Serial entrepreneur and innovator Naveen Jain reflects on the joy of sharing his passion for entrepreneurship with his children.
Yesterday I celebrated Father’s Day, which got me thinking about two things: being a father and an entrepreneur. Being a father has been, without a doubt, my greatest source of achievement, pride and inspiration. Fatherhood has taught me about unconditional love, reinforced the importance of giving back and taught me how to be a better person.
While I reflected on the blessings of fatherhood, I realized the incredible sense of pride I feel that my children are able to share with me my second passion: entrepreneurism. My children have been learning lessons about entrepreneurship since they were in kindergarten, and these lessons are paying off: even though they are only 22, 18, and 15, they have already collectively launched three nonprofit organizations and several new businesses. While I have always felt a tremendous responsibility to guide them to reach their full potential as influential and innovative leaders of their generation, their accomplishments have exceeded even my wildest expectations.
The entrepreneurial bug had already bitten my son Ankur by the time he got to college. As a lifelong entrepreneur I certainly didn’t want to dampen his enthusiasm by telling him he couldn’t do it, but I also wanted to make sure it was balanced with the proper attention to his studies. His mother and I suggested that he launch a nonprofit organization to get a head start on his entrepreneurial career. The result was an amazingly successful venture called the Kairos Society, a student-run nonprofit that connects undergraduate entrepreneurs with business leaders to create innovations with global impact. More than 350 leading college entrepreneurs and 150 world leaders gathered at the Kairos Global Summit in New York City earlier this year to collaborate and create innovations and business models that address key global issues, including clean water, the global financial crisis, energy consumption, natural disasters, healthcare and more.
Our 18-year-old daughter Priyanka recently graduated high school and is passionate about raising students’ awareness about global causes, amplifying the voice of youth and inspiring young people to take action in their communities. She founded iCAREweCARE, a global network of high school and college students in an effort to find the causes they care about and make a difference in the world. She was also recently selected as a Teen Advisor to Girl Up, a United Nations Foundation campaign that is committed to ensuring that girls and young women around the world are educated, healthy, safe, counted and positioned to be the next generation of leaders. Our youngest child Neil who is 15-years-old, is starting Innovation Generation to inspire young people to get interested in science and use innovations to solve grand challenges.
I am proud of my kids and happy to brag about their achievements. Their success has been an immense source of happiness for me. If you are passionate about entrepreneurship like I am, you too can instill this passion in your children. Even if they don’t end up starting up their own businesses or nonprofits, the lessons they will learn will carry over into many other areas of their lives-;they will understand how to gather resources, sell their ideas, and bounce back from setbacks or failures.
Teaching children about entrepreneurship is much like imparting any other skill or piece of knowledge. You will provide them with ways to experience how entrepreneurship works, and you guide them toward the subjects or areas they seem to show an interest in. Once they are old enough to understand what their parents do for a living, bring them to a few business events or invite like-minded entrepreneurs to your home. You want your children to hear for themselves-;and not just from you-;about the exciting possibilities ahead of them.
As fathers, we all have great lessons to teach our children. Whether or not they will follow your lead and become entrepreneurs, the messages you impart will not be wasted. You will create young adults who are open to new ideas, curious about the world, and see solutions where others just see dead ends.