Entrepreneur Apprenticeships- How do you Grow Entrepreneurs?

Scott Adams published an article earlier this month in the Wall Street Journal Weekend Edition on the value of college for an entrepreneur, and it made me immediately reflect back to Cameron Herold’s TED Talk on raising kids as entrepreneurs.

The crucial point that both of them raise is that you have the best shot at becoming a better entrepreneur by doing , trying, ( and even failing).  When you are personally motivated ( either for cash- or for Free Beer, as Scott was at The Coffee house, or just by reputation), you try things that might have seemed daunting before or take risks that might have been too much effort.  This is in many ways like the apprenticeships of old, where you work side by side with someone with more experience, but have real responsibilities in the business and learn by doing, not by listening to lectures.

While highly motivated parents and students seek out opportunities to grow entrepreneurial skills, I would love to  see more colleges and universities add apprenticeship type opportunities to the curriculum ( much like an engineering co-op) so that we raise more highly skilled entrepreneurs and fewer lawyers.

How do you as parents nurture entrepreneurial skills in your kids? How do you grow them personally?


The meaning of maturity

That whole “using a crucible to burn to truth” and “from hardship comes wisdom” thing? Sometimes it works.

Through some recent rocky roads, I have had reason to try to clarify some frequently used but slippery definitions.

The difference between adult and child is fairly easy- it is either a legal or biological one. You can choose which one to use, depending on the appropriate circumstances. While it sucks to have more than one definition, they are not very slippery ones.

Then comes the challenge of mature versus immature. This has nothing to do with age or biological function. Certainly we have all encountered the very mature child or the immature adult. This morning, in a moment of clarity, the difference crystallized.

Someone who is immature receives input/feedback/critique from others, assumes it must be true, even if it conflicts with their experience and reacts to it emotionally.
Someone who is mature receives input/feedback/critique from others, self- reflects on it, agrees or disagrees with the input and decides what action to take ( or not).

For example-

An immature child who wears hand me down clothes to school has someone tell him that he looks like a goofball. He assumes their statement is true and reacts emotionally ( hurt, sad, angry) and his actions are then driven by those emotions.

The mature child in the same circumstances self reflects on the comment. They might disagree and move on, or they might agree. If they agree, they might reflect back to the critic that they might look like a goofball, but those are the only clothes they have. Or they might reflect and decide that putting the plain shirt with the striped pants was a mistake and choose different clothes the next day. In each case, their action was chosen and was the result of self reflection, not an immediate emotional response.

5 Things Every Kid should know while trying to pursue happiness

At about the 5th or 6th grade, my daughters had to memorize the Declaration of Independence.

When they got to : ” We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”, a long discussion on the “right to Happiness” versus the “right to the pursuit of Happiness” always followed.

It is an important distinction that we as a society grant the right for people to Pursue happiness, but there is no guarantee that you will ever find it. What a shame to waste that right to pursue Happiness by chasing shadows and never finding any of it. Here are 5 things every kid(or the kid in all of us) should remember when they head out on that pursuit.

1) Don’t assume you know where you will find happiness. You might have ideas about where your happiness will lie, but it is just as likely that it will surprise you and you will find happiness in unexpected places.

2) Happiness is rarely expensive, hardly ever uses batteries and never,ever fake pees.

3) Happiness is often dirty, creates a mess (please clean up afterward) and sometimes requires odd bits of string and glue.

4) Flitting about like a butterfly or a busy bee can be absorbing, distracting and fun;but sometimes you have to lie still like a snake on a hot afternoon, stare up at the clouds and let the happiness bask into you slowly.

5) You can pursue something all you like, but if you do not clearly and intentionally pay attention to the life around you, it is likely you will never find it- even if it is sitting right in front of you.

“I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Nanny McPhee Returns blogging program, making me eligible to get a $50 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.” [however, the advice is still heart felt and useful]

Wise words

Thoughts for my daughter upon seeing her find her sexy.
Dear daughter on the cusp of womanhood, remember that feeling you had earlier tonight, when you stood on stage? That sensation of your body finding it’s sexy groove, but your insides scared and fearing that it is a lie?that odd feeling of acting hot and sexy and being surprised at other people’s reactions, sure you were just acting? Hold onto that feeling. Keep on acting, even though you are not on stage. It’s what most everyone else is doing as well. Enjoy the feeling and ignore the uncertainties inside. Don’t let it stop you, or make you afraid to reach and grow. Everyone has that feeling, it will continue until you are about 40 and your insides catch up with your outside attitude .

