What Preschoolers Can Teach Marketers

I’m kind of a contrarian when it comes to following the rules. Sometimes I just follow my instincts, and sometimes I listen to what my instincts have to say and then do exactly the opposite. Just because. But it has nothing to do with the rules.

The marketing world doesn’t like this. Business punishes those (like me) who fail to follow the rule book.

But I know that the same things that put business success out of reach also make me one blazing hell of a good parent. I take the ‘free range’ approach with my kids. We run and play every single day, rain or shine. I push them to limits that makes most parents turn white. At the playground, my kids are out-jumping and out-climbing kids three times their age. They’re already swimming. By the time they go to kindergarten, they will both have completed a Presidential traverse in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

Did I mention they are three?

Today my little girl was pushed by an eight-year-old at the park. It may have been on purpose, or maybe not. But she got right up and kept running after him. Sometimes the big kids let my little ones chase them, sometimes the big kids demand they stop. My kids are not the ones who cry for a half-hour after being pushed. They get up and keep going.

I teach them to keep playing. “The other kids say they don’t want to play with you,” I tell them, “but you keep playing with them anyway.”

That’s what the adult world is; a place where nobody wants to play with you. We’re taught to follow the rules. That means if somebody tells us what they want us to do, we do it. We go along to get along.

Screw that.

My kids know that when someone tries to tell them what to do (including me), it’s a test. To pass it, all they have to do is keep pushing. They know the big kid with the tennis ball will eventually start tossing it to them. They know the older kids on the balance beam will finally step aside and give them a turn.They know the kid who pushed them a few minutes before will help them up a few minutes later.

And because of this, I know that physically and socially, they are ahead. I’m not giving parental advice, but I am saying that if you loosen the reins a little, kids will do amazing things. The most important thing they’ve done for me is teach me to keep pushing. Keep trying. Keep advancing. Keep playing even if others have told you to stop.

So throw out the rule book, every day. The latest social media statistics do not matter. Pretty landing pages do not matter. The best email template ever designed does not matter. The words of the book-pimping prima donnas do not matter. Engagement does not matter. ‘Conversations’ do not matter. ‘Brand consistency’ does not matter.

I’m not well-liked by my colleagues or peers in the marketing world, but I am loved by my kids because I let them play and color outside the lines, and I let myself learn from them. And that’s what matters.

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