“Hey, he has more than I do,” my five-year-old daughter Giulian shouted as I slid a heaping bowl of ice cream to her side of the dinner table. She propped herself up in her chair and riffled off a litany of points about the fairness of our household dessert politics.
My son had already devoured most of his scoop by the time she finished her rant. The bizarre melodies of Sponge Bob Square Pants streaming from the living room, I acknowledged my mistake over a chorus of slide whistles and lap steel guitars. It was all very surreal.
“I accidentally gave him a little bit more because he’s bigger than you,” I told her.
She replied, “Why can’t I be as big as him?”
“Because you’re just not, sweet pea.”
I didn’t go over the fact that my son was born with an entirely different physical build, is 4-years-older and had worked up an appetite playing outside with the other big kids. No, I just focused on the realities of the moment and explained that she too will one day grow to be large. For now, though, she’s perfectly wonderful with lots of promise ahead.
Giulian sat back, delved into her cookies and cream, and I watched. Like most parents, I learn some of the best lessons from my children. Often, I view these teachings through a business lens as well, if only to lighten the stresses of entrepreneurship.
It got me thinking. I too questioned the scoop size of my business at points in my career. I wondered: Why can’t we have a larger shop? Why can’t we have more employees? Why can’t we have more clients? Why can’t we have more fame? After all, there were plenty of other organizations I admired that enjoyed these very same things. Why couldn’t we be like them?
Because we weren’t.
I’ve learned many times over that I’m not alone in these questions. Most every CEO I know has shared such tinges of impatience, doubt and jealousy. They’re all aware that their hunger for success will lead them to much in the future. Still, it doesn’t make the circumstances of now any easier to digest.
No, many growing brands want the same amount of ice cream as their more-established competition. Similar to my kids – who ask why they can’t roam the neighborhood like the preteens –we business leaders tend to overlook the realities. We forget that the competitor brand is old enough to babysit. We ignore that the competitor brand knows how to read street signs and navigate the community if they get lost. We overlook that the competitor brand has a cell phone to communicate with their mom and dad.
That’s not really the vantage point we care to take. Instead, we focus on proximity to us.“They’re right outside of our window in the cul-de-sac bouncing a basketball. We can see them, therefore we should be able to be like them.”
But we’re not, and that’s o.k. too. Because those same big-kid brands don’t deliver on the qualities we do. Like our ability to accept everyone unconditionally and only see the good in the world. Or our willingness to give hugs, act silly and sing loud. No, the big ones tend to lack this type of empathy and optimism. Dimples become imperfections to be covered up, while personality retreats to safeguard against others’ judgment.
Yes Giulian, your scoop of ice cream is much smaller because you’re nothing like those big kids yet. In fact, you couldn’t be more different. Your mind, body and voice are completely unique, and as one of your most loyal fans, I couldn’t be happier with you.