— Post From My iPhone

Network Security: a teachable moment

As parents, we are always on the watch for the “teachable moment” . These are moments that take basic concepts out of the abstract and into a concrete immediacy. For the simple, basic things in life ( compassion, humility, kindness, life and death, etc..) there are many opportunities to share those life lessons. For others, the opportunities are few and far between. One of the life lessons that are hard to find concrete examples for is Network Security. Safe networking ranks right up with safe sex when you are trying to find non-theoretical examples to share with your kids. I recently had the perfect teachable moment to hammer network security home with my teen aged daughter.

Growing up in a geek household, on the net early, my kids have always had a good grounding in online safety ( don’t talk to strangers, don’t give out personal information, people may e lying about who they really are, etc..) but when we talk about people hacking into networks or computers, it is feel to them like a remote- “only to governments and corporations” sort of event. Kids visit from house to house, from Starbucks to Panera, easily plugging into anyone and everyone’s free network- not pondering any potential risk.
Then, I had the great opportunity to use my iPod touch to bring this home. My daughter and I were sitting in the car and I noticed on my iPod that it was seeing wifi from the school. Being sure it was a locked down network, I clicked connect ( geek psychology) and was astonished to find that the campus had implemented open WiFi. When asking what the big deal was, I pull up the NetScan application on my iPod and showed her how I could start to gather information about objects currently connected to the network. ( yes, there were open ports and some potential vulnerablities spotted). We talked about how, given a laptop connected instead of my iPod, this information could have been used to look for vulnerabilities, break into computers and gather data. She was astonished at how easy the first steps were and that gathering data did not require massive amounts of “hard core” programming.
It occurred to me that we had talked a lot about network safety, but we had never sat kids down on our home or any public network and showed them how it worked. If you are out with your kids in a place with a public network and have a secure device you do not mind connecting, I encourage you to do a quick demo. Don’t crack someone’s computer… it’s just not polite ( and fairly illegal in most places)- but showing how easy it is to scan for information proved a big eye opener here…

Shop and Save (a student)

This was the Kokomo HS WinterGuard’s State Championship Performance last year. As many of my Twitter followers know, my eldest daughter is in the Kokomo HS Winter Guard. The Guard did great this year, placing second in the state their first year in the IHSCGA Open Class and placing fourth in the world at the WGI World Competition just a couple of weeks ago. The guard has lots to be proud of, but unfortunately they are also still fundraising. Xandra still has to raise about 700$. Ouch.
Luckily they have a new fundraiser that actually has an internet store as well. So, we kindly ask you to poke around and see if there is anything that would be useful in your home. I am looking seriously at the flower bulbs, and some of the kitchen utensils are interesting as well. Please do not buy if you can not make good use of the item, but if there is something there that would make your life a little better or a little easier, please consider using the following information to give part of the profits to Xandra’s guard fund.

Century Resources(http://www.centuryresources.com/shop/index.asp)
Group Code: 5187
Student Name: Alex Glenn
Student’s grade: 11

Proof that a teenager’s brain is disconnected from reality

( as if we needed proof)

Last evening, Sam was prepping for the HS Christmas Concert and we were casually talking. She looks over at me and says “I have figured something out”. I turned, waiting to hear what revelation had occurred to her this time.

“I really suck at music”
“music, I suck at it”.

This from the child who has been playing bassoon since 5th grade and the private instructor wants to get her hands on, but Sam does not want to work that hard.
This from the teen who, since you can not march with a bassoon, was handed mallets in June and by October was put in the front row of the pit, because she was excelling. Now, to be fair- she has played with percussion before, but not mallet.
This from the young lady who, since you do not play bassoon in the pep band, was handed a baritone, an instruction sheet and some sheet music. A week later, she was playing in pep band. With some fumbles, to be sure- but playing. From double reed to brass.

Yeah, she sucks at music.
Sam’s teen aged brain and reality? Just not connected in any discernible way.

Teens and issues of media legality

Let me try to defuse some of the potential inflammatory comments:

1. DRM is evil.
2. The RIAA is not only evil, it is stupid.
3. Pirating media is not only illegal, it is morally wrong.
4. Artists deserve to be able to make a living from the art they create.

Back story:

I have friends and family who are artists and make money from the art they create. I have long been a proponent to everyone I know that if you enjoy art, you should be willing to pay a reasonable price for it. No question, organizations like the RIAA go in wrong directions and to far extremes, but I am willing to pay for art I enjoy and have always encouraged others to do the same.
As a parent, I have held to my guns on this one. My children have been taught copyright, the idea of creative value and that illegal media is not tolerated in this household. I am the parent who would not give them blank CDs to give to their friends to make copies of movies and music. I was the one who informed teachers that making copies of “Kid Music CDs” for fun is NOT an educational fair use and they should not be requesting blank CDs from home for it.

Limewire is banned. We buy or rent movies, we do not download them. My kids get iTunes allowances as part of a Christmas Present. I have worked hard to instill this in my kids. Honestly, there is a grey area that if I were in a house alone, I would live in that includes some violations of this principle. But when you are setting an example, you tread more carefully than when no one is watching. And Kids? they are always watching.

