What A Few Kids Can Teach Most Adults

Today there’s more than enough print and video depicting exactly what is wrong with kids today. To a large extent I not only can agree with much of it, I myself have added my own commentary in the past. However, I would like to make this caveat known: It’s not that I blame kids. For as we all must remember – we all were once one.

It’s in the understanding that what has been built around them in today’s world which (in my opinion) won’t allow kids to express, as well as learn what’s needed for adulthood (especially when it comes to business and work) through trial and error. Precisely at the time where the stakes are far from catastrophic but rather, where one learns the innate understanding of picking oneself up off the floor, dusting yourself off, and getting in there and trying again. This is where and when it gets understood, fortified, and internalized.

I was reminded of all of this during the final episode of my current favorite television series MasterChef™ Junior. (Broadcast on FOX™ in the US) The contestants range from 8 to 13 years and the premise of the show is a competition that dwindles down from as many as 20 or so, to a final crowned champion decided by and critiqued throughout the entire season by judges: Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot, Joe Bastianich. Each masters with a reputation of no-nonsense styled culinary and restaurateur accolades.

What struck me from the very beginning and what I found breathtakingly refreshing is something I myself have done over the years, as well as a few others (Don Imus is another in this group) i.e., Not talking to kids like their “kids.” Rather, talking or critiquing, then asking questions in a grown up respectful manner where “kids” have to account for what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and so forth.

Kids aren’t stupid, nor are they “babies” unless you treat them as such. Kids more often than not will rise (as well as fall) to the levels you treat them as. Of course this is all within reason, but I’ll assume you’re adult enough to get the gist.

During this cooking competition these kids are not only preparing dishes from scratch and competing against one an other, but they are quizzed both during the process as well as asked not only to explain technically what they’ve created, but also why they did, what they did, and more by the likes of Ramsay (notorious for stern verbal outbursts) and the others, And not in some watered down “Oh, try to explain what you did Honey-pie.”

No, these kids are put on the spot and asked in an adult fashion to both explain, then stand and be critiqued (truly critiqued) on their creations by 3 of the top people of that industry. If it’s bad – they’re told point-blank. If it’s good, they’re told the same. No sugar-coating. Then the kids must return to do it all over again as in – compete. Even if they were just told their previous dish was “horrible” but, they were lucky enough to stay on because one of the other kids creations was worse.

Remember: These are kids aged 8 to 13! I know adults in their 40’s that would crumble faster and harder if they were at the receiving end of a lot less by inquisitors with far less stature. Yet; these kids suck it up, try to do better, and compete head to head once again. It was truly refreshing to watch for someone like myself. Especially someone in my business where I see “self-esteem” (as in the lack of it) is many times the number one reason people become or stay immobilized.

Once again for I can’t make this point enough: These kids are treated with respect for both their abilities as well as their intellect. When one of these judges asked questions they asked pointed, direct, and with an assumptive posture that these kids not only would, but could answer. And these kids did. I felt myself cheering inside each time one of them defended or explained their reasoning’s. I heard more straight talk presented with heartfelt confidence from these adolescent chefs than I usually hear from many budding entrepreneurs.

What I also took away from watching was I knew deep down personally that the judges themselves were also just as proud of these kids as I was. You could just sense it in both the demeanor as well as their own posture when addressing these kids. And how couldn’t they be? For these kids are the coming generation that will replace what is now “the old guard.”

Like it or not, we are all going to move into the graveyard and be replaced. What kids like these showed is we don’t give many kids enough room to rise to challenges. It’s not them that are holding their likes back, but many of the rules and more put in place as to not let them express it. I wrote an article before expressing this very sentiment titled: “The Problem With Kids Today – They’re 26!” I still hold the premise of that article today.

I believe then as I do now; kids will rise to the level of far more challenges than we’ll acknowledge if: (and it’s a big one) we allow them to rise rather than deflating their passion via some sugar-coated “OH honey don’t try so hard you’re only 10.” Nothing will kill a spirit for excitement or competition faster. Especially when that 10-year-old is demonstrating (honestly) that they are clearly intent on trying. As in: truly wants to engage in a healthy respect.

Say what you want about other completion shows such as American Idol™ and the others. For my money, this was the best show of its kind to come along in a long, long, time. For there’s a lot to see as well as learn for everyone.

© 2015 Mark St.Cyr