Success Anywhere: 3 Steps to Teach Your Kids

Success Anywhere

Success Anywhere, “Guaranteed”


Success, according to Merriam-Webster, can be defined as a “favorable or desired outcome”, and “the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence.” In business, the second definition is usually the more important one. But more broadly speaking, teaching our kids to pursue and attain a “favorable or desired outcome” can be applied anywhere. I believe that anyone can virtually guarantee success anywhere, under almost any circumstances, by applying 3 very simple and repeatable steps. It’s what I call the I-O-D model, and I believe every child should know it:

  • Initiative / Innovation
  • Ownership
  • Delivery


Success Anywhere Starts with Initiative and Innovation

The first step in achieving a “favorable or desired outcome” is to pay attention. This really just means to look for opportunity. It means taking the initiative, or finding a better way to do something (i.e. innovate). Quite often so many of us accept the status quo without asking basic questions that can help make things better. Most commonly, simple questions like “why is it like this?” and “how can it be better?” is all we need.

Have you ever heard the story of the 5 monkeys? To summarize a summary, researchers put 5 monkeys in a room with a banana hanging from the ceiling. When any monkey tried to get the banana, they were all sprayed with cold water. Eventually, the researchers stopped spraying the monkeys, but the monkeys still discouraged each other from approaching the banana for fear of being sprayed. The researchers replaced the monkeys one by one, and each of the new monkeys learned by experience not to approach the banana because the others would attack it. The new monkeys then adopted the behavior of the original monkeys. In the end all of the old monkeys were gone, but the new monkeys continued the behavior because they had “always done it that way.”

This simple story shows how powerful complacency can be. When we accept the norm without questioning why, we accept an inferior way of doing things. Teach your kids to respectfully ask why – “why do we do it like this?” If the answer is “because we’ve always done it this way,” that’s often a prime opportunity to take the initiative, innovate, and look for an opportunity to make something better. That’s the first step to teaching kids success anywhere.


Success Anywhere Continues with Ownership

Next, teach your kids that once they identify an opportunity, they need to own it. They need to take responsibility for whatever it is that they believe can be better. It’s not enough to know that something needs improvement; anyone can point out problems. Consistently successful people take initiative and then own that initiative. This is where teaching them work ethic will, to a degree, determine how successful your child will be. They must work for what they want, if for no other reason than for the satisfaction and meaningful fulfillment of what they pursue.

On a related note, work ethic goes hand-in-hand with time management skills. Check out this article on time management principles to help make your work more effective.


Success Anywhere Through Delivery

Finally, our kids need to understand that success will come when they consistently deliver results. The results don’t always need to be perfect, but they do need to address the opportunity they identified in step 1. And even if what they deliver doesn’t actually make things better (assuming it doesn’t make things worse), it’s never a waste if they make it a learning experience. A learning experience continues the cycle because if they learn something, another opportunity is inherently available. If they own that, then deliver on what they’ve learned, then eventually success is inevitable.


Some Examples of Success Using the I-O-D Model

Consider Thomas Edison, who tried a thousand different ways to make a light bulb. He knew there was an opportunity to make electric light. So he took the initiative to begin working on it . He owned the first experiment, and delivered results (a failure, as most would classify it), which amounted to “this is not how you make a light bulb.” He learned from that experience, then repeated the I-O-D model until he changed the course of humanity and altered history through the first working electric light.

In my own home, we teach our kids success anywhere principles and the I-O-D model through a mini economy that my wife runs. We have jobs around the house (dishes, vacuuming, clearing the table, etc.) that they can do to earn real money. We also encourage them to start their own business with their siblings to understand the flow of money. For example, one of my sons recognized an opportunity to sell paper binding services to his siblings who often like to print off their stories from the printer. He adds cover sheets, staples the whole stack together, and adds designs if desired. He even makes them waterproof with a healthy dose of clear tape! For his work, he charges a modest fee for his services, and understands just a little better how the world goes ’round.


So How Do I Teach My Kids Success Anywhere Principles?

Teaching your kids these principles of success starts with you. First, you have to pay attention and see where initiative can be taken. You’ve got to consistently identify opportunities and highlight them for your kids so they can learn from your example. In other words, when you change how you see the world, you can train them to see the world differently with you.

Next – and this is absolutely critical – you have to allow your kids the freedom to own their responsibilities. If you ask them to clean their room, give them the end state that you want (e.g. “nothing on the floor”), but allow them the freedom to own how it gets done. You may not like how they shoved all of their clean clothes into the same drawer without folding them, but if you didn’t specify the guideline then you need to let them own how it gets done. (As a side note, this is a very good exercise to help you discover and focus on what really matters to you. Bonus!)

Finally, teaching your kids success anywhere principles requires you to encourage them to deliver results. In the early stages, the delivery is much more important than the quality of the results because you’re forming habits. Once they form the habits, then you can focus on higher standards.


Teaching the I-O-D Model Through Laundry

Here is an example in practice. At home, my wife and I regularly point out what we see can be done better. One example was with laundry. We have 6 kids and all 8 of us do laundry in the same washer and dryer. You can probably imaging already where this is going…

On cleaning day, when I ask my kids what will take us the longest to get through, they often respond with the things require attention for the longest. Cleaning their room, or vacuuming the house, washing the windows. Any of those tasks that may take 20 or 30 minutes at a time. They don’t think of the laundry because it only takes a few moments to put clothes in, move them to the dryer, or take clothes out.

One cleaning day, however, the laundry got backed up that week – shocker, right? On that day, the dryer – which takes an hour per load to run – became the bottleneck for the cleaning whole system. So in order to keep the day moving, I encouraged the kids to set timers to make sure the dryer is always running. Otherwise, we’ll get to the end of the day and someone may not have clean pajamas.


Applying the I-O-D Model With Dishes

By identifying these principles for our children, we change how they see things. They pick up on what you see as important and they in turn begin to see opportunities for themselves. This is true especially when we give them ownership for a task. This level of ownership means they must rely upon their own abilities to accomplish what needs to be done.

Here’s where I saw this happen in my own home: My 11 year old son was doing the dishes one night. He noticed that when he put the bigger plates in the front of the bottom rack, that the spinner on the bottom side of the top rack ran into the plates. It couldn’t spin effectively, so it couldn’t actually clean the dishes as well (which explained why some times the dishes didn’t look very clean). So he started putting the larger plates in the back of the rack and the spinner could spin more freely. He told the rest of us, and now the dishes come out more clean more often (we’re still working on rinsing the dishes before they go in the dishwasher, but we’ll get there…).


So that’s it. Teach your kids success anywhere principles by focusing on initiative and innovation, ownership, and delivery. They’ll thank you later as adults.


Questions? Let me know in the comments below or shoot me a note and I’ll get back to you ASAP.

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