For the last 6 months or so, Missy and I have been playing a game lately with Zack (6) and Zoe (4) called “3 favorite things”.

It was inspired a little bit by a mentor, Dan Sullivan from Strategic Coach. One of Dan’s guiding principles is protect the confidence of entrepreneurs by having a positive focus and reflecting on what is going well. This way you automatically set up the brain to look for additional things going right. You actually create a positive, virtuous circle instead of always constantly thinking about what is going wrong in your life.

So what we do is at night before the kids go to bed is have them tell us their 3 favorite things from the day. In their minds, they love it since they get to stall bedtime an extra 5 minutes or so but it does a lot more than that. Really they’re focusing on being grateful and setting up positive emotions and expectations for the next day. It’s fun (and rewarding) to see what kind of things make it to the list, especially if one of the items includes an activity we did with them. (i.e. playing street hockey outside or going skating. You get a sense that you’re making an impact on their lives.

Now for 2012 I want to step up their “hidden” entrepreneurial education and grooming even more. I’ve been inspired a bit by Ben Franklin and his 13 virtues he used over his lifetime to shape and craft himself into one of the most distinguished individual in history who had a profound affect on this country.

From Wikipedia –

Franklin sought to cultivate his character by a plan of 13 virtues, which he developed at age 20 (in 1726) and continued to practice in some form for the rest of his life. His autobiography lists his 13 virtues as:
1.    “Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.”
2.    “Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.”
3.    “Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.”
4.    “Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.”
5.    “Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.”
6.    “Industry. Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.”
7.    “Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.”
8.    “Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.”
9.    “Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.”
10.    “Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.”
11.    “Tranquility. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.”
12.    “Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.”
13.    “Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.”

Franklin did not try to work on them all at once. Instead, he would work on one and only one each week “leaving all others to their ordinary chance”. While Franklin did not live completely by his virtues and by his own admission, he fell short of them many times, he believed the attempt made him a better man contributing greatly to his success and happiness, which is why in his autobiography, he devoted more pages to this plan than to any other single point; in his autobiography Franklin wrote, “I hope, therefore, that some of my descendants may follow the example and reap the benefit.”

You can read his method here in his autobiography.

I thought about incorporating the 12 keys into a fun, interactive game that we play each week (while taking 4 weeks off because of travel, vacations, etc) The name, of course, for our family would be “12 Silver Keys”. 😉

Here are the 12 keys Missy and I talked about:

  1. Responsibility
  2. Creativity/Producer
  3. Helping/Serving Others
  4. Resourcefulness
  5. Goals
  6. Learning & Growth
  7. Adventure & Exploration
  8. Asking questions
  9.  Self-Love/Respect
  10. Gratitude
  11. Happiness, Joy & Fun
  12. Going the extra mile

I thought we’d start the week with a Sunday family dinner and (re)introducing  the key for that week and giving examples in a way that fit their comprehension level. So responsibility for a 6 and 4-year old might mean picking up their clothes and putting them in their hamper before showers. Or picking up their toys once they finish playing.

Then at bedtime each night we (Missy & Yanik) would also share what we did with that value and then the kids would tell what they’ve done that day to earn a key. And for each one (max 3) they’d get a real silver (plated) key. At the end of the week, on Friday we’d have another family dinner to talk about the value again and present the pirate’s chest.

Here’s the fun part! All the of keys the kids had collected could be used to open up the chest. We can control how many keys would actually unlock the chest. So sometimes they’d have to, potentially, wait weeks to unlock the treasure chest. And inside the treasure chest we’d put 2 items so there wouldn’t be a mass fit if Zack opened the lock and Zoe didn’t.

A treasure chest with keys isn’t that much and would be a fun interactive element. I’ve found some here

I wanted to create a conversation about this ‘game’ before we start with other entrepreneurs who are interested in raising their kids to be more empowered, independent and innovative. (In fact, that’s exactly why we run a 1x/year Family Freedom event in Park City, UT over 4th of July.)

So what do you think?

Am I missing anything on the 12 keys? Should I edit any of them? My buddy, Cameron Herold has a great TEDx presentation on raising kids to be entrepreneurial. He has traits like negotiating, handling failure, customer service and sales on his list.

And a bigger question is do you think this will create a mismatched incentive to perform the values just for the toys inside the treasure chest?

21 thoughts on “12 Keys to Building More Entrepreneurial Kids (The Game?)

  1. Love love this concept! I think the categories/keys are spot on I did something very similar with my kids only instead of the prize it earned them chips that could then be used to purchase things that they wanted (taught them the value of earning rewards) It took chips to purchase TV time, video game time, trips to the store for ice cream, etc. If they misbehaved/made poor choices it would cost them chips. This really taught my kids about actions/consequences and reinforced good values and decision making!

