Sunday, March 20, 2016

Children can Teach Us about Life and Business!

We can Learn about Life & Business from Our Children
Due to the current situation both here and around the world, many of us find ourselves spending more time than ever with our children. While this is certainly a good thing, it can also be daunting.
 We are now responsible for everything from their daily schoolwork, their physical and emotional needs, and even finding ways to release their pent up energy! And we are often doing all this while trying to do our own work! It can definitely feel like an overwhelming job!

But if we step back for a minute, 
we will soon realize that this is a rare opportunity. We now don't have to rush out in the morning. We are not as scheduled as we used to be ~ no practices, no play dates, and no appointments. And, if you take the time, you will soon find that spending this rare time with our children can teach us so much.....

You really can learn all you ever need to Know about Life and Business from children!

My very first job was as a 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 was filled with arts and crafts, nature hikes, swim lessons, and even music and drama activities. We were on the go from the start of camp at 9:30 a.m. until the close at 3:30 p.m.

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

Important Lessons You can learn fromWorking with 5 Year Olds:
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 your clients. If you don’t have a firm belief in the importance of what you do and what you offer, how can you expect it from your clients?

Be Confident
Instead, or being uncertain with these campers, 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 will work to your advantage in your business today. Displaying confidence and belief in your services helps reach clients…and it certainly won't hurt when dealing with your own children.

How To Hold an Audience
5 year olds have short attention spans. I found I had to capture their focus 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 your best start. Finding out their interests, their problems, and their goals is key. In this way you can hold their attention and speak directly to their needs. Then you have to be clear on how your services meet those needs. Placing emphasis on them instead of on your needs and wants is simply 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 your own business. No matter how well thought out your 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, we 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. You can use the same lessons in how you think about your own clients. Striving to treat them all as individuals, and develop your products and services with those specific needs in mind, will help you create a niche for your own business. And it will be certainly invaluable in building your brand. 

Fair Play   
Kids know what is fair and what isn't. Whether it's a game of kick ball, release the prisoner, or even taking turns, there is a code. And, most times, if left to their own devices, they will get to what is fair ~ all without adult intervention. As a counselor I witnessed this many times. Games get heated, kids are anxious to get their "at bat" or time on the "best" swing. As counselors our first instinct was to rush in and solve the problem our way. But as time went on, we began to see that if we simply stepped back and kept a watchful eye, it would all be figured out and peace restored.

Sometimes the importance of Fair Play gets lost when we become adults. There are people who are more focused on what is good for them, their family, or their company, even if it is at the expense of others. Instead, remember what you learned as a child, or have seen in the children in your lives, and focus on what is fair! Businesses that take the time to think about the needs of their clients and customers, sometimes over their own, are the ones who are truly successful.

The Enjoyment of Being Active and Appreciating 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 could also see 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 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, and they can do the same for you.

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. It is not the huge, grandiose, things that mean the most, but the day to day wonders we all experience. The way a child’s eyes light up when they see someone they love, the quiet times you spend together, and even the joy felt at the first snowfall or first daffodils. And you can never underestimate the sheer joy you 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, and in business!

These lessons can do the same for you!

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

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