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Why You Should Encourage Kids to be Rule Breakers

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Developing and nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit

As a young man, I knew that school was not for me. It’s not that I didn’t like to learn. It was that I didn’t like to learn the way they taught at school. Rather, I like to do things. Book knowledge to me was boring.

Because of this, I did not do well in school. I was also labeled as a troublemaker, much to my father’s dismay. He was after all the superintendent of the Hawaii school system.

In fact, by some people’s measure, I was a rule breaker.

This was true in my natural father’s estimation. To him, playing by the rules meant following the old rules of money. To him, the path to success was to get good grades, go to a good college, get a good job with a high salary, save money, buy a house, and invest in a portfolio of stocks, bonds, and mutual funds for retirement.

Unfortunately, none of these “good” things did him any good. He always struggled financially, and during his last days, he lamented that he didn’t have much to leave us kids. I call my natural father my poor dad not because he was a bad father. In fact, he was the most loving and kind man I could ask for. Rather, I call him my poor dad because he did not know how money worked and regretted his financial position his whole life. He played by the rules, and they did not serve him well.

The rich dad difference

My best friend’s dad was my rich dad. He did not have the same rules my poor dad did. Rather, he saw the world in a much different way.

Where my poor dad would say, “We can’t afford that,” my rich dad would ask, “How can I afford that?”

Where my poor dad would say, “You must save for retirement,” my rich dad would say, “Savers are losers.”

Where my poor dad would say, “Get a secure and high paying job,” my rich dad would say, “Being an employee is the riskiest thing you can do.”

You name any conventional rule of money and life, and my poor dad probably had a contrarian view. He was at his core a rule breaker. And he was immensely successful.

My best friend Mike and I followed in my rich dad’s footsteps. Whether it was using return copies of comic books to make money through a lending library, or giving up lucrative job offers to take a low paying job that taught sales skills, our lives were and are defined by breaking the conventional rules.

The success of rule breakers

Turns out it is this bent towards rule breaking that contributes to our success. I recent study by professors from UC Berkeley and London School of Economics confirms, rule breakers are more likely to grow up to be entrepreneurs.

Here’s the tragedy, a big percentage of our kids are these rule breakers, and many of them have entrepreneurial dreams. Here are some statistics from my book Why “A” Students Work for “C” Students.

  • 44% of young people want to be entrepreneurs
  • 46% aim to set up their business within the next two years
  • 43% of students grades 5 through 12 want to be entrepreneurs

In other words, young Americans want to be entrepreneurs. They want to start companies that provide a high quality of life while also providing innovation and employment. The only problem is that our school system specializes in training our kids to be employees.

This is why schoolteachers and many parents continue to say, “Go to school to get a good, high-paying job.” Few parents or teachers are saying, “Go to school to learn to create good, high-paying jobs.”

So, there are two problems. Our kids want to create jobs, which is a vital need for our country, and instead of teaching our kids how to create jobs, our schools teach them how to get jobs.

In the process, they build into them an employee mindset, which is one that is inclined to follow the rules instead of break them. This breaks their spirit, and it squashes their entrepreneurial dreams.

These dreams will die

There is a tremendous difference between the skill sets of an entrepreneur and of an employee. Unfortunately, because the skill sets required to be an entrepreneur are not taught in our schools, many of our kids will never realize their dream to start their own business.

Many people dream of becoming entrepreneurs, but few will take the leap of faith. Why? The lack of financial education in our schools. Without financial education, most employees are terrified of losing their job, not having a steady paycheck, or simply failing—and most kids have no idea where to start except by getting a good job, and then they’re trapped.

Without financial education, our kid’s dreams will die.

Every kid has a genius

Every child has a genius. Unfortunately, their genius may not be recognized by the educational system. It may even be crushed.

Thomas Edison, one of the great geniuses of modern times, was labeled “addled”—mixed up or confused—by his first teacher. He never finished school and instead went on to found General Electric.

Albert Einstein also failed to impress his teachers. They called him lazy, sloppy, and insubordinate. He proved them wrong.

The point is that the environment of our school system is not always a good one for the type of genius many kids have. In fact, it can be constricting.

All parents have met the genius in their child. Most parent’s know that a child’s true genius comes through most clearly in the things that child dreams about—the ideas and things that delight, fascinate, and challenge them—and yes, in the rules that they break.

Nurture the rule-breaking, entrepreneurial spirit

Traditionally, we’ve left it to the school system to develop and nurture our children’s genius. Today, that won’t work.

Because our kid’s dream of being entrepreneurs, they’ll face a system in school that is bent on breaking that dream, teaching them to follow conventional rules for success, replacing their dreams with the old American dream of getting a good job.

Because of this, it’s up to parents to nurture and cultivate their children’s dreams—and to direct the rule-breaking tendency from negative actions to positive challenges to the status quo. It’s up to parents to provided a solid financial education.

Original publish date: July 25, 2017

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