What is it that enables entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk, Sheryl Sandberg and Richard Branson to persevere through seemingly insurmountable challenges that at first seem to exceed their limits? Make a list of people you admire and who have made a difference in the world. They could be living or dead. The chances are they all have one outstanding quality in common: they are creative thinkers.
Paul Lindley is a serial entrepreneur and founder of baby food giant Ella’s Kitchen which he sold to Hain Celestial, for $104 million in 2013. According to legend, Lindley’s business card shows the job title as “Ella’s Dad”. His book Little Wins: The Huge Power of Thinking Like a Toddler is a masterclass in the power of play and offers clever insights in the art of creativity.
In an exclusive interview for Inc., I sat down with Lindley to explore four powerful lessons we can learn from releasing our inner kid. Here are the main talking points.
1. Release Your Inner Kid.
Kids excel at play, experimentation, and failing fast to learn fast. They show creative courage and are happy to dive right in. They embrace uncertainty and ask provocative questions you would not think to ask yourself. According to Lindley, they’re not the only factors that drive success, but perhaps they are some of most important for entrepreneurs. Remember the Polaroid Instant Camera? It was a simple question by the three-year-old daughter of physicist, Edwin Land that led to one of the most iconic inventions of the 20th century. She asked “why can’t I see a photo immediately when it is taken?”
2. Be Clueless.
The sad truth is by the time most people leave college most of their creativity has been educated out of them. We will always battle it out with the two sides of our brain, creativity on the right, and logic on the left. The left-brain is like an 800-pound gorilla that wants to stop you from taking risks. Being clueless about the baby food industry was Lindley’s secret weapon reminding him that sometimes naivety can be a gift, especially when you’re seeking faster, better, or cheaper ways of doing things. The ‘this is how we’ve always done it’ attitude will blind you from seeing new opportunities as well as spotting imminent threats. Break out of the left-brained world of safety by un-learning business as usual and challenging assumptions about the world. In the age of disruption, not taking a risk is a risk.
3. Fall In Love With Problems.
One day Lindley was having breakfast with his three -year old daughter, Ella and realised that baby food could be done better and differently. He had seen food pouches sold in a French supermarket, but they were aimed at adults and were mostly sports recovery drinks. He realised kids could hold onto the pouches and feed themselves, making feeding time more fun and much easier than with a spoon. The take home message is if you want to succeed as an entrepreneur you must fall in love with a problem because that’s where the next billion-dollar business lies.
4. Show Viking Spirit.
Think of great entrepreneurs you admire and chances are they have all been bold enough to dream and go where no one has gone before. It is about taking a leap of faith, and trusting your gut that when the moment comes you are able to jump into the unknown, stand behind the vision and push through the obstacles. Lindley thinks adversity is a natural part of the entrepreneur’s journey. He says “At times, you might privately think you can’t go on. You must persist.” At the core of overcoming adversity is a mindset, rooted in an ancient Nordic belief system called sisu. Sisu refers to extraordinary determination, courage and resoluteness in the face of extreme stress or adversity. Every successful entrepreneur has overcome battles that seemed insurmountable at the time and yet they did not give up. You can build sisu by making creativity part of your daily routine and remembering that the word fail stands for From Action I Learn.
Next time your kids are playing why not join in? To succeed in business and in life there’s magic in discovering your inner kid.