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7 Things You Can Learn About Business and Life From Kids

Product Owner Lead

Even if you’re not a parent, I'm sure you already know that children can teach you a lot about life – whether it's about communication, honesty, or emotions. Ever since my school years, all through college, and 15 years of work experience, I’ve seen a lot of situations where people tend to complicate simple things, hide their emotions, and are afraid to stand up for themselves. This is when we should stop and ask ourselves: “Why do we tend to overcomplicate things when there are simple solutions?”

Before we get into that, let me introduce you to the core idea of this article. While I was preparing breakfast one Sunday morning, my sons were standing nearby, discussing which game they’ll play today. We have a rule at our home that each day one of them chooses the game, and that day, it was my younger son's turn to pick. Even though my older son knew it wasn't his turn, he said "We should play this one", pointing to one of the boxes. His younger brother immediately reacted with "No, today is my turn."

I wasn't surprised by my older son's courage – of course, he tried to get his own way. However, I didn't expect the openness and the way my younger son would decline his suggestion. For him, it wasn’t that much about the game, but about his right to be the one that picks the game. Another thing that caught my attention was the reaction of the older kid. He wasn’t offended – he simply moved on with the fact that today just isn’t his day. 

Now, let's try applying this scenario to a different situation, in which there would be two adults at their workplace. When it comes to openness, ask yourself next would an adult decline a proposal in such a clear and direct way? And when it comes to the reaction of the ones whose proposal had been declined – is it more likely they would simply accept it, or would they get offended?

Afterward, I continued linking the way my children communicate with some adult-world situations and that's when things got even more interesting. Continue reading to get more tips that will help you simplify your adulthood.

1. Be honest

Yes, it's that simple. You don’t like it? Say it. If you don’t believe in what you or someone else is doing or how things are being done, you should address it. Think about it like this – what’s the worst thing that can happen? 

If you're worried that someone might get offended or that you might lose respect and support, let me tell you this. People will respect you more if you're being honest, even if they disagree with you. However, don’t forget to be kind because being honest never means being rude or unprofessional. 

If you’re still worried this won’t work for you, try saying it to yourself first. Write it down and read it out loud, imagining someone else said it to you. Are you offended? No? Great, let’s move on then. 

2. Express your emotions

Throwing toys at your colleagues is not what I’m suggesting, but being quiet when something’s wrong or playing it cool is also not a healthy way to go through life. Nobody has 365 ultra-happy days in a year. There are bad days as well, and that's totally fine. 

You might’ve heard that talking about your emotions at the workplace is not professional and that you should leave it somewhere aside, maybe in a drawer at home. 🤷‍♀️ But, considering an average adult spends more time with his colleagues than with his family, having healthy relationships with them is crucial. Think of a child who would simply say “I'm happy” or “I'm sad”. I know this sounds rudimentary, but when it comes to emotions, it's way more advanced than how many adults communicate.

Keep in mind that when there is something wrong, for most people it can be pretty hard to hide. Even without speaking, you might be sending out negative nonverbal signals. And we want to avoid that. Saying what bothers you out loud will make you feel better anyway, so why wouldn’t you do it? In the end, if you work with great people as I do, they’ll do anything to help you. And if they’re the cause of a specific issue, then it's even more important to talk to them because it might lead to finding a mutual solution.

Note to yourself – don’t forget to show positive emotions as well. It's highly unlikely one can show too much respect or kindness to their colleagues, right? 

3. Negotiate like a kid

You'll probably agree with me that kids are little masters of negotiation. Even though they probably won't get something the second they ask for it, they’ll also not give up so easily. They tend to be persuasive and persistent: “I can’t get that chocolate? Well, can I get it if I tidy up my room? Still no? Can I, at least, get a candy bar then?” 

You see where I am going, so let's apply this to the adult-life scenario. Maybe you want to get promoted at work? Start a new project? Get a new desk? What exactly is stopping you from asking? Just go for it. Even if you don’t get what you want, you’ll at least know the reason and learn what you can do in order to get it. 

4. Dream big

Have you ever heard a kid saying “I want to be an astronaut, but it's too hard to become one?” No? Me neither. Why is that? Well, kids are focused on success only, not on the troubles that may appear along the way. Of course, this isn’t the most realistic way to live, but if you really think about it, there are no safe wins in life, so why not try and shoot for the stars? 

Adults develop fear through their life experiences, that’s normal, and I’m not saying we should suppress it. But, if you’re thinking about doing something big, I suggest putting on paper everything that could go wrong with your plan first. Then, if you figure out you’re not losing too much (or nothing at all), I say go for it.

5. Work hard, play hard

If you're an average adult, it's possible that, at some point in your life, you stopped playing games. Unless you're working in a digital agency, then the fun never stops. But, if it did, why did it happen? Do work and fun really have to be on the opposite side? Maybe it’s because we think that if we're having fun while working, we won’t get the results we want. We might even be worried that people won’t take us seriously. 

Many research results show that happy employees perform better than the ones who are not. Motivation and satisfaction overall have a great impact on one’s performance. Knowing this, make sure that, besides focusing on doing a great job, you find some time to have fun too. Wake that inner child up! Try finding joy in your everyday tasks and look for creativity in unexpected places. Or, if you’re an adult that still enjoys playing games, like most of us here, play them with your colleagues. Organize a board game night, play fantasy football, go to squash – find whatever works for you best, and boost that team spirit. 

6. Communicate expectations clearly

As adults, we often assume that people know what we're expecting from them, even though we don’t say it out loud. On the other hand, kids don’t assume – if they want something, they’ll say it. Imagine if the whole world worked like that. Unfortunately, it doesn’t, and most of the time you have to read someone’s body language or analyze the tone of their voice to conclude how they feel. This isn’t something you, alone, can change, but remember that the change starts with you first. So before speaking to someone, always evaluate if you're being clear enough.

If you see space for improvement in that department, there are ways to do it. For example, taking meeting notes and sending follow-up emails containing the most important information saved my life. But if you’re not a big fan of writing, you can also confirm everything you just agreed on in the meeting verbally.

7. Break the rules, fail often, and learn from mistakes 

As a parent, you want your child to evolve in many different ways. But, if they fully obey the rules, how are they supposed to learn? Sometimes, it's better to let them explore things themselves and make mistakes. And the same goes for adults. 

Re-evaluate the rules we stick to every day – just because something is done in a specific way, doesn’t mean it's the best possible way to do it. Think about situations that need improvement and talk to your colleagues about creating some type of strategy. There are many opportunities to do things differently in this world without putting anything at risk. So why not try it out?

Going through this article, I realized that, while growing up, we made lives unnecessarily complicated for ourselves in order to be liked, understood, and accepted. Yet when you’re a child, everything seems simple and easy-going. I know they say adults have it all figured out, but maybe it’s the other way around. This is why we should always listen to our children. Yeah, we’re teaching them about life, but we can learn from them so much too.

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About the author

Danijela is a Product Owner at COBE. In her free time, she enjoys reading, playing board games, and biking.


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