I have a 12-year old son. I don't live with his mother, but I try to do as much as possible to help him grow up a happy and healthy adult.
Couple of months ago I learned he had problems with maths and started to investigate what the cause may be. Among other things, I asked him what cool stuff they did at school during the last 30 days. He couldn't answer.
Then I asked him, what cool stuff he would like to do, if it was possible.
The answer was "something related to programming".
Thereafter we (me and his mother) made him the following offer: If he manages to earn enough money with a legal, ethical job, me and his mother won't bother him with grades ("enough" means "enough to survive in his region in a place separate from his mom's").
He said he'd like to learn everything it takes to make money with programming, but he doesn't want to give up on school.
Then I started to teach him programming (I'm a software developer myself). First couple of lessons were about the ways he can make a living programming (employment, freelancing, own company). We have been learning to program via Skype since then. Large part of the sessions runs like this: I explain a particular FreeCodeCamp lesson to him (both of us look at the same text), then he tries to do the exercise. I help him, if he has difficulties.
At other times I'm just talking with him, usually discussing some article I found on the Internet and which I consider useful for him.
My impression is that he does less than he could. Sometimes he does an exercise in less than five minutes, but doesn't want to do the next one. Also, right now he doesn't seem to do them in his leisure time.
I tried several motivation hacks. I sent him the "Pirates of the Silicon Valley" movie. I explained to him the principle of conditioning (the stuff with the Pavlovian dog) -- when he rewards himself by eating a small, sugar-free candy after every completed exercise, it's easier to keep going.
There is a big gun I could use: I'm also constantly testing business ideas (mostly tech-related) and could tell him, how I do it myself. Up to now I never told him about this because most of my ideas were bad (didn't pass the validation phase). There are pros and cons.
Benefits of telling the child about how I test my business ideas
- He will learn, how to test ideas on low budget (i. e. in a safe way, without taking unreasonable risks).
- He will see, what lean methodology looks in practice.
- He may get motivated -- sometimes you can change a person's behavior by doing what you are preaching yourself. If he looks at me testing ideas, he may some day do the same himself.
- He may learn, how to learn from feedback (the art and science of hypothesis testing).
- He may learn, how to find out things that nobody can tell you (scientific method). When you have a new product, no authority on Earth can tell you whether or not it will be useful to somebody.
- If a particular idea fails, he will see, how I get up and move on (pivot) to the next one (i. e. that failure does not need to destroy a person).
- He could learn the economic common sense that most people lack and which you can acquire only by doing a lot of business planning (incl. basics of accounting). This common sense is useful regardless of whether or not a person wants to start a business. Acquired common sense like "you can't spend more than you earn indefinitely" allows you, among other things, to stay out of numerous traps that financial institutions put in front of you (e. g. "fast and easy" consumer credits; a big problem in the region where he lives).
- In the ideal case, he will learn, how to build a company that is tailored to his personality.
- Potentially, a better emotional bond. Building a business is the second most important thing in my life (first being the child). If I show him that big part, it could lead to a deeper and better connection between us.
- I could argue that even if I continue to fail at business, it's better than not trying it. This activity keeps me alive and prevents me from drinking alcohol, starting unhealthy relationships, and making other suboptimal choices. There are women worth chasing even with zero chance of having a relationship with them (by "chasing" I mean primarily improving oneself to become worthier of her). I could argue that the same applies to my business-building activities.
My biggest concern is that he sees me trying and failing, he could make the wrong conclusion that he shouldn't even attempt entrepreneurship. A German business book says that many children of failed entrepreneurs are so traumatized that they don't even consider starting a business themselves.
All my ideas failed so far, but he didn't suffer because of those losses (I lost time and some non-catastrophic amounts of money).
Should I show and tell my son, how I'm trying to build the company of my dreams
- here and now, or
- do it when and if I've made my first billion?
Are there any other risks I'm not aware of?