Last year, Morgan, then aged 6, participated in the National Lemonade Project, a program established to teach entrepreneurial skills to kids. I described what happened in a previous post, Morgan’s Lemonade Day Project: Integrity as a successful character trait.
A Lesson in Integrity
To launch the project, Morgan had asked us, her grandparents, to invest $12.00 in her lemonade business. Her grandfather immediately sent the check.
Lemonade Day occurred on May 1, 2010. Morgan set up a lemonade stand in a local park (with the help of her parents and us) and made a sizeable amount of money for a six-year-old. By prior agreement with her father, part of the proceeds went to the Haiti relief fund. And, of course, she had to pay us, her investors, back the original $12.00 plus $2.00 interest.
Donating to Haiti was exciting to Morgan. Paying us back was not — at least initially. Also, we were reluctant to accept the money. Yet her parents wanted her to have this lesson in integrity — keeping her word to repay her debt — so we accepted the repayment.
I still remember Morgan’s question to her father as he was explaining to her why she had to pay us back, “But Daddy, why do I have to give them some of the money I made?” At the time, it was all I could do to not say, “Morgan, you keep the money, sweetheart, and I’ll also take you to the mall to buy you whatever you want!”
But of course, I didn’t.
With astute mentorship from her father, she paid us back with polish and aplomb and learned a valuable lesson in integrity.
Year 2 — Another lesson in successful character traits
Now it’s nearly a year later, and Morgan, now age 7, will participate in Lemonade Day a second year.
We went to visit her and her family a couple of weekends ago and asked Morgan about her plans for Lemonade Day. She explained that she had already decided on a flavor that she named “Raspberry Tango Lemonade.”
And then, to my surprise, she described how she planned to fund the initial expenses this year. Her elementary school had an agreement with the local credit union for children to open savings accounts. Twice a month, she and the other kids bring whatever cash they want to save to the school and it is deposited in their savings account. “I have over $100,” she proclaimed proudly. “I bring money every other Thursday.”
My mouth flew open. She at age 7 has already saved over $100?! Her mother told me how this had happened. Morgan systemically saves most of money that she gets as gifts or for doing special jobs around the house.
“I like watching my money grow,” explained Morgan. “And I don’t like paying back my investors, so this year for Lemonade Day I will use some of the money I have saved.”
Wow. I know some grown people who haven’t yet learned the self-discipline to save instead of borrow.
The value of self-regulation
My (now deceased) sister Judy and I used to ask each other, “What is the key to life?” We rotated through the obvious ones — love, optimism, faith, peace. While I was writing Reframing Change, I happened across a characteristic that is now high on my list of keys. Researchers have found that the ability to self-regulate — to inhibit impulses and to shift and focus attention — is a critical ingredient in success and happiness. For example, a widely publicized study found that self-regulation predicts academic progress in preschoolers independent of IQ.
In Reframing Change, Chapter 6, we explained that one of the seven guidelines for conscious use of self is “recognizing one’s power and using it responsibly.” Using one’s power responsibly requires the ability to self-regulate — to defer the seductive gratification of acting on an immediate impulse and instead direct your actions toward your goals.
Placing your money in a savings account instead of spending it at the mall requires deferring the immediate gratification of having whatever you would love to buy at the moment. Getting up to exercise instead of lounging on the couch requires deferring the gratification of loafing around. Taking the time to figure out how to bring up a touchy subject with a work associate requires delaying the immediate gratification of dumping your upset on that person. Doing a dreaded task instead of checking out Facebook requires deferring the gratification of getting the feel-goods of finding out what your friends are doing.
Last year, it was amazing enough to us that Morgan was learning the value of integrity. This year, we have found out that the gifts of Lemonade Day keep on giving. Through her participation in it, Morgan is also learning self-regulation, delaying gratification, and thrift.
And I, her grandmother, am learning from her.
Relevance to the workplace
What does this mean for the workplace? I’ll talk about it in the next post.
What is your self-regulation challenge? What do you want to do more or (or less of), but are having trouble pulling it off?
- Reframing Change, Chapter 6, Conscious Use of Self
- Tangney, J. P., Baumeister, R. F., & Boone, A. L. (2004). High self-control predicts good adjustment, less pathology, better grades, and interpersonal success. Journal of Personality, 72(2), 271-322.
- Society for Research in Child Development (2007, March 29). Self-regulation abilities, beyond intelligence, play major role In early achievement. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 19, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/03/070326095349.htm#
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