Yes. This is a book written by a kid. A young teenager, in fact. Caleb Maddix is only 13 years old, but he decided that he’s ready to write a book, Keys to Success for Kids.
When I found out about it, I was expecting to read the book with a permanent amused-parent smile. And I did… for the first 10 pages. But from page 11 I started to see things from a whole new perspective.
“Key to Success: Things will happen to you, but you always have control of the situation.”
Up until now, I’ve read (or read about) over 70 motivational books. Books written by grown-ups with impressive resumes and media exposure. Books written by entrepreneurs with a lot of gut and brilliant ideas. Or books written by ‘phoenixes’ – individuals reborn from their own ashes, who shared their shattering life experiences and the everlasting lessons learnt from them with the world.
YOUNG SUCCESS / KEYS TO SUCCESS FOR KIDS
“You are never too young to know what you are going to master and have a plan in place for how you are going to master it.”
And now I’ve come across this book.
I read Keys to Success for Kids in less than an hour. Not because it’s short or very easy to read. but because it’s captivating. I read it as a parent. I am a parent myself, so the role was perfect for me. Soon I came to realize something: parents are the worst listeners ever.
They’re used to talking, explaining, preaching, and criticizing. Their speeches seem neverending and they look like they’re constantly afraid of failure. But they almost never listen.
Caleb Maddix‘s book forced me to listen. Forced me to understand that kids have a lot of wisdom to share with us. They are hidden treasures that take time and patience to be discovered.
But most of all I understood that our kids are birds who dream of flying high. By not listening to the beat of their wings, we transform them into kites with strings attached. Marionettes with a fake smile, who strive to make us happy.
I’ve also read this book as a kid. I had the chance to see the world through their eyes. Kids really know how to dream big. Allowing them to do that gives them self-confidence. Proves to them that aiming for more is a healthy attitude. Comforts them with the idea of being different, being unique.
But, above all, I read Caleb Maddix’s book as an adult. Maddix knows all the prerequisites of generic motivational books:
Have a mentor!
Admit that you’re not always right!
Stay out of the crowd!
Don’t forget to be human!
Believe in discipline!
And the list goes on and on. As an adult, I was impressed to see all those great theories put together in only 70 pages. Simple words. Basic life lessons. This is what gives Maddix’s book such power. Adults forget to use simple sentences when explaining things. By analyzing too much, we move away from the essential.
The chapter titles in Keys to Success for Kids describe the main steps to achieving success.
First station: get rid of excuses (Chapter 1: “Excuses Be Gone”). Great advice for adults, considering how childish we tend to act when we’re faced with failure or disappointment. We usually avoid dealing with reality by creatively inventing excuses. And we repeat them over and over, until we start to actually believe them. Take a look at the following nugget of teenage wisdom:
“You can always change something, and that something is your ATTITUDE toward it. There is never a good excuse for failure to succeed or failure to be happy.”
We should permanently learn from each other, and accept that wisdom can come from unexpected corners.
The second chapter, “Goal Setting”, has even better content. As you’ve probably already guessed, it’s about setting your goal in life. Figuring out what they want to do in life is a problem for quite a few adults. Many have wasted years on jobs that they didn’t like, accepting their fate too easily.
Fate, context, timing…. they always find a great excuse. Hidden or not, the frustration is always big.
But it’s never too late to learn a lesson. A lesson learned today may help us tomorrow. We can use our experience to help them navigate life, to understand why it’s important to be honest with themselves, to have goals in life and discipline in acquiring them.
And here we are at the third chapter, “Developing a Routine”. The other day, my five-year-old asked me, “Mum, what does routine mean?” After I explained it to her, she hit me with another question: “Routine is a good or a bad thing?”
That question made me think about what Maddix says in his book. My adult answer was, “We have a bad routine and a good one. And a good routine means…” From that point on I’ve used Maddix as an example.
“What is a routine? A routine is the backbone of your goal… Achieving our goals doesn’t come easy, but if you develop a routine and stick with it, you will be unstoppable!!!!”
A wise routine won’t allow you to hang out with the “crowd”. These days having that kind of routine makes you different. Makes you look less and less like the others. It’s called the “unique yourself”, and sometimes it’s hard to convince everyone that it’s the best way of living your life. But this is how an adult thinks. After years of life and professional experience, this is my conclusion.
Maddix doesn’t have this experience. He’s still learning from others. But despite his youth, he learned probably the hardest lesson for a kid: to “Be Different” (chapter 4). In a crazy, social world, he chose his mentors and chose to step aside from the crowd. Like a wise old man, he put all of the advantages and disadvantages together and accepted them without complaining.
This strength gives him the authority to speak about personal growth. The beautiful part is that this personal growth means almost the same thing for Maddix as it means for any influencer.
You may be tempted to say, “He is after all influenced by people who wrote and spoke about this topic!” And you’re right. But aren’t we all influenced by our mentors? Didn’t we all need muses to guide us in life?
The impressive part is that Maddix made a choice and now he knows what his pattern of thinking is. He’s a great example for other kids, because he assumes that they have a perfectly functional brain and should not be afraid to use it. He proves that kids should listen to and respect adult advice, but shouldn’t always obey it. By doing that, kids will develop more than self-confidence; they’ll gain a healthy mindset, focused on goals, strengths, and missions.
When I was a kid people used to ask me “What do you want to become when you’ll grow up?” I bet this question sounds familiar to everyone. I had two kinds of answers for this.
The first was the stereotype one (teacher, doctor, etc.). I knew this kind of answer would please them and they probably wouldn’t ask for details.
But in my bad days, when a question like that really annoyed me, I used answers from the second category – the debatable one (policewoman, circus girl, or psychiatrist). Not because I truly wanted to be one of those. It pleased me to see the look of shock on people’s faces as they tried to figure out what was going on inside my head.
Looking back now, I realize that my answers were, in fact, somehow a punishment for grown-ups treating me like a silly child and asking me the wrong question. We are what we are. We are not becoming. We are fulfilling our childhood dreams.
Had the adults would asked, “What is the mission of your dream?” I would have loved to tell them more about it.
The last chapter from Maddix’s book, “Be a Kid with a Mission”, talks about exactly that. Kids have dreams and are waiting to reveal their mission. It’s in our power to help them discover it.
“One of our main goals is to help everyone realize that they are never too young to do anything they put their mind to do… Whatever age you are now, you need to start learning, serving, and working at whatever you want to achieve.”
Here are 6 simple, but valuable, lessons from Keys to Success for Kids:
- We should never give up on dreaming big!
- 'Think for yourself. Don't think like the crowd.' @CalebMaddix Click To Tweet
- Success without hard work is just a myth!
- “The true way to stand out is to show your strength.”
- “There is never a good excuse for failure to succeed or failure to be happy.”
- 'Whatever stands out for you, run with it.'@CalebMaddix Click To Tweet
How important is it to read a book like this? Every one of us plays the role of a parent or mentor in real life. This means great responsibility. We have to help the kids fulfil their dreams. By ignoring their needs, we may condemn them to ignorance. These conclusions made me remember Frederick Douglass’ words:
“It’s easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
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