Thursday, November 20, 2008

Learning from Early Experiences

This morning, I attended an interesting seminar at Drexel University's Laurence A. Baiada Center for Entrepreneurship in Technology entitled "Youth Experiences: Influence on Entrepreneurial Success." The moderator and panelists spoke about how early experiences in sports and music laid the foundation for future success in business and entrepreneurship. As a founder of a youth entrepreneurship program, I listened with rapt attention as each speaker rattled off lessons learned through sports and music: discipline, teamwork, strategy, leadership.

I hope that my kids excel in the classroom. But I also hope that my wife and I can encourage them to explore extra-curricular pursuits. Sports and music offer particular potential for providing kids with the structured environments, new experiences/perspectives/relationships, and transferable lessons they need to have healthy childhoods and successful adulthoods.

The only thing I wished slightly different about this morning's presentation was that every speaker enjoyed success in their early careers, winning tournaments and achieving national rankings. Self-esteem can be built when you realize you are good at something, so there's nothing unhealthy about excelling and taking pride in that. But hyper-competitiveness can be deleterious to your soul, so we need to remind our kids that they are valuable for more than the fact that they have more wins than losses. And not everyone is going to achieve greatness, so we need to remind our kids that they can be comfortable with themselves even if they have less wins than losses.

Easier said than done for this hyper-competitive, Type A dad, especially since I am increasingly bewildered by the challenges of parenting my two. But today's event reinforced for me the importance of early experiences. Here's hoping our kids will find the things, like sports and musics, that they can enjoy and that can provide them with the settings and lessons they need to grow up healthy and happy.
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