Why Taking Career Advice From A 2-Year-Old May Not Be A Bad Idea

If my 2-year-old were a dish, she would be sweet and sour something. One minute she’s an angel and the very next she’s bouncing of the walls like a racquet ball. Yet, I wouldn’t have her any other way. Truth is, I find too much of either side equally terrifying. Being pulled into her frenetic little world by whatever limb she can wrap her fingers around is to be on a roller-coaster ride of laughter and terror.

I have two little girls. I know. Lucky guy. They are my yin and my yang. My older daughter (7-years-old) is my timekeeper. She makes sure my calendar is kept up to date with all of her activities which sometimes spares me from her rambunctious little sister. Then there is my 2-year-old, who teaches me how to be a better person. My first lesson is in patience and I’m being tested every single day. Apart from that, my world would be off-kilter without my girls. Watching them grow into these little people is my personal dosage of chicken soup for the soul.

It’s the parent who should teach but oftentimes it is the child that teaches the parent and who keeps them in line. I have learned and am still learning a lot from my kids and have become a better professional and human being because of those lessons.

Here are a few of the lessons from my 2-year-old.

Lesson 1: Don’t take myself too seriously…

Take breaks and laugh at yourself sometimes. My daughter doesn’t nap. She takes a string of short breaks throughout the day. That’s usually all she needs to recharge and return to terror. You can be just as effective (minus the terror, of course) if you take small breaks from your work every now and then to recharge and refocus.

Lesson 2: Enjoy learning new things

Most of the things a child learns in the first few years are self-taught. Sure, we teach them a lot but they pick up some of the technical (and naughty) stuff all on their own. You can blame your foul-mouthed neighbor all you want for your child’s brand new vocabulary but their perfect usage is a matter of pure genius. The point is as professionals you should continuously seek out areas for improvement and not wait around for it to show up on your performance appraisal. In that case, you may just be a day late and a dollar short. Success is self-taught.

Lesson 3: Celebrate the small victories

Why wait for the big win when you can celebrate along the way. My 2-year-old celebrates everything. Her favorite two phrases are “I did it” and “I win,” punctuated by a massive double fist pump. The lesson here is all accomplishments whether big or small deserve a little celebration.

Lesson 4: Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Children ask for help instinctively. This is how they learn. The problem with getting older is we develop all kinds of fears and insecurities that keep us from learning what others know and are willing to share if we just ask.

Lesson 5: Be persistent

If you have ever had the pleasure of watching a baby learn how to walk then you’ll understand what I mean by being persistent. I remember watching my daughters take their first steps and they were moments mixed with happiness and pain because every time their little bums would hit the floor I was already in flight to help them up. But my rescue missions were futile because once they were back on their feet, they were back at it again. The minute a child learns how to walk, they want to run. Be persistent at your career goals. You may fall hard but get up and run. No statue has ever been erected in honor of man sitting on his ass…not that I know of anyway.

Lesson 6: Always willing to pitch in and help

My 2-year-old is my little elf. No matter what I’m doing, I’ll be sure to hear the familiar rhythm of her little feet rapidly approaching with an even more eager vow to serve or to destroy, “I’ll help you, Daddy.” And even though her idea of helping is more often like un-helping, she does it with so much excitement that it’s hard for me to tell her no, twice. The climb up the corporate ladder is competitive and can be destructive. But I find that the folks who do get to the top are the ones who hold the elevator so others can get aboard. Be unselfish. Sharing what you know won’t hurt you.

Lesson 7: Always seek things out of your reach

Toddlers are always on their tippy toes trying to reach something that has been moved out the way of their super extendable little arms. The closer their little fiddling fingers get to the object, the higher they seem to levitate. The desire to reach a goal can give you supernatural powers. The thing about that is you don’t always hit your target but you will certainly move from where you started if you give it all you’ve got. Stay reaching and remember to celebrate the small accomplishments.

Lesson 8: Let others know they are appreciated

Here’s the reason being a parent (of young children) is the best job in the world, you get paid in hugs and kisses for just showing up and doing your best. Your losses are not held against you because it’s your attempts that are being accounted. I believe the panacea for high employee turnover rates is a little dose of appreciation. But you can hold the hugs and kisses and save HR the headache of dealing with harassment charges.

Lesson 9: Be willing to follow the leader but know where you want to go

A child is a loyal follower. They will go wherever you lead them, most of the time. But they may be resistant to sudden movements that digress from their desired course. Allow your leaders to lead but the onus is on you to know how their movement is aligned with your career interests. If you and your boss are heading in divergent paths then this is the point where you let go, drop and roll. No, you know better. Instead, sit and have a discussion about your future at the company.

Lesson 10: Be fearless. Make mistakes

Need I say more? In the mind of a 2-year-old, being fearless and making mistakes is organic to learning and development. And you know what, they have fun doing it and you should too.

What lesson(s) have you learned from a child that has carried over to your professional life?