Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles I would be willing to bet that I'm the dumbest guy in the room because I couldn't get through school. I struggled with school. But what I knew at a very early age was that I loved money and I loved business and I loved this entrepreneurial thing, and I was raised to be an entrepreneur, and what I've been really passionate about ever since -- and I've never spoken about this ever, until now -- so this is the first time anyone's ever heard it, except my wife three days ago, because she said, "What are you talking about?" and I told her -- is that I think we miss an opportunity to find these kids who have the entrepreneurial traits, and to groom them or show them that being an entrepreneur is actually a cool thing. It's not something that is a bad thing and is vilified, which is what happens in a lot of society. Kids, when we grow up, have dreams, and we have passions, and we have visions, and somehow we get those things crushed. We get told that we need to study harder or be more focused or get a tutor. My parents got me a tutor in French, and I still suck in French. Two years ago, I was the highest-rated lecturer at MIT's entrepreneurial master's program. And it was a speaking event in front of groups of entrepreneurs from around the world. When I was in grade two, I won a city-wide speaking competition, but nobody had ever said, "Hey, this kid's a good speaker. He can't focus, but he loves walking around and getting people energized." No one said, "Get him a coach in speaking." They said, get me a tutor in what I suck at. So as kids show these traits -- and we need to start looking for them -- I think we should be raising kids to be entrepreneurs instead of lawyers. Unfortunately the school system is grooming this world to say, "Hey, let's be a lawyer or let's be a doctor," and we're missing that opportunity because no one ever says, "Hey, be an entrepreneur." Entrepreneurs are people -- because we have a lot of them in this room -- who have these ideas and these passions or see these needs in the world and we decide to stand up and do it. And we put everything on the line to make that stuff happen. We have the ability to get those groups of people around us that want to kind of build that dream with us, and I think if we could get kids to embrace the idea at a young age of being entrepreneurial, we could change everything in the world that is a problem today. Every problem that's out there, somebody has the idea for. And as a young kid, nobody can say it can't happen because you're too dumb to realize that you couldn't figure it out. I think we have an obligation as parents and a society to start teaching our kids to fish instead of giving them the fish -- the old parable: "If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime." If we can teach our kids to become entrepreneurial -- the ones that show those traits to be -- like we teach the ones who have science gifts to go on in science, what if we saw the ones who had entrepreneurial traits and taught them to be entrepreneurs? We could actually have all these kids spreading businesses instead of waiting for government handouts. What we do is we sit and teach our kids all the things they shouldn't do: Don't hit; don't bite; don't swear. Right now we teach our kids to go after really good jobs, you know, and the school system teaches them to go after things like being a doctor and being a lawyer and being an accountant and a dentist and a teacher and a pilot. And the media says that it's really cool if we could go out and be a model or a singer or a sports hero like Luongo, Crosby. Our MBA programs do not teach kids to be entrepreneurs. The reason that I avoided an MBA program -- other than the fact that I couldn't get into any because I had a 61 percent average out of high school and then 61 percent average at the only school in Canada that accepted me, Carlton -- but our MBA programs don't teach kids to be entrepreneurs. They teach them to go work in corporations. So who's starting these companies? It's these random few people. Even in popular literature, the only book I've ever found -- and this should be on all of your reading lists -- the only book I've ever found that makes the entrepreneur into the hero is "Atlas Shrugged." Everything else in the world tends to look at entrepreneurs and say that we're bad people. I look at even my family. Both my grandfathers were entrepreneurs. My dad was an entrepreneur. Both my brother and sister and I, all three of us own companies as well. And we all decided to start these things because it's really the only place we fit. We didn't fit in the normal work. We couldn't work for somebody else because we're too stubborn and we have all these other traits. But kids could be entrepreneurs as well. I'm a big part of a couple organizations globally called the Entrepreneurs' Organization and the Young Presidents' Organization. I just came back from speaking in Barcelona at the YPO global conference, and everyone that I met over there who's an entrepreneur struggled with school. I have 18 out of the 19 signs of attention deficit disorder diagnosed. So this thing right here is freaking me out. (Laughter) It's probably why I'm a little bit panicked right now -- other than all the caffeine that I've had and the sugar -- but this is really creepy for an entrepreneur. Attention deficit disorder, bipolar disorder. Do you know that bipolar disorder is nicknamed the CEO disease? Ted Turner's got it. Steve Jobs has it. All three of the founders of Netscape had it. I could go on and on. Kids -- you can see these signs in kids. And what we're doing is we're giving them Ritalin and saying, "Don't be an entrepreneurial type. Fit into this other system and try to become a student." Sorry, entrepreneurs aren't students. We fast-track. We figure out the game. I stole essays. I cheated on exams. I hired kids to do my accounting assignments in university for 13 consecutive