While they were younger, this was successful. But now they are older, independent thinkers. Plus we have broadband connections. Broadband= streaming media.

I can say with much confidence that my children do not, will not and disagree with downloading illegal copies of music and movies. They do not want to possess it, they know this is a good way to behave as a citizen consumer of the arts. You pay for what you own.

But what about the illegal videos on YouTube.. and the myriad number of sites that are available on the internet. It happens.. I know they do it, they even tell me about it without thinking about the wrongness of how that media is uploaded.

Then again, is it really wrong? Illegal, YES. But wrong? Watching something on the internet will not stop a bunch of teenagers from paying to go see something again. And in some cases, it goes deep into the gray area- video footage that they would have no access to, or outlet to pay for, if they were not watching it stream.

I want them to respect artist’s rights and means of life. But I do not want to be such an “enforcer” that they never talk to me or tell me what is going in their lives, either. It is a very delicate balance. Is it OK to condone things that I might participate in myself if kids were not watching? Where do you draw the line with your children?

Why I make a lousy team mom

Every Team has at least one “team parent” – you know them- the mom or dad who is the coach’s right hand. The one who is at every event, every practice and knows every kid as well as their own. They are the ones who organize the parties, the support and the food. They are backstage, behind the lines or in the locker room for every event, pulling together all the last minute requirements. No sports, drama or school organization could function without them. I do my best to pitch in, help out and give a little extra, but I am a lousy team mom. You would think that someone with the equivalent of an advanced degree in Project Management, who has made miracles happen for teams and can make support materialize out of thin air would be the ultimate team mom. A person who genuinely likes and interacts by choice with kids, who listens and gives advice- should be the makings of a great team mom. Someone who is not afraid to ask for handouts and is not afraid to guilt other people into pitching in? The ultimate team mom, right? Here are the reasons they all fail:

1) I refuse to believe that any one team is more important than everything else. I work, have a household to run and have other kids. They have other activities, sports and teams as well. I can not find it in me to say that one of those is more important than all the others and either schedule everyone else around that one team, or blow off all other commitments and children’s activities. In this arena- parents of only children shine as team moms.

2) I refuse to believe that if the team wins it is worth all pain and sacrifice. I know the coaches have to say things like that. It is important to work hard and try your very best. It is important to strive and stretch and try to excel in ways you did not think possible. I do it every day. But I also believe in balance, and fun and peace. And when winning means you sacrifice everything else, something seems wrong to me. When the kids complain they are running a fever or sick or broke an ankle or twisted a knee, I want to nurture them- not send them back in for another round of practice. I can’t even fake it enough to be a great team mom.

3) I am a “bad” influence. When kids come to me for advice, I encourage them to think and question ( even authority) , to think outside the box, to stand up for the things they believe in- but to be tolerant of others who choose differently. I can quote the bible ( in several versions), but I do not go to church. I sometimes dress funny and I know things that are cool… sometimes even before the kids. This tends to cause interesting individuals to grow- but is really bad for a team.

4) I only see my Fiance on weekends, and am unwilling to give up those times for team events every weekend. I will do about half- but no more… which means I am unreliable and will not be available no matter what.

5) My health has been flaky- a sad but true statement- which also makes me unreliable. This one just makes me sad. I need this one to change.

To all those team parents out there who make my kid’s activities possible, who are the glue that holds everything together, I thank you. Know that you can always call on me for donations, one time events and as much cheering as I can schedule. I promise to not be too scary and keep the foment and unrest to a minimum.

Life, Death and the End of the World As We Know It..

One of the fun but challenging things about being a parent of teens is that they are at the stage of life where they are starting to question and challenge everything. This often leads into long, deep discussions on the nature of Love, Religion, Power, Death and Rebellion.

I capitalized those on purpose, because at this point in your life, these are not personal, intimate issues, these are Big Ideas. My youngest teen is deep in the throws of this. She is intelligent and looking at the chaotic, messed up world around her with horror and feelings of frustration. She is also wracked by the storms of emotion and hormones that cry out for Action! and Change!- sitting quietly and waiting for an issue to resolve itself is anathema at this stage in life ( where do you think the term “angry young man” came from??). You can imagine the appeal that raddical activist groups were starting to have for her. The glory of damaging animal testing labs, the exhiliration of vandilism to shine a light on animal “haters”, the ecstasy of driving stakes into trees to prevent logging!! ELF, ALF, PETA – she was starting to vibrate physically, she was so excited about the potential of other people who wanted to “strike back”. Finally, I could stand it no more and had to stretch the limits of her philosophical development. We ended up in a more than 2 hour discussion on right action, peaceful protest, civil disobedience and why “any action in the name of a good cause” is NOT a good thing. She wanted to cry and kill me in the middle of the whole thing, but I hung in there and in the end, I think she actually gets it. We will see if it sticks, or if she starts plotting to free Guinea Pigs from Walmart again.

