I recently spotted a boy selling a box of assorted candy bars to commuters on the Washington, D.C. Metro. It was a welcome sight compared with the constant begging to which D.C. commuters are subject to on a daily basis, both in stations and after they climb the broken escalators.
While it may seem insignificant, gaining a sense of entrepreneurialism at a young age is a skill that will last a lifetime—and could mean the difference in millions of dollars of earning potential.
This sense of entrepreneurialism trumps the athletic or humanities skills that many students today gain in grade school. Although learning a sport instills good discipline and social skills, the majority of kids whose parents prepare them for professional sports careers never even play at the Division I college level. Likewise, a basic understanding of soft skills and the arts is important, but entrepreneurs provide the economic prosperity that makes it possible for people to pursue those interests.
Bo Peabody, an early internet entrepreneur who became a multimillionaire before he turned 28, notes in his book Lucky or Smart? that he started mowing lawns at ten, upgraded to snowblowing at 13, and later seal coated for neighbors. He discovered early the value of gaining recurring customers, and that the more distasteful the work, the more those customers will pay.
Parents, teachers, and mentors have a role to play in recognizing entrepreneurialism in youth and guiding them in that direction.
Many never earn a dime before they graduate high school. Furthermore, they spend their pre-graduation years without gaining any skill or instinct that will help them in the real world. Those that do work, often perform deadbeat jobs that they hate—which in turn, sets them up for lives with deadbeat careers.
The hard work and dedication that accompany making straight A’s or excelling in sports are important, but some of the poorest people in this country are some of the hardest-working. Instilling the value of sales and entrepreneurialism, however, helps kids learn to spend their time and energy in ways that maximize returns on both.
I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if this kid also earns his first million before hitting 28.