  2. I think the most important lesson you can teach you children is sports or games to become competitive but more importantly how to lose! Sounds strange but losing, getting up, dusting yourself off and trying to win again. I have talked with several homeless people lately and many have given up. The ability to not overcome obstacles, we all have to adapt and overcome in life. The people who handle adversity the best win. Derek Jeters dad never let him win at anything. But I think this could break some children confidence. I always beat my children several times til they were almost ready to quit then let them win to my very upset dismay. Help them become problem solvers, helping them develop into business people is the easy one. Help them come up with a product might it be a birthday cards or a paper airplanes. Have them sell these items to yourself, family and friends. You’ll want to give the buyers a heads up and grease there palms with purchasing funds. They will also haggle for price and product volume. The money is broken into percentages 50% reinvested into the business 25% into rent and pay back of initial investment overhead of the house and 25% profit to spend in any way they want. You’ll see your 6 year old come alive when you break down the interest on the investment money you started him with. Wow negotiations skills develop quickly. Frustrate them along the way just enough so they have hurdles to jump. Not everyone buys make them become the sale people pushing the need for the products. Children learn pleasure trigger before they are 8 years old if they get praise and love for reading a book they become readers if it’s kicking a football they’ll be kickers. They need to learn that you can lose today and win tomorrow. Not to focus on the lose but how they can win next time.

  3. Love the concept! Some feedback – by “helping/serving others”, I believe you are looking to teach them contribution – awesome! I would say the one thing missing on your list is “kindness and compassion” – just my two cents, but seems to me that the world today is lacking this as everyone is focused on striving to achieve. Looking forward to future posts on how your kids are enjoying the Silver Keys!

  4. Love it!

    My suggestion: do a little reading on Maria Montessori’s view of development – specifically: The Absorbent Mind and the Prepared Environment. (Also, get a copy of the 2nd to last year’s Renegade Millionaire cd’s and listen to Gene Landrum’s presentation. He also included Montessori in one of his books.)

    Lastly, consider the myth of childhood and the fact that until about 60-80 years ago, children would get up before dawn, go milk the cow, gather eggs, etc… They were being trained to be producers, helpers, entrepreneurial (good farmers were serious serial entrepreneurs), by living it from an early age.

    My daughter is in – Young Entrepreneur’s Academy – and they have a ‘franchise’ model that is spreading to other schools. You may be interested to help bring that to your area so it’s there when your kids are old enough. It’s quite brilliant.

    Rock & Roll, man!

    • @Craig – thank you. Some good resources and definitely will look at them. Young Entrepreneurs Academy sounds fascinating

  5. Wow! This is excellent.

    I have already passed this on to a high school teacher that we work with and just know she will find some students interested.

    The more kids we get from in front of all the senseless games and involved in a true online venture the better.

    Keep up the great work!


  6. I love it Yanik. Entrepreneurship isn’t a “born skill” like a lot of people think… definitely a learned trait/skill based on motivation, creativity, problem solving, and confidence.

    Love the game man. The only thing I’m going to throw out there is… (playing devils advocate for the current setup you propose… and please correct me if I’m wrong on this), doing it where you have lets say 10 total keys and lets say 3 open the chest… injects randomness into the process. It’s as much luck whether that specific key will unlock it as anything. Looking at it from the “operant conditioning” angle… random rewards of course motivates more than pre-scheduled rewards. i.e. – giving an employee a yearly Christmas bonus breeds an expectation of the bonus because it happens on a predictable schedule… but basing bonuses on random unexpected rewards builds better loyalty and results for the employer. Works great for keeping employees on their feet… but, for entrepreneurs… I want to know that I have some control over the outcome based on the work and focus I put into it. I Know all of my businesses or efforts won’t succeed all the time… but, I like having the control to know I succeeded not because of random luck but because of the actions I took that put me in the best position to make the odds at succeeding the best.

    Ha, totally didn’t intend on writing more than 2 sentences before I started this, lol. Just got me thinking.. and again, I could be totally off target here (so don’t be afraid to tell me so)… but, I think by making the reward for doing something positive a random chance at success might give them the wrong impression on what hard work, focus, and entrepreneurial spirit can give them. I love the fact they don’t know when the treasure chest will be opened by a key they have… awesome… really instills delayed gratification which is HUGE as an entrepreneur.

    I’m gonna rack my brain to see if I can throw some ideas your way that may tighten it up (heck, they may not too! :-). In the end it would be cool if maybe there was a simple way to add and subtract “points” (or keys) based on things they did or didn’t do. That way it shows them responsibility as well… that there are consequences for certain things and maybe work in something where they can if they choose, choose to leave the toy (reward) in the chest to let that reward “grow” (kind of like investing what they have today to get something bigger next week) into something cooler later. Get them to understand sometimes it’s best not to take the spoils all at once… but to set them aside and grow.

