Monday, August 27, 2007

You are an Investment

The transition from childhood to adulthood is not an easy one. That transition culminates in the "child" becoming a young adult, leaving home and going out into the world - to college or work usually. It also culminates in a relationship shift between the young adult and the parent - which is not easy for either party. It is difficult for young adults to understand how to handle their parents at this stage of their lives. They fear that if they involve them too much that the parent might try to intervene more than the young adult would like. They fear that if they involve them too little that the parents will become upset and angry. It's hard to figure out how to deal with this new relationship complexity.

Being a parent and having been a young adult, I can relate to the feelings of both parties. I've thought long and hard about what I could say to someone to help them understand how they can make this transition less painful for their parents and themselves. Below is my advice to young adults fresh from leaving home...

Think of your parents, not as the your parents but as your investors. Whatever support - financial, emotional, physical - they are going to offer to you in the future is an investment in YOUR future. Imagine that your new life is a business. You have talent and great ideas but you don't really have much money and you've never run a business before. However, you are smart enough to know that you can't make the business successful without the support of people who are already successful business people (your parents). So, you need them to invest in your business so that YOU can be successful as well. How do you do that?

First - you need a plan, a course of action for college or work.
Second - you need to be able to explain what you are going to do to make this plan work.
Third - you have to be willing to communicate with your investors on your progress, giving them insights to your successes, being honest with mistakes and what you have done to correct them and knowing when to ask for advice.
Note: The trick with asking for advice is to know ahead of time what specifically you need advice about. Make it a straightforward request - not "I just don't know what to do" but more "I am thinking about doing A but I am also considering B, what do you think?" Coming up with two choices instead of leaving it open to the person giving advice to figure out the choices for you is always the best way to get good advice. Save the "I just don't know what to do" for your friends, who are there to give you unconditional support, not great advice.

You're parents will love you unconditionally, but your investors will not invest unconditionally in you. Investment has conditions. Namely that you can prove that you are worth the investment.

As long as you want your parents to invest in you, you must be willing to commit to the three principles outlined above. If you are unwilling to do this, then plan on trying to get the job done on your own. You may not have to answer to anyone but it's going to take you twice as long, cost you twice as much and be twice as difficult.

You are an investment. The most important investment your parents have. So far they have invested 18 years in you. Now they are willing to invest even more into helping you become an adult. And adulthood is only achieved when you can fully support your business and in turn invest in someone else.