Three Lessons Kids Teach You About Business Success

By Brian Sullivan

“My see,” were the words my two-year-old daughter Maggie used last week as she extended her arms toward an older woman sitting in the window seat on a spring break flight to Mexico last week. The adult translation of those words is, “Excuse me ma’am, your window seat is better than my middle seat. I would really love to climb over this armrest, jump on your lap and hang out with you for a few minutes so I can look out that window. You good with that?” This woman was obviously well-versed in the ancient language of baby babble, and knew exactly what Maggie was saying. She pulled up the armrest, held out her arms and without hesitation, Maggie plopped onto her lap. They then began cloud gazing while getting to know each other.

My first reaction as a parent was one of hesitation. After all, I was a product of the “don’t talk to strangers” era, and not only was Maggie talking (I think), she was bouncing on the knee of a complete stranger. My second reaction was as an adult; thinking there was no way that woman could want my drooling two-year-old climbing all over her. After several minutes of visiting, Maggie waved bye-bye to the woman and happily scampered back to her Barney video. And this was only the beginning. Throughout the week Maggie sat in several more laps, high-fived countless strangers and waved kisses to a dozen or more people she had gotten to know. As I watched, I began thinking at what point and at what age will Maggie become weary of new faces, put her guard up and perhaps stop trusting people she doesn’t know? At what point will strangers stop randomly smiling at, waving at, and openly trusting her?

Then I thought…what a shame. Why does it all have to end? Well maybe it doesn’t. While I don’t expect strangers to randomly pinch our cheeks and blow us kisses walking down the street, maybe there is something we can do that will make people want to open up to us more. Because if they open up to us more, we can then learn more, influence more and serve more. So how do we do gain access to the hearts and minds of as many people as possible?

Kid Lesson #1: Trust others as you did when you didn’t know any better! Trust others, and they will trust you. It’s a nice little game of give and take. If your defenses are always up and are skeptical of other’s intentions, other’s defenses will be up, and they will be skeptical of your intentions. So this week, let’s think of one person who you are reluctant to trust and trust them. Make the first move. Might you get burned? Yep! But when you open your doors, more good than bad will enter. And surrounded by more good than ever, you can be taken back to a time when, like Maggie, people felt even more compelled to smile at you, laugh with you and let you know that their day is better because you helped them “look out the window and into the clouds” for just a bit.

Kid Lesson #2: Put yourself “out there” by being fearless: Sure, most kids are afraid of things like green beans and cough syrup, but like Maggie, most have no problem “cold calling” people they don’t know. Why? Because they don’t yet have a fear of rejection. Even without a psychology degree, most people can tell you the most successful salespeople, entrepreneurs and business leaders attack opportunities that average performers deem outlandish.

So this week, think of three business opportunities or potential clients who others think you have absolutely no chance of getting. Then identify the highest person in the decision-making chain and make the call, pay the visit, send the creative e-mail or deliver the singing telegram. Regardless of how you do it, just put yourself out there. And take comfort in knowing the top is not crowded. Most of your competition is too scared to take the risk that you are about to take.

Another way to put yourself out there is to by identifying one smart person who you are dying to learn from. Not your buddy in the office, your manager or even your current mentor. Think about somebody big such as the author of your favorite book or a magazine writer you love, the host of that business radio show you enjoy, the speaker at that last seminar …whomever! Why not? Most people, regardless of their VIP status, are willing to help anybody gutsy enough to ask.

Cameron Johnson, a well-known author at age 23, has sold more than a dozen Internet businesses, and is now a contestant on Oprah’s Big Give. He talked about a time when he was an eight-year-old kid, sending a letter to Donald Trump, Plaza Hotel, New York City. It was addressed just like that … no street number, street name, zip code - nothing! He didn’t tell his parents he was sending it, but in the letter he asked Mr. Trump if, when he came to New York, Donald would give him a tour of the room where Macaulay Culkin stayed in the movie “Home Alone - Lost in New York.” When his family arrived at The Plaza for their vacation, the hotel manager’s first words were, “You must be Cameron!” Not long after, Cameron and family got a five-star tour of Cameron’s favorite room by none other than Donald Trump. So what’s the point? Because Cameron was eight-years-old and didn’t know any better, he put himself out there and his high-profile prospect, Donald Trump, responded by giving him access.

Kid Lesson #3: Give access to expect access: Kids will not only talk to anybody, but they will let just about anybody talk to them. How about you? Will you give access to just about anybody? Let’s face it, we are all crazy busy and don’t have a ton of minutes to burn every day. But if you expect people to call you back (access), you better be somebody who calls others back. If you expect that high level decision-maker to let you in, you better let that salesperson calling on you “in.”  If you expect advice from that VIP, you better be willing to give advice to that rookie. Those who get to the top in business and in life are those who are the most selfless. And because it is so natural for the top performer to give help and access to others, it is easy for them to ask for it from others.

So there you have it, kids. Let’s turn back the clock by trusting more, fearing less and by opening ourselves up to those who need our help. And by acting in this childish manner, you are about to find yourself with a lot more customers, contacts, mentors and friends than you ever dreamed possible.

Read other articles and learn more about Brian Sullivan.

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