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5 Business Lessons from a Little Boy with Down Syndrome

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BOY

Kids can be some of the best teachers.

My son, Jackson, has been no exception to that rule... despite the fact that he has a learning disability. He's already taught me more in under three years on this planet, than any other person alive.

So I wanted to share five of these lessons and how you can apply them to your business and career.

LESSON ONE: If Plan "A" Doesn't Work, Don't Worry. There are 25 Other Letters

Kids with Down syndrome tend to have delays in verbal communication.

At almost four years old, Jackson just speaks a handful of words.

And even though we would love for him to speak like a typical child, the end result of why we want our kids to speak is so that they can let us know what they want, right?

It's not so we can hear an audible sound... it's simply that we want them to be able to communicate.

Since speaking wasn't happening, we had to find a different route.

Enter sign language. Jackson gets weekly therapy, training and watches DVDs that teach sign language, over and over and over.

Now, Jackson has near 50 signs he uses on an almost daily basis with us, other family members, his teachers and therapists.

  • LESSON LEARNED FOR BUSINESS: If you aren't hitting your goals on your current path, find a different path to get there. There are near unlimited ways to solve any problem. We tend to get fixated on the task at hand, and not what is advancing us towards the real goal. When you are having issues, step back, reassess what you are really trying to accomplish, and see if there is a different path to the end result.

LESSON TWO: Don't Be Afraid to Admit You Need Help

Just like speech, children with Down syndrome often have other delays too.

Jackson was having problems with crawling, feeding himself, stacking blocks, etc. Many of these things we didn't even notice, since he is our first child. But as we spoke with other parents and doctors, we realized that he was getting further and further behind typical kids his age.

We took action, and hired several therapists and specialists to work with him: speech therapist, play therapist, physical therapy, occupational therapist. At his school they also provide dance therapy and music therapy.

These six (yes, SIX) specialists work with Jackson up to several times a week, on very specific things that they are an expert at individually.

We've seen a dramatic improvement since we got serious with Jackson's therapy (almost walking, feeding himself with a spoon, stacking blocks, working with puzzles, etc.)

  • LESSON LEARNED FOR BUSINESS: If you are having problems in an area of your business, hire a coach (or coaches) to help you. Get as specialized as possible. But go even deeper than just coaches. I personally don't coach anyone. But if a business is already successful, and they are ready to position themselves as an authority or celebrity in their industry they hire me. I'm an expert at that one very specific thing.

LESSON THREE: Celebrate Every Success of Yours and Those Around You

If I compared Jackson's milestones to other kids of his age, I'd be a hurting daddy all the time.

Every year, I am reminded of how far behind he is when we visit the Down Syndrome Clinic of Houston. They assess and rank him on many different areas of development. As you can imagine, it's tough to see your little boy falling behind kids even half his age.

But that feeling washes away when he hits the tiniest of goals. Something as small as finally being able to finish a puzzle that he spent weeks trying to figure out.

I throw him up in the air, and we all clap and cheer for him. We make a whole production out of it.

He worked hard figuring out how to get the last few pieces of that Elmo puzzle together, and deserved to be that happy.

  • LESSON LEARNED FOR BUSINESS: I always compare my success to others... specifically to others at a higher level where I'm at currently. This can sometimes lead me to be oblivious to successes I have. For example, about a year ago started taking on personal consulting clients again, and we had some amazing results in the first month in a key area, but I was so focused on the next results and steps, I didn't even allow myself -- or my client -- to really enjoy this fast success. Now, I'm not saying to be happy where you're at either. We should push ourselves to improve and be better, but take a minute and throw yourself up in the air.

LESSON FOUR: Look for the Best Qualities in Others

I remember being around a few kids that had Down syndrome when I was growing up.

I never bullied or made fun of any of them, but I never saw much past the fact that they had Down syndrome. That was all I saw.

With Jackson, and all his little friends, I don't honestly don't even see it anymore. I see each of them for their unique personalities.

I missed out on probably some very amazing people.

  • LESSON LEARNED FOR BUSINESS: When we first meet new customers, vendors and colleagues in business -- or sometimes even if we've known them for a very long time -- there is usually a hidden uniqueness that we overlook.

    For example, that awkward young entrepreneur you hired to set up your network in the office is not just an IT nerd. He's a man that was orphaned at a young age, abused by his foster family, but overcame it, and now spends all his free time helping at-risk kids. Don't see the awkward nerd. See the man that overcame some tough obstacles and is still fighting.

    So, take the time to observe and really listen to what everyone you do business with is really saying. Let their uniqueness speak to you. Knowing people at this level will transform your business, and make your customers and vendor into true friends.

LESSON FIVE: Being Genuine Draws Good People to You

Jackson is Jackson... all the time. No matter where we are, who he's with, or what's going on.

He sits in the shopping cart and blows kisses to everyone and anyone that will look at him.
If he hears a song he likes... he dances. At home, in the car, or standing up in his seat at a restaurant.

His authenticity draws positive attention and love everywhere we go. I can't even count the times that someone has said his blowing them a kiss turned their mood around and made their day.

  • LESSON LEARNED FROM BUSINESS: So many of us put different masks on so we will be liked and respected by others. For example, so many people try and prove their success by buying flashy watches or cars, and putting a false persona of success. Or when we are talking to other people in your industry, you may be scared to open up and admit a painful failure.

    It's natural to try and "fit in" with others because as humans we have a deep-seated need to be accepted by others around us... and we think the mask is needed to remain accepted. You'll be surprised how much more well accepted and loved you will be when you become your genuine self.

    I know it's scary to open up and bare your soul but you will start to attract good people to you. I know when I dropped the "check-me-out-I'm-rich" persona -- and let myself be the dorky doting dad from Texas -- the quality of my clients increased, my relationship with them was amazing, and my business made a lot more money... just by being myself.

Well, that's all I have for you today. I hope you learned as much from Jackson as I have.