We have seen this at all our homes. Kids, about 5-6 years old, get their toys together and play ‘House, House’. The kids’ play is loosely based on what they have seen adults do at their respective homes. It is always a pleasure to watch them play. Elders at home will do well not to intrude unless necessary because when left alone, kids are at their real best. They quickly learn to ignore the presence of others around them, and slip easily into self-declared roles in the ‘game’ they have chosen to play.
Let’s say you are an elder, sitting and carefully appearing disinterested, but keenly watching the kids play. They cook a ‘dish’ and bring it over to you, served on a toy plate. You play along, and go about ‘tasting’ the ‘food’ and making the right comments/noises as if you are enjoying something exquisite.
You owe it to the kids to join in in their ‘game’, indulge the kids, and play our assigned ‘role’. Parents and other elders feel privileged to be included as part of their ‘game’. They instinctively know what Plato the Greek philosopher (427 BC – 347 BC) meant when he said, “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”
In the larger picture of global business, we today have the ‘game’ called start-ups. All companies, big and small, are fascinated by happenings in the world of apps, ecommerce, digital marketing and entrepreneurship. They join in. The start-up ecosystem throws up a lot of toys. Established funds, businessmen and global corporates are willing to play parents, mentors and elders. Parents and elders in a society have to take responsibility for most of our kids failing at becoming what they set out to become.
Parents and elders will list their responsibilities towards kids and their ‘play’:
- It is cute, and a joy to watch children playing ‘adults’ with their toys.
- Toys are becoming realistic, closer to real-life things/appliances, and interesting.
- We are willing to spend more and more on toys.
- We will provide space for the toys, and when possible, spend time playing.
- We will happily play ‘roles’ that we are asked to play.
- We believe that ‘play’ will help in the children growing up right.
- We will watch for progress in the child’s growth and improvement as a result of ‘play’.
- The logic used by the kids at ‘play’ will help us understand the kids’ view of the world, and how it is changing.
- We do take the toys as seriously (or more seriously) as the kids do. We always show our concern and care for the toys.
- We proudly narrate all that our kids do with their toys to anyone who matters.
- We exchange notes with other parents on their kids, their games, their behaviours – and extrapolate these to predict their future.
- Whenever things get out of hand, we will step in to provide the hard lessons of life.
- We are a valuable part of the large global business infrastructure that exists to make kids ‘play’ gainfully.
- We want to make sure that when our kids grow up, they will talk fondly of the games they played as kids.
If start-ups are ‘plays’, the investors are the elders at home, with responsibilities as listed above. If the agenda of the parents (investors) consistently overrides the purpose behind the ‘plays’ (start-ups), our societies will soon be irreparably stunted. Elders, mentors and parents around kids are not investors or mere money lenders. It is painful to hear VCs say that they need “only one or two to make it big” in their portfolio of companies.
The investors of today should be honest and forthright with the start-ups. They can do that by borrowing the words of Stanislaw Lec, the Polish poet,
“I give you bitter pills in sugar coating. The pills are harmless; the poison is in the sugar.”