I envy kids today, growing up in our economy today. And when I say "kids," I mean anyone in their teens or preteens. Yes, I know being young sucks from at least one perspective. But on the other hand, kids today are coming up in the age of YouTube and the Internet at the highest stage of its development to date. Today, we have the ability to throw together a business literally overnight and start doing business globally over the weekend. Twenty-five years ago, when I was coming out of college, that was unheard of.
Yes, Dom, you say, but is that wise? Do you really think kids should launch a business with such little planning and research? What if they make mistakes? What if they fail? . . . But as counter-intuitive as this might seem, my answer is YES. Yes, I think they should make mistakes. Yes, I think they should fail as fast as they can. I don't think research and planning are the best predictors of success for entrepreneurs; in fact, I think the opposite is true. I think that the best thing they can do is launch quickly, make mistakes, learn from those mistakes, and iterate again.
It's this skill—falling and getting up again—that sets good entrepreneurs apart. Perfectionism is the enemy, actually, and traditional education trains kids to be perfectionists, penalizing them for not getting all the answers right. What's useful about not being allowed to get things wrong? How else are you going to learn how to get better results?
Today, our kids can learn from over 250 world-class universities online, without credit, but from their finest professors via video lectures from their laptops or phones in their pajamas. They can apply it right away to their businesses in real time and finance their startups online. They can seek out trusted voices to speak into their careers and connect with those mentors through LinkedIn and other specialized networks and meritocracies that reward them for their street cred. They can deploy their personal brands online to earn money and build reputations that far exceed the parchment degrees of my generation. This is a great time to be young and fiercely competitive and hungry.
When kids or parents or their parents ask me about college track options for their kids (what course of study or majors to pursue) I candidly respond, "Why choose college or university at all?" I mean, if you want university classes, you can stream lectures from the finest professors online and audit those courses to your heart's delight. You can point your browser to TED talks and listen to the brightest minds discuss probative subjects that lead you into all sorts of fields you might explore on your own. You can literally start your own project, crowdfund it, and launch into a product, a business, or an organization if you want—all with just your imagination, a few friends, or just on your own. The capacity and potential of all this was unheard of just a few years ago, and it's because of this thing called the Internet.
What I'm describing isn't fantasy and it isn't vision casting. I'm not a futurist or a Disney Imagineer. Anyone can start a podcast today. Anyone can start a blog. You can launch a website or an online store. You can start that There's only you standing in your own way. You can tell yourself all sorts of reasons why you can't put that web comic online this summer or why your documentary film is just a treatment on 3 pages and a notebook full of research. But you're the only thing blocking you. You're not moving forward because something between your ears is holding you back. And whether your a 13-year-old middle-school kid or a 54-year-old mom doesn't really matter. There are people out there just like you, except they're living their dreams and eating your lunch. Question is, what are you gonna do about it?
Dom De Bellis is an entrepreneur, author, public speaker, coach, and minister of the Gospel. When he's not serving his church or Boy Scout Troop, he is helping people in cities grow organic food.