How to inspire kids with just a lightbulb or chair

Mark Cuban has a simple tactic for inspiring young kids — and getting them to think about their own limitations, or lack thereof.

And he uses it often, he says. “I get emails [from] kids around the world, because ‘Shark Tank’ is shown everywhere, asking me business questions,” Cuban recently told the “Lex Fridman Podcast.”

The tactic is as simple as pointing to a lightbulb or chair.

“When I go talk to elementary school kids, one of the things I do, I say, ‘OK, let’s look around. You see that light there? One day, that light didn’t exist. Then somebody had the idea. Then somebody created a product … And now your school bought that,'” Cuban said.

He continued: “‘You see that chair? Chairs didn’t always look like that. Somebody had that idea. Why not you? When you walk out … ask yourself, ‘Why not me? Why can’t I be the one to change the world?'”

The core of Cuban’s message is relatively common: Anyone could create something that changes the world. World-weary adults may roll their eyes, but experts say children need parents and other role models to model good behaviors, including the ambition and confidence it takes to believe that they can come up with a world-changing idea.

Children’s behaviors and mentalities can be heavily influenced by positive role models, including notable and relatable success stories, research shows. And the more kids hear those stories of overcoming long odds, persevering and ultimately succeeding, the more they’ll push themselves to embody those traits in their own lives and careers, according to Indiana University psychology professor Mary Murphy.

“Storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to impart lessons [to kids],” Murphy wrote for CNBC Make It last year.

Cuban has his own inspiring backstory, teaching himself to be a salesman by selling garbage bags door to door at age 12. Years later, he became a billionaire by helping to launch, one of the internet’s earliest streaming media platforms, even though “people thought I was an idiot,” he told CBS last year.

These days, he even finds himself inspired by his conversations with young students — crediting the “spirit” he sees while talking with them, he said on the podcast. “I see it when I talk to schools … that spark in kids’ eyes that there’s something bigger and better and exciting out there,” Cuban said.

It’s impressive to see so much optimism from a younger generation that also has to contend with the “fear [of] climate and any other number of things,” he added.

“But that’s the beauty of kids,” said Cuban. “Gen Z really embodies that. And to me, that’s just really exciting.”

Disclosure: CNBC owns the exclusive off-network cable rights to “Shark Tank.”

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