IMG_2480By Protima Sharma

Babies are born entrepreneurs. They step into unchartered territory with enviable confidence and gusto. Observing a baby can give insights on our most natural self- uncorrupted, unfettered and spirited. They can teach so much about being an entrepreneur.

The 6 lessons that my 11-month old daughter taught me on entrepreneurship are:

1. Grab what you can, the rest will take care of itself.

Whether it’s a rattle, my hair or her pillow – if she can reach it, she will grab it. It’s a strong grip, no effort spared. She is extremely focused, with no other thought or worry. She gives her a 100% to the task at hand.

When you launch your own company, the sheer number of things to do is bound to get you overwhelmed. You are a salesman, an accountant, a facilities manager, a client service manager -all rolled into one. Trying to be great at everything is sure to burn you out. So grab what you can, focus on what is most important at that minute and take it a day at a time.

2. Practice is way more powerful than talent

I think she must have tried a hundred times before she managed to turn on her tummy. I distinctly remember asking her pediatrician how can I motivate her to turn as a worried parent would (or so I thought). She kept practicing quietly and finally did it in such an effortless and graceful way that I could only gape at her.

I often thought that being from an HR background, selling my services to clients is going to be impossible. I have no talent for sales. I still don’t think that I have aced that particular skill. But over the past 5 years, I did get enough practice. Sometimes I failed and then there were times when a successful sale made everything sweet. One thing I know now, talent is way overrated!

3. When you don’t sleep, explore!

She is a bundle of energy all the time that she is awake. The high curiosity quotient is visible in her constant attempts to touch and feel (and taste) new toys, crawl in nooks and corners and shake the crockery off the table. She is on a continuous exploration and keeps experimenting with whatever she can get her hands on. Even when she stumbles, it doesn’t take her long to pull herself up and start again.

If I look at all successful entrepreneurs that I have come across in recent times, I find that they all have a common trait- they are perennially curious. The urge to actively engage with new ideas, products, services, & technologies can create so many opportunities. There is no such thing as the perfect product idea or business model. You try something, stumble, get up, dust off and try a different approach.

4. There are times when you will make a stink. Move on.

With absolutely no regard to the time of the day or who is around, she feels no embarrassment when she makes a stink. It’s simply a part of life. She does it, actually feels better having done it and enjoys being changed. What a brilliant outlook to making mistakes.

When I look back at the mistakes that we made when we started, I think it a miracle that we survived for so long. We took bad judgment calls on pricing, we took up projects on bad credit terms and we made hiring errors, just to list a few. What did work for us was that we decided to clean up, learn our lesson and move on. There will be times when your strategy misfires, how you handle it decides how long it stinks.

5. Ask and you shall receive.

As much as I would like it, she does not wait for a convenient time to let me know what she wants. Whether its her milk bottle, nap or a change of diaper she cries out for it the second she needs it.

As grown ups, sometimes asking for help can seem like a rude thing to do. We worry too much about being turned down. The fact is as entrepreneurs we need all the help that we can get. I have learnt that a sincere, and thoughtful request made to the right person is rarely turned down. More often than not, people around you are happy to contribute to the interesting and unusual journey that you have ventured on.

6. If you can thrive in ambiguity, you continue to grow

Babies do not come with an instruction manual. Though there is never any dearth of well meaning advice that you get from all around as a new parent, it is finally your instinct that comes to your rescue most of the time. Being a parent is a full time job with the most challenging job description and no single guaranteed roadmap for success. You do the best that you can with what you have and let nature take its course. As a new parent, the very first thing that you learn is a lesson in patience and organizational skills. Every entrepreneur needs these too.

Gibran, famously , said about children

“You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. “

Need I say more? Thank you, Iva.

About the author

Protima Sharma is the managing Partner of PeopleWiz Consulting, a Pune & Singapore based firm working in the area of Organization Design and HR process Management with clientele ranging from startups to large corporates. She lives in Pune with her husband and 11 month old daughter, Ivanka.