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Entrepreneur Diaries: Act like an adult, learn like a child

Dubai Islamic Bank children saving

Focus less on perfecting a skill and more on the pleasure of actually learning it, writes Maya Itani.

May 8, 2013 10:17 by

Kipp asks new entrepreneurs to write about their experiences with launching, managing and growing their start-up companies in the region. This column will be the start of many to come in a series of ‘the entrepreneur diaries’. We invite you, as fresh entrepreneurs, to share your experiences with us and our readers. If you’d like to spread your wisdom, or simply tell us about your worst failures, contact us [email protected]


I have spent the last nine months of my life developing a website that would encourage adults in the United Arab Emirates to learn something new. Along the way, I’ve encountered many naysayers who would respond to my idea with: “adults can’t learn the same way children do. It’s much harder past a certain age.”

There are a myriad of scientific reports out there that will substantiate this claim, and others that refute it. As a gut feeling, I have never believed it to be true.

Then last week, I found my answer while taking a photography course. The course was officially targeted at adults, but somehow two young brothers managed to nab seats in the class. I sat next to the 11-year-old brother for the majority of the course and was fascinated by his reactions to the material. Totally uninhibited, he snapped pictures, tried new things, and above all bombarded the instructor with questions. He was desperate to learn this new skill and didn’t care what he looked like while doing it.

His pictures put the rest of us to shame and I realised that while I don’t know if children are physically more capable learners than adults, I am convinced they definitely have a better mindset to learn. When the instructor would ask questions in the class, the adults would shift around nervously in their seats, none wanting to give the answer even if they knew it.

This little boy was the antithesis and was nearly jumping off his seat to answer what he knew, and even what he didn’t know.

As children, we are curious and eager to learn by nature. Somewhere along the line, we become more inhibited and stifle our curiosity in order to maintain appearances. So yes, I agree with the naysayers that children do learn better than the average adult, but only because of their mindset. In my opinion, we should actually take a few tips from them in order to become lifelong learners:

Ask questions: There is no such thing as a stupid question. If you don’t know something, ask.

Do not be afraid to fail: This is the most crippling fear in adults that is not prevalent amongst children. They seem to understand that they will not perfect something from the first attempt, but as adults, this notion actually prevents us from venturing into something new.

Enjoy the process: A child’s main objective is always to have fun. Focus less on perfecting the skill and more on the pleasure of actually learning it, and you’ll find that you reach your destination faster than you had expected.

Maya Itani is a passionate advocate of lifelong learning and co-founded The Curve (, an online marketplace for adult classes in Dubai. 

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