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What I Learned about Business from a Six Year Old's Lunch

I came across a Facebook post recently about parenting and found a life and business lesson that I wanted to share. First the story, then my insights…

An internet marketer posted that while she was taping a podcast, the school called to let her know that her six year old son was upset because he only had snacks for lunch. She had packed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, an apple, popcorn and carrots. She then went on to say that her husband, who had taken the call, had to bring him food. And she ended the post by asking – What do you pack for lunch?

Thirty-eight women either clicked the like or laughing emoji and three clicked the wow button. Nineteen left comments that elicited a further string of replies, totaling over forty, all similar in their message and each ending with either LOL, Hahahaha or a laughing emoji with tears – sometimes three.

There were the amused moms: OMG, that is so funny; He is adorable; That is hysterical; What did your husband bring him?

Then there were the philosophers: Maybe he was just having a bad day and it came out during lunch and he didn’t know how to express it; Maybe he is looking for more sophisticated options; Maybe children at school made fun of him.

And there were the problem solvers: I usually pack a juice, a main meal, a sweet, a salty and an extra; I would recommend you plan all his lunch menus together so you avoid getting calls like that; I make extra dinner so I can pack the left-overs because my son likes a hot meal.

And my personal favorite – drum roll please: My son is a bento box type of eater, so I usually pack a snack plate. Bento Box eater – really?? He’s six.

I didn’t think there was anything adorable or funny about the entire incident. I found it distressing.

Here’s what we have – a six year old boy opened his lunch box and didn’t like what he saw. He became upset and was unable to sooth himself off his six year old ledge and so went to his teacher. The teacher, who most likely has been stripped of all authority least some irate parent decides he/she scarred their prodigy for life, punted up to the school administrator.

The administrator, fearing the same parental uproar, called home. And the parent said, “I’m on my way!” And I propose to you that the six year old knew it would play out exactly this way because it has been playing out just like this since he was two.

Good parents with good intentions who are trying to raise good children are lowering the bar for what is now an acceptable level of frustration. And that has consequences. Because children grow up; and they enter the workforce.

Let’s face it, we all want to be happy and we all want our children to be happy but learning to deal with frustration is a building block of life. It’s the foundation upon which creative problem solving, negotiating and patience is built. If you take away one, you take away all.

Children who get their needs met when they throw a tantrum turn into adults who expect the same response. Look around your office – do you work for a boss with no tolerance level? If something goes wrong does your boss scream until someone steps in and fixes the problem? Ever been on the receiving end of “I don’t care how it gets done, just do it!”

What’s the turn-over rate like in your office? Do new hires run for the exit when the job doesn’t meet their expectations? I deserve to be happy – this job isn’t making me happy.

Frustration and happiness are now diametrically opposed. Frustration is bad and happiness is good. Happiness is turning into the metric by which we rate our success. There are books on happiness, courses on happiness and even clubs dedicated to happiness. Personally, I think happiness as a life goal is misplaced.

When my son was a baby people would ask me what I wanted for him. My response was always the same – I want him to grow up to be a productive member of society who gives back. If he decides he wants to be a street sweeper, I hope he sweeps a clean street. And I hope he is happy. (What mom doesn’t want her child to be happy?)

Being fulfilled is a direct path to happiness. The satisfaction you feel having solved a complex problem elicits happiness. Triumph over adversity elicits happiness. A job well done elicits happiness. Having all your problems solved may feel good but it won’t elicit happiness. Find something that fulfills you and you’ll find happiness.

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