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  • 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.

  • And then my dad would drive me on Saturdays

  • to a scrap metal recycler where I got paid.

  • And I thought that was kind of cool.

  • Strangely enough, 30 years later, we're building 1-800-GOT-JUNK?

  • and making money off that too.

  • I built these little pincushions when I was 11 years old in Cubs,

  • and we made these pin cushions for our moms for Mother's Day.