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Why you should nurture your child’s rebellious streak

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If we direct their "rebel talent," they can change the world.

The word “rebel” doesn’t carry many positive connotations. We think of a rebel as someone who challenges authority for no good reason, someone who thumbs their nose at established social norms or customs, just for the thrill of it.

And while those characteristics certainly can apply to some people we consider “rebels,” there are a lot of positive characteristics that tend to go along with the label — like creative thinking, curiosity, and the ability to reframe boundaries. In fact, author Francesca Gino believes that being a rebel is the missing ingredient that sets apart those who succeed from everyone else — a theory she explores in her recent book Rebel TalentShe spoke to the BBC about what exactly “rebel talent” is, and how to harness it:

One of the things that rebels do very naturally is to let their curiosity shine in everything that they do. When we think about Harry Houdini’s most interesting tricks, they find their roots in his curiosity. In the beginning he was really just intrigued about the little tricks that he would see others perform, asking questions about how is it that he could keep his audience engaged and really surprise them? …

We seem to have a wrong idea about rebels. Rebels are not the people who are the troublemakers. When we rebel we find a lot of enjoyment in work, in play, and also in our interactions with others.

My 12-year-old has a definitive streak of rebellion. Sometimes it’s frustrating, because she’s never compliant. She never accepts the status quo, never goes along with the way things are just because that’s the way they’ve always been. Rather, she always wants to know why. Why can’t you use this ingredient in a recipe instead of another? What would happen if you did? Why can’t you jump from the roof of the garage to the pool? What would happen if you did? How can you be positive you’d break an ankle unless you try it? And so on and so on. You get the picture.

I’ll be honest, she comes by it naturally. That rebellious streak is a genetic gift straight from my soul to hers — and it’s not one that I would try and change, no matter how much it makes me want to tear my hair out on a daily basis as a parent.

The truth is, the rebel in me has served me well — and yes, it’s also served me poorly. But the times it’s served me poorly were times when I wasn’t properly managing it (or myself). The rebel in us is a thing that must be tamed, like a wild horse — and then, when it’s under control, you point it in the right direction and let it loose.

It’s the rebel talent that got me a blackbelt at the age of 33 — because, why not? Why couldn’t I just take up a martial art in the middle of my life? Why not get my CPT and start a new career? Why not create an obstacle course for my campers and then let the winners joust? Sure, no other trainers do that … but my campers love it. It’s new, different, creative, and exciting. That’s what rebel talent is all about.

So no matter how much it makes me crazy to raise five little rebels, I’ll spend every day trying to preserve and cultivate that rebel talent. That’s what will set them apart from everyone else, help them land on their feet when they fall, show them a window when life seems to be nothing but slammed doors. That rebel talent is how people change the world.

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