The Wall Street Journal has a new pair of articles about how to make your kid the next Mark Zuckerberg. One of the articles is literally titled "How to Raise the Next Mark Zuckerberg". However, following their advice will not put your kid on the fast-track to VentureCapitalLand. There's no magic formula to tech industry success. If we've learned anything from the likes of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, the formula seems to be borrowing heavily from existing ideas, surrounding yourself with smart people, having access to people with lots of money and having a ton of good old-fashioned luck.
The article about what chores to give your kid is fantastically dumb. As far as I know, Steve Jobs' mum didn't task him with plugging and unplugging the toaster, which is about the equivalent of the Wall Street Journal's advice. I'm not even joking. One of the things that they recommend for primary-school-aged kids is getting them to charge your phone:
Charging devices. With all the gadgets we carry around, it can be hard to keep every computer, mobile device and backup battery fully charged. Make it your child's job to ensure that everything is plugged in and charging each night. As a bonus, this will ensure that everybody has to put away their phones and laptops at a specific time.
Every parent wants their child to succeed in whatever way you define success, but if you want your kid to be the next Zuckerberg, trying to build a mini-Zuck with the Wall Street Journal's advice is just about the worst way to do it.
The advice includes teaching children "to work like a start up". Again, I have to emphasise that I'm not joking:
While you're introducing your children to tools software companies use, teach them to work like a startup team, too. Adopt startup practices like using project-management software to track family tasks and homework deadlines; run a kanban board for family chores by using Post-it Notes to track forthcoming, under-way and complete tasks; organise daily stand-up meetings for homework. Most important, teach your child collaboration skills by taking the time to talk about any group projects at school, and introducing them to best practices around assigning work and ensuring accountability. The more your children learn the work habits of a tech startup, the easier it is to start one.
If we're being totally honest, both their advice and chosen art for the articles are terrifying. It looks like something out of a 21st century version of David Cronenberg's The Brood. Look at this photo-illustration:
Horrifying illustration by Stephen Webster (through no fault of his own, we assume) for the Wall Street Journal
Kids aren't a science experiment, and you can't raise them to be billionaires. That's simply not how it works. If you really want to raise the next Zuck, perhaps the best thing you can do is give them some LEGOs, as many books as you can afford, nutritious food and get out of their way. Or teach them that the tech world isn't a meritocracy and that the best you can do is try to be happy.
If your child is an android, that's a different story, and you should wholeheartedly embrace the Wall Street Journal's strategy. If your child happens to be a human person, tell them you love them and foster whatever creative interests they show. Don't turn your home into an ersatz start-up.
The world doesn't need more Mark Zuckerbergs. The world needs more happy humans.