    I can think of some fun things as the kids get older to integrate in too… great idea man! My wife and I have a little 17 month old and are expecting our 2nd one this year… so whatever you work up I’ll definitely be first in line to play the game w/ my kids in a few years.

    • @Trevor – yeah I’m with you. Missy says I make stuff a little more complicated than it shoudl be. I thought about possibly taking keys away if they don’t perform a value. Yes, randomness is at play and I get what you’re saying about having the rewards based on the actions. I also considered 10 keys = 1 dollar (or something like that) so they are guaranteed a win in some way.

  7. John Jude O'Callaghan says:

    Your Proposed Game for Would Be Teenage Entrepreneurs

    Not sure about the potential of virtues idea.
    If it were doing it, I woud base my game on Snakes and Ladders,
    where some dice numbers would enable the player get to “The Gold,”
    and some would be set-backs.
    The squares would represent good and bad entrepreneurial decisions.
    “Go it alone” would be good.”
    “Take on one or more partners” would
    be bad.
    “Undercut the competition’s low prices” would be bad.
    “Do what the compwtition does that works would be good –but add that
    something extra that would help to swing the dsale in your favor
    would be even better.,” “Be a pioneer or inventor is bad. “Be a clever copy cat” is GOOFD.

  8. GREAT IDEA!!!!!!
    As a parent it is always great to find character building aids for our children!!!
    Their young minds are alwys screaming out for more.

    To include the problems in thier life and keep it real while positive I used to do a 3high / 1low recap of the day at bedtime with my kids. The highs we used as celebration and character lessons and the low brought out the issues in thier mind that they needed help solving.
    The kids loved it… & needless to say sometimes the bedtime limit got stretched 🙂

    • @Patrick – I like that since it focused on issues they need help solving too. I might add that to our 3 favorite things game. Thank you

  9. Great idea.

    I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot lately, not only raising entrepreneurial kids but instilling good habits that will set them up for success in life. I’m not a dad yet, but I guess I want to be prepared when that day comes. I want to give my children the best opportunity to succeed in life. I definitely don’t want to reduce their chances of reaching their maximum potential by NOT teaching them these things.

    I’m really fascinated with gamification, i.e. using game design principles in real life to engage and motivate. There’s so much potential to use gamification in business, and as much potential to use it in parenting. Here’s my (many) thoughts for what they’re worth.

    Let’s start with the most important question, the big one. Yes there’s always a risk that they will play the game because of the rewards if the game isn’t done right. Good game design is all about making the emotional experience itself feel like the biggest reward.

    Here’s a quote from a game developer job listing regarding rewards:

    “Can you find the fine line between a reward that encourages players to have fun and an incentive that enslaves them?”

    I found that in the book Reality is Broken. If you’re interested in “gamifying” real life I highly recommend it.

    The four basics traits of a game is to have a clear and compelling goal (open the chest!), clear rules (pick up your toys after you’ve used them!), feedback system (keys!) and voluntary participation(make the game compelling enough and they’ll participate). So you seem to have all parts in place.

    I was surprised to see that rewards wasn’t among the four basic traits in Reality is Broken, but when I think back on my +10,000 hours of gaming in my teenage years it’s kinda obvious I wasn’t motivated by the rewards themselves, but by the challenges and feeling I was part of something bigger than myself.

    I think a treasure chest and keys are a great way of enhancing the experience, that’s what games are all about.

    You could even have a “leveling up” ceremony every time they open the chest, or every 12 week cycle to make it more special, and explain that with a higher level also comes a higher responsibility.

    “Systems that help us level up in real life, by providing us with voluntary obstacles related to our real-world activity and by giving us better feedback really can help us make a better effort” (from Reality is Broken as well)

    The 12 keys

    #1 Responsibility
    I’m thinking responsibility can be summed up in Self-Reliance, i.e. “Reliance on one’s own capabilities, judgment, or resources.” That includes taking full responsibility for ones actions and decisions.

    #2 Creativity/Producer
    I like the suggestion by Cameron Herold that instead of you telling them bedtime stories, your kids can tell the stories some of the nights.

    “Why don’t you sit down with kids and give them four items: a red shirt, a blue tie, a kangaroo and a laptop and have them tell a story about those four things”

    I guess with kids it’s more a matter of giving them space and opportunity to let their creativity flow though. They’re already more creative than you and me.

    #6 Learning & Growth
    It’s probably a good idea to spend time during this week to help your kids find out which *type* of learning they respond to the most, i.e. visual(reading, images), audio, video, through stories, through games etc. That will make their school years a lot easier, no matter if they are homeschooled or attend public school.

