I’m sitting here at the park watching my boys play. Jumping, leaping, climbing, and pretty much doing anything that they think worth the risk of failure and injury. Play is work for them. It is learning. They are playing at what is a good risk and what is a bad risk.

I once had a friend in high school who loved extreme rollerblading. He would do huge jumps and insane stunts. He often had a video camera at the ready. One such day he pulled an incredible maneuver of essentially riding a hand rail down a set of stairs. He was virtually horizontal. And the whole thing was caught on video. It all must have taken but less than a minute before he fell to the ground, breaking his femur. When we all went to visit him in his massive cast, you know what he said?   This is great.  You’re gonna love this…  He said, “Yeah, but it was totally worth it for the video!!”  Yes, well, this is teenage economics at work here. Maybe not what most adults (excluding people like Shaun White and Tony Hawk perhaps) would consider a worthwhile risk!

It just struck me that the entrepreneurial spirit is inbred, if not inborn in boys (and I’m not leaving girls totally out… I’ve just never parented any). As parents we can squash their natural tendency toward taking risks and teach them that real learning only happens during school hours and that the main goal, when playing, is safety safety safety! We can look at play as just a way for them to burn off energy and get out of our ever lovin’ hair or we can see and appreciate each risk they take as practice for life “out there,” asking them, “Do you think that was a wise risk for the pay off?”

I’m not advocating letting them do any crazy thing that comes into their heads but I’m suggesting that maybe our roles beforehand should sometimes be like that of a financial adviser and afterward sometimes like the SEC, because let’s face it, sometimes there needs to be an inquisition when the risk and the fall-out was too great to too many individuals!

Sometimes they just need to learn the hard way what is and is not a wise risk. The failure in playground stunts that sometimes end in a bump, a bruise (or yes, a break) will teach them, if they will heed the lesson and their “financial adviser,” that they made an unwise risk and they might just adjust course. Sometimes we, in life and in business, have to make the same mistake (or similar ones) multiple times before we learn and adjust accordingly.

I see this as I watch my sons playing. They attempt a leap and then fall. They try again, and again, and again, making small or large adjustments until they get the desired result. The worst thing I think I could do, unless they are in grave danger, is to discourage them from ever taking risks. How certain would their failures be if we told them never to take the risks in the first place?

What are your thoughts?

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