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VANS’ Founder Pinpoints Skills Necessary for Future Success

VANS shoes is a nationally recognized brand. It is no accident that a man named Paul Van Doren created such a recognizable brand without even a high school education. The education he received came from working and observing from a very young age.

As a child of the 1930’s, he experienced scarcity. No indoor plumbing and none of the luxuries such as hot water that we experience today. He shared his small home with two brothers and a sister who never agreed. He credits his father for encouraging the disagreements and allowed the children to voice their own differing opinions. In fact, he encouraged it. I’ve always encouraged my students to have differing opinions and listen to one another respectfully, while being open to others’ views.

Van Doren identified the one skill for his success. It is a skill that has been lost in our educational system because we have been so focused on the test results. Much of the school year is spent preparing students to use effective test taking strategies. That skill would not have served Van Doren, because what he and his father did was to solve problems no one else had considered solving. He claims, “I have a knack for identifying and then solving problems. What I do better than anything is cut out distractions. If a system, isn’t working efficiently, I can see where it’s jammed, eliminate the problem, and find a way to keep everything moving forward.”

He was lucky to have a father who demonstrated how to take adversity and turn it into opportunities. When clothespins became scarce due to a shortage of metal for the springs, his father created a wooden pin. He had to modify the equipment to make the process easier. There were no Youtube guides or books available to help him solve the problem. He had to tap into his innate ability to see a problem and find a solution that no one else had.

Paul Van Doren followed in his father’s footsteps by also being an innovator. He credits his early success as a result of hard work and creative trouble shooting.

He observed and learned from the successes and failures of those he worked with and for in his childhood.

Are we preparing our children for a future that we can not predict by focusing on testing? No. We need to focus on the basic skills, bring back accurate history from which to learn, and help our children develop entrepreneurial mindsets. Paul wasn’t protected from failure. He was just taught how to turn a failure into a success.

Paul and his siblings weren’t micro-managed. “No one set boundaries or perimeters or directed us on how to entertain one another. The expectation was that we would figure it out, and that nature, through patterns for connection or wonderment, would be our teacher.”

His father expected him to admit when he was wrong and expected him to suffer any consequences. He wasn’t rescued, but expected to learn from his mistakes.

He felt great pride being an important part of the working family. They all worked the business together. He always tried his hardest, even when the stakes appeared to be low.

The following words are a powerful message to all parents, “When we hold onto someone too tightly, at best, we’re telling them ‘I don’t trust you,” and at worst, “You’re not capable.”

For our children to be successful in the future, we need to look at what made Paul Van Doren a success. His father trusted him to figure it out on his own and come up with innovative solutions.

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