What a six-year-old can teach YOU about business
The six-year-old in question (soon to be seven) is my son James. Now, James is like a lot of six-year-old boys…he has a bedroom full of every type of plastic gun there is to own. He even calls the area where they’re stored his ‘vault’, and often lays them out on the floor and opens up his ‘weapons museum’ for us to peruse (for a small charge of course, smart kid!).
We have never encouraged weapons or any act that promotes violence in any way, but there is something in a boy’s genes that seems to gravitate to this side of growing up. From the age of two, he was picking up sticks pretending they were guns. Lily, my other six-soon-to-be-seven-year-old has NO interest what so ever.
I’m okay with it to a point until it comes to the PlayStation, where James wants to play every game that is PEGI 12 and above (the rating used by the games industry, meaning games are suitable for 12-year olds and over).
In particular, he really wanted to play Fortnite… (groans from other parents I’m sure). Fortnite is a Battle Royale online game based on 100 players competing against each other to be the last person standing in player vs player (PVP) combat. There are guns and shootouts, competition and ‘loot’.
As responsible parents, we looked at it carefully and saw that in reality, it was no worse than a Tom & Jerry cartoon and the only risks were other player interactions. In fact, much was about strategy.
So, we decided to let him have a go (yes, I am a bad parent). We sat down and spoke to him and turned off the live text and chat capabilities. We also limited his time.
Initially all good, he loved it, found things to talk about, and there was no change.
However, after a while, we did notice a change in his behaviour and also attitude. So, I slowly started to wean him off it and onto a strategy adventure game called Minecraft (PEGI 7).
He loved Minecraft, well there are Zombies so what’s not to love! We set it up on easy mode and creative style. Minecraft is a game that allows players to build a world. You start with nothing and end up with cities, but you have to learn to create the tools, weapons, structures, materials – everything first. All you start with is your hands and what nature gives us.
In creative mode, you are provided with everything up front and you can explore. James loved this as he got all the rewards but didn’t have to work to get it.
After a while, he got a tad bored as he had everything Minecraft could offer so tried to negotiate with us to go back to Fortnite. We agreed on a different strategy and that’s when the valuable learning for James commenced.
Before I explain this lesson, I can practically guarantee nobody has ever told you about this in business (unless you have attended my scaling your business training at EC HQ).
Let me go back to the late 70’s/early 80’s…
The timing of this story is relevant as we’ve had several weeks of BBC’s Strictly. Some of you may know that during my early years from seven to fifteen, my hobby was Ballroom and Latin American Dancing. Not the most sensible hobby for a young boy brought up on a council estate, but that’s another story.
From complete two left-footed, no rhythm and little desire, this seven-year-old went on to entering and winning most competitions on a national and international level by the time he was fifteen. I’m not telling you this to impress you but to help you understand this hidden ingredient that dancing gave me.
Let’s analyse how both Strictly and James playing Minecraft can help you massively in your business.
Firstly, Strictly. We all know the format; after the first week, the routine will go something like this:
Get through to next round. Get given the dance to perform in front of nine million people in the next seven days. Turn up seven days later and perform to the dance to the music, in the costumes in front of a panel of judges to a rapturous applause (well, sometimes).
So how does some celebrity go from no idea to polished performer in a week?
So, let’s look at James. James got bored with Minecraft because everything was already created for him. We didn’t let him return back to Fortnite, instead, we recommenced the game BUT in tutorial mode. Basically, he had nothing up front and had to build shelter, doors, tools, weapons, windows and a bed – all within a certain time. Of course, initially, he failed (I hate that word) every time and had to start again. And every time he started again he improved from the last time.
In Strictly, the celebrities have no idea what the dance is, let alone how to dance it. Do you think they get with their partner and just – BOOM! there it is? Of course not, it may go something like this:
Day 1 – Walk through the steps individually, then with their partner
Day 2 – Add music
Day 3 – Add choreography
Day 4 – Hidden Ingredient
Day 5 – Hidden Ingredient
Day 6 – Add costumes
Day 7 – Dress rehearsal / Its show time…
Switching back to James in the same period of one week – he had knocked down a few trees, built a crafting table, made some tools, mined a home, created a furnace, mixed material in the furnace to make charcoal, created torches, mixed sand and fire together to make glass, created some windows and built a door. End of the tutorial. Into the proper game with a six-year-old who was now excited about the next chapter.
I am sure most of you will know this ingredient now. It’s called…Practice.
If you want to get good at something you have to practice, practice and practice. We all know this and for our craft be it a decorator, house seller, mentor, doctor, we do this every day.
But for business, we don’t do it. We don’t have what Strictly and James had – a goal. We don’t have a plan of how to get there. We don’t have measures along the way to tell us how well we are doing (we call them alerts). Most importantly, we don’t have a system for capturing the learning to stop repeating the same the mistakes, allowing us to practice doing what is right.
The world’s most successful people make what they do look effortless and that’s because they have practised and practised and practised their stuff to get to that stage.
Your business deserves the same. A team of people working together, aligned to the same goal, learning from their mistakes
In fact, business is like Minecraft – each block you need to build first – be it your structure, people, systems, alerts & follow-up – before you can move onto the next stage.
Over the next few days, weeks and months, get YOUR routine and set up your company to be world class – then practice, practice and practice.