    #8 Asking questions
    They may be the same thing, but the first word that popped into my mind when I saw this key was Critical Thinking. Not only should they ask questions for the sake of curiosity, but also to question assumptions.

    #9 Self-Love/Respect
    I first thought a key about nutrition and health was missing, but when you think about it staying healthy is all about self-love/respect. Entrepreneurs need that energy that only can come from a healthy body and healthy mind. But of course there’s more to self-respect than what you eat.

    Missing keys?
    Self-control/discipline is one characteristic I’m missing. It could possibly be combined with the Goal key in form of negative goals. i.e. you let your kids decide one thing they WON’T do for a whole day or a whole week. Optimally something they like to do, like not playing with their favorite toy for a whole day!

    What about the financial aspect?
    Unless you’re teaching them to handle money outside of the game I think that’s a given to be included in the game. You could have one key where you focus on savings, budgeting, investing etc.

    OR as Trevor Mauch said you could use the keys themselves to teach them about money. Teach the importance of saving at least 10% of all keys in their own glass jar so they can see their wealth grow week after week. Or as they say in the Richest Man in Babylon, teach them to “Start thy purse to fattening”. All the “Seven Cures For a Lean Purse” should really be something every kid/teen learns. Here they are:

    1. Start thy purse to fattening
    2. Control thy expenditures
    3. Make thy gold multiply
    4. Guard thy treasures from loss
    5. Make of thy dwelling a profitable investment
    6. Insure a future income
    7. Increase thy ability to earn

    If you play this game over a long timeframe and multiple 12 week cycles you could even pay them interest for the 10% keys in their jar that they then can choose to spend or “reinvest” in the jar. How about when they turn 18 you let them exchange their keys for real currency and add that to their savings.

    Teach them budgeting and controlling expenses by having them keep a record of how many keys they’ve got total, how many they got this week and what they used them for, i.e. how many keys they “paid” to open the chest, or how many keys they saved(“invested”) for the future.

    Shouldn’t take more than a few minutes for your kids to write it down each week, but it still gets them into the habit of keeping track of their assets.

    When it comes down to it though they won’t play along unless they think it’s fun. It’s probably like Missy said, don’t make it too complicated(at least for the kids).

    Would love to brainstorm some more at the Underground Seminar. There’s a good chance I’ll attend.

    • @Dan – amazing post! Thank you for the detailed insights – I would imagine it’ll help a lot of people. Love the idea of gamification and have been excited about numerous possibilities around it. Hopefully will see you at the Underground.

      • Thanks Yanik, it’s my pleasure to share the little I know. It’s not until I read your post that I started thinking about gamification + parenting. It’s a great way of implementing the learning process into your kids daily lives, and I’m sure you agree that learning by doing is the best way to learn.

        I think a lot of parents are looking for this kind of knowledge, i.e. how to raise entrepreneurial and independent kids. I’ve been learning and “scratching my own itch” for quite a while in this area, because frankly I see no other way to raise my future children. I want them to be masters of their own destiny.

        There’s so many different directions you can take an education+parenting business, it’s mind boggling.

        By the way, looks like I’m all set for Underground. I’m really looking forward to attend. Will be my first visit to the US as well, which makes it even more exciting.

  10. To paraphrase Robbins… and whenever the kids are old enough… the end of day recap could become- What was I grateful for today? What went well? What did I learn? (distinction in becoming ingrained and personalised) and I think MOST importantly How can I improve/make this better? Builds in the aspect of each day being a little better than the last… turns a negative into a positive and 1% improvement equals massive changes. You are so inspiring Yanik!

  11. This is genius Yanik – love the whole concept and I can see a whole documentary coming out of it!
    The one thing I would add to becoming a successful entrepreneur and to start with kids is the whole idea of “Celebrating” – not just ones successes but also that of others and the elements that made an outcome happen. To “celebrate” to acknowledge that one is 1. connected to others, 2. dependent on many factors/elements/people, 3. feel/empathize others success, 4. leads to cross promotion, others succeed too. There is a distinction between Gratitude and Celebration. To Celebrate would also imply acknowledgement, recognition, giving thanks (which is gratitude), and more. I look forward to following you on this journey with my kids. Thank you for sharing. Cheers!

  12. What a great idea Yanik. Perhaps you could have two treasure chests to add another element of suspense. Both treasure chests have prizes — one better than the other. For each key they receive, they have one guess at what treasure chest it will open. So, if they receive 3 keys in a week, chances are good they will successfully open one or two treasure chests. This way the child also owns the success of making a good selection rather than feeling slighted by being awarded a key that had no chance of opening the chest.

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