assignments. But as an entrepreneur you don't do accounting, you hire accountants. So I just figured that out earlier. (Laughter) (Applause) At least I can admit I cheated in university; most of you won't. I'm also quoted -- and I told the person who wrote the textbook -- I'm now quoted in that exact same university textbook in every Canadian university and college studies. In managerial accounting, I'm chapter eight. I open up chapter eight talking about budgeting. And I told the author, after they did my interview, that I cheated in that same course. And she thought it was too funny to not include it anyway. But kids, you can see these signs in them. The definition of an entrepreneur is "a person who organizes, operates and assumes the risk of a business venture." That doesn't mean you have to go to an MBA program. It doesn't mean you have to get through school. It just means that those few things have to feel right in your gut. And we've heard those things about "is it nurture or is it nature," right? Is it thing one or thing two? What is it? Well, I don't think it's either. I think it can be both. I was groomed as an entrepreneur. When I was growing up as a young kid, I had no choice, because I was taught at a very early, young age -- when my dad realized I wasn't going to fit into everything else that was being taught to me in school -- that he could teach me to figure out business at an early age. He groomed us, the three of us, to hate the thought of having a job and to love the fact of creating companies that we could employ other people. My first little business venture: I was seven years old, I was in Winnipeg, and I was lying in my bedroom with one of those long extension cords. And I was calling all the dry cleaners in Winnipeg to find out how much would the dry cleaners pay me for coat hangers. And my mom came into the room and she said, "Where are you going to get the coat hangers to sell to the dry cleaners?" And I said, "Let's go and look in the basement." And we went down to the basement. And I opened up this cupboard. And there was about a thousand coat hangers that I'd collected. Because, when I told her I was going out to play with the kids, I was going door to door in the neighborhood to collect coat hangers to put in the basement to sell. Because I saw her a few weeks before that -- you could get paid. They used to pay you two cents per coat hanger. So I was just like, well there's all kinds of coat hangers. And so I'll just go get them. And I knew she wouldn't want me to go get them, so I just did it anyway. And I learned that you could actually negotiate with people. This one person offered me three cents and I got him up to three and a half. I even knew at a seven-year-old age that I could actually get a fractional percent of a cent, and people would pay that because it multiplied up. At seven years old I figured it out. I got three and a half cents for a thousand coat hangers. I sold license plate protectors door to door. My dad actually made me go find someone who would sell me these things at wholesale. And at nine years old, I walked around in the city of Sudbury selling license plate protectors door to door to houses. And I remember this one customer so vividly because I also did some other stuff with these clients. I sold newspapers. And he wouldn't buy a newspaper from me ever. But I was convinced I was going to get him to buy a license plate protector. And he's like, "Well, we don't need one." And I said, "But you've got two cars ..." -- I'm nine years old. I'm like, "But you have two cars and they don't have license plate protectors." And he said, "I know." And I said, "This car here's got one license plate that's all crumpled up." And he said, "Yes, that's my wife's car." And I said, "Why don't we just test one on the front of your wife's car and see if it lasts longer." So I knew there were two cars with two license plates on each. If I couldn't sell all four, I could at least get one. I learned that at a young age. I did comic book arbitrage. When I was about 10 years old, I sold comic books out of our cottage on Georgian Bay. And I would go biking up to the end of the beach and buy all the comics from the poor kids. And then I would go back to the other end of the beach and sell them to the rich kids. But it was obvious to me, right? Buy low, sell high. You've got this demand over here that has money. Don't try to sell to the poor kids; they don't have cash. The rich people do. Go get some. So that's obvious, right. It's like a recession. So, there's a recession. There's still 13 trillion dollars circulating in the U.S. economy. Go get some of that. And I learned that at a young age. I also learned, don't reveal your source, because I got beat up after about four weeks of doing this because one of the rich kids found out where I was buying my comics from, and he didn't like the fact that he was paying a lot more. I was forced to get a paper route at 10 years old. I didn't really want a paper route, but at 10, my dad said, "That's going to be your next business." So not only would he get me one, but I had to get two, and then he wanted me to hire someone to deliver half the papers, which I did, and then I realized that collecting tips was where you made all the money. So I would collect the tips and get payment. So I would go and collect for all the papers. He could just deliver them. Because then I realized I could make the money. By this point, I was definitely not going to be an employee. (Laughter) My dad owned an automotive and industrial repair shop. He had all these old automotive parts lying around. They had this old brass and copper. I asked him what he did with it, and he said he just throws it out. I said, "But wouldn't somebody pay you for that?" And he goes, "Maybe." Remember at 10 years old -- so 34 years ago I saw opportunity in this stuff. I saw there was money in garbage. And I was actually collecting it from all the automotive shops in the area on my bicycle.