Emotional intelligence lessons from the youngest billionaire entrepreneur.
Sara Blakely, the overnight billionaire creator of Spanx, learned at an early age how not to be intimidated by failure. Her father was a natural mentor in one of the key emotional intelligence skills necessary for young entrepreneurs. As she told the story to Fareed Zakaria, her father encouraged both her and her brother to report daily any failures they had experienced. And he rewarded them with praise for being willing and able to recognize and talk about the problems they had faced.
Whether he knew it or not, Sara's Dad was innoculating her against the shame that most of us learn to associate with failure. Since shame is painful and we naturally try to avoid painful things, we all tend to avoid talking about or thinking about shame inducing failures. If we anticipate the possibility of failure, we may even avoid the activity we might fail at, we stop trying. All successful entrepreneurs, from Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, to Thomas Edison, inventor of the light bulb (the cartoon symbol of the creative idea) have been willing to fail in order to learn what it takes to achieve their goal.
There shouldn't be a burden of shame attached to making an honest mistake or trying something difficult and not succeeding the first time. But we often learn accidentally to fear the shame of failure so much that we are unwilling to risk making a mistake or trying something difficult.
Shame is a killer of creativity and a huge inhibitor to success. Learning to overcome the shame that holds us back from trying difficult things gives us a great emotional advantage. We have the ability to try and fail and try again and again until we succeed.
You can teach your children this lesson the same way Sara's father taught her. And if you didn't happen to learn it yourself as a child, it's not too late. You can form a group of friends to celebrate your "failures" and brainstorm the lessons you can learn from them.
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