For those of you not certain why saving poor suffering animals by damaging testing labs across the earth is bad, let me do a quick summary of a 2 hour conversation.

1) Issues are not Black and White. Issues are rarely simple. Any arguement or advocacy group that boils them down this way is overlooking something. Animal testing as a case in point. Yes, I agree that testing animals for beauty products and our vanity is horrible. However, there are people that you know and love who would be dead today if someone had not done some medical testing on animals at some point. Is that a price you are willing to pay? Ahh… test on humans instead of animals? OK- which Humans? Prisoners? Because they are bad people? What about the ones in prison who we find out years later were actually innocent? Did they deserve it? OK- volunteers only? What if the volunteers only feel desperate, that they have no other choice? What if they were abused and maltreated as children? What if they were discriminated against? What if they are slightly mentally ill and just can not make it any other way? Is that still OK? Hmm… the ethical and moral decisions we have to make in modern human society ( and probably forever) are complex and hard and never simple. If anyone convinces you that a decision is easy, they have not given you all the information and you have research to do.

2)Impulsive, Radical actions rarely have the end result you wanted and often have unwanted end results and complications. You evaluated all the evidence, made really hard choices? Still want to take action. OK. Harsh reality:Getting together with a bunch of your friends, randomly freeing the animals from the test labs and using bolt cutters to cut up fences is NOT going to prevent animal testing.
a) premise #1 is “do enough damage to the testing labs, they will shut down” Reality is that you are fighting against Large Corporate Entities. Doing a few thousand dollars of damage to a testing lab is like a baby fly buzzing at a picnic. You can not do enough damage to stop this. If the testing contributes significantly to their bottom line, they will re-invest in it without a moment of contemplation. You want to make a difference- strike at their sales and profits, not at their cost of doing business.
b) premise #2 is ” it is better for the poor animals to not be in the labs” Reality? Animals freed from a testing lab do NOT make good pets, are very hard to handle and often still do not thrive. Many of them are unadoptable. Many of them end up dead.

I use Animal rights here as an example, becuase it is one of the topics that we adressed, that is near and dear to her heart right now. But the general premises hold for any cause.

At this point she was not happy, she was struggling and frustrated with the complexities of hard problems, but she was convinced that there were limited sets where it was going to be resolvable. That is when I knew I had to stretch her hard. Here is the real point, the real issue, the one that breaks most people.

3) Taking Action at any cost in the name of a good cause now removes from you the ability to prevent other people from doing the same thing for causes you do not agree with. This is where her brain exploded for a while. She railed against the concept. “but they are wrong- that is why they should not do it” I tried the wrong tact of the worst case extreme example of people whose ideals you disagree with taking action- the KuKluxKlan and the Nazis. That proved to be too big, too much, we were just going to degrade into an argument and lose the concept. I back tracked and emerged into something smaller and easier.

You know in your heart of hearts that mistreating animals is bad, and you have decided that fur wearers are horrible and cruel and fur wearing has to stop. You thought through all the consequences and have invented special paint sprayers that can be carried anywhere and you and your followers will spray flourescent paint on every passer by you see wearing fur until everyone stops. You know that vandalism is wrong, you know some people might get hurt, but this fur wearing is so horrible that it has to be stopped at any cost. She was on board for this. (Actually, I think a part of her brain was starting to work on the design for the paint gun…) Now. If you carry this out- how can you condemn people who really believe that homosexuality is wrong and thus those two guys walking down the street holding hands deserved to be beaten up? What is the difference? But they are WRONG! She screamed. ( no. really. literally. screamed.) Her brain cells expanded and imploded in what would have made award winning MRI artworks. How is it different, I pressed, except that you agree with the premise and cause of one group and not with the others? If you have the right to damage personal property for things you believe in- so do they. What if they decide that that need to spray paint on the windows and cars of everyone who is agnostic ( her self proclaimed affiliation)? What right do you have to prevent this attack on yourself? She melted. I think ( I hope) she got it. I am sure we will have this discussion more than once. It is an amazingly hard concept to wrestle through. It will show great emotional maturity if she actually gets it.
Then I rejoiced in the SF protests, becuase I did not want to leave her feeling hopeless and powerless. We talked about civil disobedience, about how it is not ok to do wrong or harm to others or their property, but it is OK to sometimes stand up( or sit down) in the name of a cause- even if it is illegal to do that. We touched on taking personal risk and personal cost versus acts of terrorism.

Whew. Now do you understand why I live in a constant state of tired? Parenting is an exhausting job.. but she is going to be an amazing person some day and I will have the priviledge of knowing my time and energy helped that.