This is a story of my son, Andy, taking an opportunity to earn money. But this is not exactly about how kids make money; it is about 3 important life lessons for teens he learned from his money-earning experience.
A few weeks ago, in a random conversation, a colleague of my husband told him that his backyard garden had a bountiful harvest, particularly leeks and bitter squashes (bitter melon), which was way more than what they could eat.
When hubby told Andy about this. Andy’s first reaction was “why not sell those vegetables?” While those vegetables are less known to Americans, they are very popular among Chinese. Leeks are sold at $4.99 per pound and bitter squashes at $2.99 per pound at local Chinese supermarkets. He thought of the weekend Chinese school where there were many parents waiting while their children are taking Chinese classes–easiest way to find the best customers.
It turned out that the colleague liked this idea, but he (or his son) was not comfortable standing in the school hallway or at gate area to sell those. We tried to convince Andy to do it since it was his idea anyway. He rejected immediately even though we told him he could keep 50% of the profit (and the owner would keep the other half).
He had a long list of reasons—“My Chinese teacher would look down upon me (did I mention that he’s in a Chinese class too?);” “My classmates would make fun of me;“ “Nobody would buy things from a kid;“ “Even your colleague’s son, who is already a high-school student, refused to do it, why should I do it?” etc.
I totally understood his concerns, but the main reason was it was out of his comfort zone. His fear and anxiety were stronger than his eagerness to test his ideas and to earn money. I won’t blame him— I did not have the courage to do it either (A lady with a Ph.D. degree selling vegetables on the sidewalk? —no way!).
Fortunately, my husband is quite a risk-taker. Unlike us, he does not care how other people think. He’s a born optimist. He sees the glass half full, whereas I see it half empty. He told Andy that he did not have to do it alone; they two would sell the vegetables together and if Andy was too uncomfortable to be the salesperson, he could stand at some distance from the stand and just observe. Andy finally agreed.
The selling part was much easier than we had thought. The vegetables were sold out in 20 minutes. It came as no surprise since those were so fresh and were a lot cheaper than those sold in a supermarket. Many people asked whether we would still sell more next weekend.
Where was Andy in these 20 minutes? After getting over the first 2 minutes’ nervousness, he was just a happy confident seller. Even I enjoyed being his helper—it actually felt great to step out the role of a scholar sometimes!
We continued our “farmers market” for a few weeks until all the vegetables in the garden were gone.
When we look back and reflect on this money-earning experience, there are three important life lessons for teens:
1. Expand your comfort zone
When something is beyond our comfort zone, our knee-jerk reaction is to say no. It seems we are safe and won’t lose anything, but we miss potential opportunities for personal growth. As the best-selling author, E.F. Schumacher put in his book A guide for the Perplexed, “If I limit myself to knowledge that I consider true beyond doubt, I minimize the risk of error but I maximize, at the same time, the risk of missing out on what may be the subtlest, most important and most rewarding things in life.”
many opportunities require one to break out the comfort zone and be willing to take a challenge first. We experience discomfort when leaving our comfort zone, but it is often temporary. Once we get over it, things will be easier.
2. Do not reject something simply because others have rejected it
How many times have you done something just because everyone else is doing it? I know I have done that a lot before because it is safer to be a follower than an explorer. One of my son’s reason for not starting this “farmers market” business is nobody else is doing it; then why he should do it.
My favorite quote from Steve Jobs “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” What he told us is to live our life to the fullest in our own way, which may not be easy, but will leave fewer regrets.
3. Enhance your self-confidence through challenging yourself
The biggest reward Andy gained from this experience is not money, but increased self-confidence.
Self-confidence is a mindset that takes efforts to build and maintain. Many people can frame ideas, but not many people have the courage to take actions and implement the ideas. Confidence is achieved through overcoming self-doubt and challenging ourselves.