability. From how you dress, to how you execute- how the world experiences your brand matters.
Practice, consistency, continuity is important in everything we do. When we are building a brand, sustaining an established company, or just getting our feet wet. Staying the course and showing up to do the work is key. I’ve watched my son get home from school, do his homework, and turn on the turntables- right after to record a mix, or turn on his amplifier to practice the bass. He is committed to practicing. As business folks, we’re often so focused on doing the work, that we forget about honing the skills that drive the business. Professional development courses, lectures, online workshops, and retreats are a great way to center ourselves and keep sharpening our skills.
12. Find a Mentor, Be a Mentor
Mentorship and support from those who you look up to is helpful as you begin your journey and as you move along the way. Who is invested in your personal growth and success? Identify your cheerleaders early on, confide in them and allow them to shine light on your experiences. My son discovered DJ Cassidy and contacted him repeatedly on twitter, sending him his mixes until he finally responded. He benefited from a mentor relationship with DJ Cassidy, he is like a big brother to him and taught him a lot about music and how to approach deejaying as a business. I’ve incorporated mentorship into my business model to support the advancement of young women. I know I have a lot to share and I have seen the difference it makes in ones life, when you personally invest in their success.
13. Pay it Forward
We are blessed and it is critical for our personal growth and business growth to pay it forward. Dedicating part of your mission to service will amplify your impact. My son loves animals, and works with a lot of animal charities to raise awareness and spins galas in support of these causes. He also serves as a junior ambassador for Solving Kids Cancer – which raises funds to support research and financial support of families affected by pediatric cancer. He’s also worked with VH1 Save the Music where he taught a DJ Classes for children. I’ve incorporated meaningful ways to give back in my work from financing projects, to chairing events focused on maternal and child health. Whether that’s teaching yoga to teen girls at a youth development center, taking one day of our vacation and spending it with people in need, supporting a local environmental cause I keep my hands busy helping others.
This Mother’s Day I am so thankful to my son, for all the lessons I’ve learned as a single parent and business woman. How can you be more like your child in life AND in work? Do you notice a difference in your work performance and overall happiness when you implement these lessons? Being a grown up doesn’t mean you stop growing. Channel your inner child to help you grow a gratifying business!