Sonder | What you can learn from an 8 year old
“When you make mistakes, you learn, and your mind grows bigger.”
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What you can learn from an 8 year old

What you can learn from an 8 year old

This post was inspired by a conversation with my 8 year old daughter. Those of you who have children will be familiar with how frequently they come out with surprising, entertaining or shocking statements. Those of you who don’t have children, will just have to take my word for it!

For context, her primary school culture is built around 3 strongly-held values: Listen, Love & Learn. The first two are worth reminding ourselves of, but it was their approach to the third which surprised and delighted me.

We could all try and listen more. Listen to our friends, colleagues, mentors, bosses and listen to instructions, with respect and without interruption. But it is important to remind ourselves that the difference between listening & hearing is understanding. For example, when you speak with your customers, are you actually listening to what they are saying or have you already pidgeon-holed them into a predefined segment and haven’t listened to a word since that moment?

Love is a little broad in scope for many of us to apply in a tangible sense to our working lives but I’ll have a go. It is about caring for and supporting the groups that matter to us. Helping them when they are threatened or isolated. Being honest & faithful and standing-up for them. There are many examples of this, like Myer and LGBT rights or AirBnB and race rights.

So, to Learn. When I asked my daughter what she understood by this one, she started off with predictable fare: Be prepared to do your best. Feel positive & happy. Never give up. Then she casually adds, “Oh, and always have a growth mindset”.

“Sorry?!?”, I replied, “are you sure you are 8? What do you mean by a growth mindset?”
To which she answered, “When you make mistakes, you learn, and your mind grows bigger.”

This knocked me sideways. It sounded more like a mantra from a silicon valley tech conglomerate rather than a local primary school student. In my day, school cultures were built around doing what you were told and not deviating from the rules. You felt threatened if someone else succeeded, not inspired. You were either classified as good at something or not. Failure was ridiculed, it was all about success and winning.

Today, children are actively encouraged to challenge the norms, they are rewarded for effort and believe they can learn anything they want to. How refreshing that we are teaching tomorrow’s leaders that it is OK to fail, to make mistakes and that when they do, they actually get smarter.

Perhaps we should all learn from 8 year olds and apply a growth mindset to our working lives.