Seeing as founders make up some of the richest people in the world, it’s not hard to fathom why our society has romanticized the idea of being a startup founder to such an extent. Readers devour the biographies and memoirs of entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, Paul Allen, and Richard Branson, and these individuals are commonly described as disruptive, contrarian, and visionary.
While we can certainly look up to successful founders, deifying them causes us to undervalue our own abilities. Haven’t founded anything yourself? Never been described as a visionary? No problem. You’re more capable than you realize, and even if you’ve worked for someone else your entire life, you can still cultivate a founder’s mindset in yourself and your children.
The Founder’s Fortune
When we strive to emulate the practices of famous founders, we’re most often trying to tap into their recipe for financial success. The thing is, being a founder doesn’t have to mean unveiling the next unicorn. In fact, starting a backyard vegetable garden with your kids makes you all founders. Unfortunately, the focus on founders’ wealth tends to obscure their true fortune — a mindset that leads to a happier, more fulfilled life.
In an excerpt from his forthcoming book, “How to Raise a Founder With Heart,” Jim Marggraff, a serial entrepreneur and inventor of the LeapPad, says, “You can cultivate critical founder attributes, such as gratitude, compassion, empathy, and self-awareness, within yourself and teach your kids through your examples.” When you make the founder’s mindset a reflex, you’ll discover that these attributes are a recipe for far more than one successful venture. No matter what you do for a living, you can and should instill these attributes in your kids. Here’s how:
1. Practice gratitude
Gratitude helps us identify the good things in life and recognize that many of these good things come from a source outside of ourselves. Gratitude isn’t just important for founders. The proven physical, psychological, and social benefits of gratitude apply to everyone and include a stronger immune system, increased optimism, and fewer feelings of loneliness or isolation.
As adults, we simply expect gratitude, so it can be frustrating when kids don’t automatically show it. Fortunately, raising grateful kids doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, it can be a matter of just communicating to them how much you value gratitude — and why. In addition to regular reminders, help them come up with creative ways to demonstrate their own gratitude to other people.
2. Remain reflective and self-aware
Self-awareness is crucial for founders because it helps them evaluate their own performance, including their strengths and weaknesses. It might sound counterintuitive, but self-awareness is a prerequisite for true compassion. When children are able to reflect on their own experiences, they can more easily relate to other people’s perspectives. This capacity for compassion will lead to more fulfilling relationships throughout life, and it can actually alter the structure of the brain.
One good strategy to help develop self-awareness in your kids involves having them identify their own confusion. When children know that they don’t know something, they’re processing through a metacognitive lens that helps them think outside of themselves. Having kids recognize their own biases can also make them more reflective and flexible thinkers.
3. Cultivate compassion and empathy
A well-developed sense of compassion helps founders relate to the people around them. This skill helps them develop better products that solve more problems, but it also allows them to make a greater impact. There’s no escaping the fact that we live our entire lives from a single point of view, but if we hope to make a positive difference in the world, we must look beyond ourselves and connect authentically with others.
Empathy is a learnable skill that you can coach your kids to develop. Next time you see an individual in distress, whether it’s on TV or in real life, talk with your kids about how that person is feeling. It’s natural for young children to shy away from feeling someone else’s pain, but they’ll overcome this instinct if they feel secure and emotionally supported.
We’ve been conditioned to accept a certain definition of founder, but you don’t have to start a Silicon Valley tech company in order to cultivate a founder’s mindset that you can pass on to your kids. Founders are everywhere, and they’re changing the world we live in. Whether you’re aiming to tackle a global problem or just starting a book exchange in your neighborhood, the key attributes of a founder’s mindset are also the key attributes for a fulfilled life.