Something really interesting happened last week which I have been thinking about for a few days and now feel compelled to write about.
We were on holiday as a family in Inishbofin, the most beautiful and idyllic place. It’s a small island off the coast of Galway, Ireland. Inhabitants about 150. Hardly any cars because the only connection with the mainland is a twice daily passenger ferry and an out of use air strip that doesn’t actually have planning permission (built in the days of pre-austerity and optimistic pre-2008, Irish over-spending). It was idyllic because our home for the week was a renovated fisherman’s cottage on the edge of the stunning East End beach. We were instructed to feed all soft food waste to the sea gulls in order to stop the rubbish from rotting and becoming stinky (the rubbish only being picked up once a month to be taken to the mainland). The same flock of gulls would come regularly. We knew this because one of the gulls had a mangled leg so we could recognise him particularly. It was fascinating how – no matter what time of day we put the food waste out – it was only a few minutes, seconds even, before the Gulls had sniffed it out, skwarked about it to their mates and swooped in for a jolly nice face-stuffing feed.
So you get the picture – we were literally on a beach. The beach is made up of stunning stretches of sand but also lots of craggy rocks. Not far out is an old curing station which used to have a stone pier reaching to the mainland. The curing station is hundreds of years old and the pier that used to connect it would have been too. However in one angry storm about a decade ago the pier was viciously undermined by the elements and came tumbling down – so the curing station now stands somewhat forlornly, on a spit – isolated from the mainland when the tide is in – surrounded by many many weathered craggy stones and rocks that used to make up the connecting pier. I hope I have set the scene; beautiful beach, mainly sand but with a hell of a lot of stones and pebbles on it too… Beautiful enough that there is is steady flow of tourists on day or overnight trips from the mainland plus some very friendly locals sauntering by – probably hourly…
The thing I have been musing on is this. One day during the holiday and completely off their own backs without any suggestion, input or encouragement from my husband or me, our seven and five year old sons took it upon themselves to set-up a stall from which they proudly announced they would be “selling rocks and stones”.
For three whole days they sat dedicatedly at a picnic table on the edge of this particularly stony beach – with one very focused mission – that of “selling stones.” They became consumed by their purpose. Each morning jumping out of bed, excitedly snuffling down some porridge then rushing out to sit patiently at their picnic table stall, waiting for potential customers to present themselves. They took it in turns to man the stall allowing the other brother to have a quick bike ride and puddle jump but always with the prioritised purpose of keeping an eye out for potential customers. Hour after hour, day after day they inveigled their way into the consciousness of potential consumers by calling out and actively approaching them with the compelling questions “Would you like to buy one of my stones?”, “Hello there – do you like stones?” ,”Come look as I have some beautiful stones here”, “Do come and see my carefully selected pile of stones!”. On the last day they furtively added a line of chocolate digestives (with a stomach-turning 2015 use by date) to their stock range.
They did all this without any incentive from my husband or me. It came completely and intrinsically from them. Initially I was slightly concerned that they might be bothering people or would be disappointed – because lets face it – why on earth would any one want to buy stones on a stony beach? But I pushed aside my ‘you-musn’t-bother-people-dear-Englishness’ and assumed gratitude for the peace. Hubby and I just intermittently watched from the kitchen window – grateful that the children were occupied so we could get on with enjoying the quiet – our slight unease progressively turning into awe as we witnessed our sons’ consistency and determination.
One thing we definitely didn’t expect was that they would actually make any money! But by the time we had to go home – after three days of their antics – to our complete surprise – our seven year old had made just over ten euros and our five year old had made nearly five.
I have been mulling over and musing on the hidden messaging here and this is what I have come up with:
- When left to their own devices – it is clear to me that sea gulls and children (i.e. a random selection of Mother Nature’s creatures) have a thoroughly inherent ability to sniff out that which will contribute positively to their survival
- Children are naturally entrepreneurial and resourceful and given the freedom to follow their very human and instinctive desire to manifest wealth for survival (or buying sweets) – can make money out of thin air
- It is possible to sell very ordinary stones to people (even if you are surrounded by piles of them) if you do it with enough chutzpah and charm
- People will even buy out of date chocolate digestives if they are hungry
- As we get older and adult sensibilities plus self-consciousness set in – it is clear to me that individuals are often hindered (or stopped altogether) from attaining their rightful and natural paths to entrepreneurial success because of debilitating and undermining thoughts such as ‘who am I to do X ,Y or Z?’ or ‘What’s the point no one will want my product – the market is saturated’ etc etc.. But this is (and must be) bollocks – if you want to be successful in business
- If you can identify your end goal (in my boys’ case it was making piles of money to buy sweets and comics when they were back on the mainland), if you can visualise success and if you desire something enough, if you are not deterred by naysayers or people telling you your goal is pointless or to ‘get back in your box’, if you are committed to your goal and stick at it day in and day out, if you employ a bit of teamwork when you need a break – it is nothing short of miraculous what can happen and where the money can come from…
I think we all need to get in touch with our inner stone-selling child.
Needless to say hubby and I are extremely proud of our entrepreneurial and industrious little boys.