Sunday, March 20, 2016

5 Year Olds Can Teach You All You Ever Need to Know

Life Lessons You can Learn from 5 Year Olds!

As a teenager, it is always exciting to get your first job.  You now have cash in your pocket and, best of all, you suddenly feel so much more independent.

My very first job was as a 
Day Camp Counselor.

I was in 9th grade and the camp was run by my Honors English teacher.  

I knew very little about what being a counselor entailed.  But when he asked me if I was interested, I jumped at the chance.

Several of my friends were also asked.  We envisioned a summer spent swimming in the camp pool, meeting other counselors (we meant boys), and having fun.  

While we certainly had the chance to do all of that, what we didn’t, and couldn’t, know beforehand, was that being a Camp Counselor was also a lot of work!

Going in, we were all woefully unaware of what it really meant to be responsible for an entire group of children.  But we would soon learn!

Each counselor was assigned to a group of campers.  Mine were the Fireflies, Kindergarten aged boys and girls.  And I loved them!  I can still remember two of my special favorites, Ben and Lauren.  

I thought this group would be perfect for me.  I had a younger sister and brother, had already done some babysitting, and 5 year olds seemed like they would be so easy!  I felt more than qualified.

Little did I know how wrong I was!

Every day we did arts and crafts, nature hikes, swim lessons, and even music and drama activities.  We were on the go from 9:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.

I quickly realized that following this schedule made for one long day ~ and my initial illusions of a carefree summer evaporated.

Despite this, I gradually discovered that I got so much more out of the experience than I ever thought possible!  And, surprisingly, the lessons I learned there have stayed with me to this day.     

5 Year Olds can Teach Us about Life & Business!  “Tweet This”

6 Lessons Working with 5 Year Olds 
Taught Me:

Never Show Fear
Children are excellent at sniffing out fear.  They can sense when you are unsure or incapable.  I learned that if I showed the least amount of doubt in what I was doing, they knew.  I would then find myself losing them.

The same can be said of my clients.  If I don’t have a firm belief in what I do and what I can offer, how can I expect them to?

Be Confident
Instead, I needed to project confidence, even if I was feeling anything but!  I had to dig in and quickly find the best way to lead. No matter what the activity, I had to be ready to show, by example, what to do and how to do it.

This skill works to my advantage even today.  Displaying confidence and belief in my services helps reach my clients…and it certainly didn’t hurt when dealing with my own children.

How To Hold an Audience
5 year olds have short attention spans.  I found I had to capture their interest immediately, or risk kid chaos.  I had to know what interested them and, if trying something new, how to “sell” it.  

Dealing with clients is the same.  Learning what speaks to them is always my first step.  Finding out their interests, their problems, and their goals is key.  In this way I hold their attention and speak directly to their needs.  Then I have to be clear on how my services meet those needs.  Placing my emphasis on them instead of on me is good business.  


Embrace Change
You know what they say about the best laid plans…..
When working with 5 year olds, anything can happen.  One minute you are on a wonderful hike through the woods, then the next you find that someone has fallen in the creek, or skinned a knee, or any of the other things that can befall a group of 5 year olds.  Instead of letting that completely derail our plans, I learned to roll with it.

This lesson is invaluable in running my own business.  No matter how well thought out my plans may be, life and circumstances often get in the way.  Learning to embrace and adapt to these changes, instead of fearing or being defeated by them, certainly helps.

How to Juggle the Needs of Many
There is rarely a “one size fits all” approach when dealing with 5 year olds.  Keeping them all happy and safely occupied is no small task.  Of course having more than one counselor helped.  We were usually able to break off and each supervise a different group.  But when that wasn’t possible, I had to get creative.  I found that with a little ingenuity and a lot of stamina, I was capable of getting the job done. At any given time I may be reading a story, encouraging some to draw a character from the book, and leading still others in a crazy, zigzagging line around the room.  Exhausting yes.  But it was also successful in meeting the needs of as many as possible.

I have used this skill often both in parenting and in my business. Like the campers and my own children, my clients are not all alike. Each has different needs and goals.  Learning to treat them all as individuals and develop my products with those specific needs in mind has helped me create a niche for my own small business. And it was certainly invaluable in building my brand.    

Enjoy Being Active and Appreciate Down Time
Kids, especially 5 year olds, rarely sit still.  They love being on the move.  You can see it it their faces ~ they are happy just to get up and run, skip, and jump.  But I also recognized their appreciation and need for quiet time ~ the chance to hear a story or just to snuggle.

While I have sometimes lost my drive along the way, I am once again embracing any chance I get to be active.  This can mean taking a walk, sightseeing (even in my own neighborhood), and, if the weather isn’t cooperating, finding a way to stay active indoors.  Not only do I feel better, I find myself looking forward to the activity.  But just as important to me is my downtime.  I look forward to reading, listening to music, and watching my favorite shows.  I appreciate these opportunities to recharge and find I need them to keep my sanity.  Both have given me the stamina and focus to keep running my business.

You can find out more about the benefits of taking “active” breaks in "Tips to Help You Gain Focus and Get Active"!

Photo by Kim Kline

To Find Joy in the Little Things
This was perhaps the greatest lesson of all.  My 5 year old campers found just as much joy and excitement in holding a bug as they did at receiving their favorite snack or winning a race.  They came to camp each day truly looking forward to the day ahead. 

This ability has served me well, especially when I had my own children.  I know that it is not the huge, grandiose, things that mean the most, but the day to day wonders we all experience.  The way my child’s eyes lit up when they saw me, the quiet times we spent together, and even the joy of we felt at the first snowfall or first daffodils.  And I never underestimate the sheer joy I get from a good laugh.  I hope to never let this go.  

I continued to work as a counselor at that camp for another 2 years. And while I certainly had fun, my greatest rewards were the lessons I learned about myself and about what it truly takes to succeed in life!

(The original article was published on LinkedIn as part of their #careerlaunch suggestion!)

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