Local Edition: This 11-year-old has some pretty great advice on learning new things
"Step out of your comfort zone, and if you don't like it, you can step back in."
This piece originally appeared in Local Edition, our newsletter following the digital transformation of local news. Want to be part of the conversation? You can sign up here. What were you doing at 11? I'm pretty sure I was beginning my life-long war with math, pretending I didn't love "The Little Mermaid" because I was way too old for cartoons and watching the Berlin Wall come down on TV.
Someday, Taylor Moxey will have her own personal and pop-culture milestones to look back on from her 11th year. But they won't include writing a book or cooking for famous people. She did that stuff when she was 9.
Recently, I put out an ask on Facebook for people who aren't journalists who could talk with us about learning new things. The recommendations were long and impressive, and I will go back to them. But Rebekah Monson's suggestion of Taylor, who's also started a library, was my favorite.
My conversation with Taylor, who just started fifth grade, was edited for length and clarity.
You're the youngest person I've spoken to for my newsletter, which I'm very excited about. Will you start by telling us a little about yourself?
OK, well, hi, my name's Taylor Moxey, I'm 11 years old. I'm from Miami, Florida. I'm an author, a philanthropist and an entrepreneur, and I'm the founder of Taylor Moxey and the Taylor Moxey Foundation. How I got started is I wanted a Barbie Doll. And there was this thing that me and my parents did — every Sunday after church, we would go to Target and we would get a Barbie doll. That kind of became like a regular thing for us until one day we went to Target, I picked up the doll I wanted, and I asked my dad to buy it for me, and he said no. And I was like, "why not?" And he said he wanted me to figure out how to buy the doll by myself. I was like, I don't know how to do that. I don't know how to make money. And he was like, "well, you're gonna find a way or else you're not gonna get the doll." So I was like, "OK. I'll find a way."
So, we were passing through the baking aisle and I saw cookie dough and brownie mix. And I was like, "I like baking with my Easy-Bake Oven, why not do it with a regular oven?" So, I told my parents, "I want to bake cookies and I want to sell them to make money." It was kind of normal for people to do lemonade stands and stuff, but it was different for people to bake. So we bought the cookie dough and brownie mix, we took them to my church, and I told the whole church that I brought cookies. Within 15 minutes after church, I made $175.
Instead of buying Barbie dolls for, like, ever, I got business cards instead.
What's the first thing you remember wanting to learn that you actually learned?
One of my biggest life goals as a little kid (was) I wanted to learn how to cook with the big oven. That was one of my goals at the time. My parents like to cook a lot. I always saw them putting stuff in the big oven and I thought, "I want to do that." But I didn't want to get burned. That was one of my big goals when I was younger.
And when you had this goal of wanting to learn to cook in the big oven, how did you do that?
I taught myself from scratch. It was a lot of trial and error. The day that I did get it, I was really excited because I made cupcakes for my parents, and they were like, "Wow, these are good." They weren't raw or overcooked.
OK, I have two more baking questions for you and then I'll stop. What's your favorite thing to bake, and of all the people you've baked for, who was your favorite?
My favorite thing to bake is cupcakes. Those are my specialty. And my favorite flavor to bake is red velvet, because I feel like you can put so many colors in it but you can use the same recipe. And one of my favorite people I've baked for: Chris Bosh is a big one.
So we're talking about learning new things here, is that something that comes easy for you? How do you learn?
Well, obviously, you have to start with the basics. You have to experiment with what you already know and what you don't know. So for me, I knew how to make box cake mix, my mom would always help me, and at one point I said, "I want to do this on my own."
So, the first step for me is to try to learn from what you already know to what you don't know. And then, just try your hardest, even if it doesn't come out perfectly the first time. It's OK. My cupcakes did not turn out perfect the first time. It was really hard, I saw all these people on TV and they made it look so easy. But after a few years, I got the hang of it and said, "OK, this is getting easier for me." ...If you don't want to do it, don't push yourself too hard to the point where you get tired of it.
That's great advice. Have you found any things that make learning something new any easier?
Just clearing your mind when you're doing it helps me. When I have all these things jumbled in my head about school and dance and then baking, my business, it's hard to function. So I would say just clearing your mind and just doing it.
Have you found any things that make learning something new any harder?
Probably just myself. I'm very, very good at following directions, but when I was younger, I didn't know any better. Reading directions, just following them through was one of the hardest parts for me at a younger age.
What's the last new thing you decided to learn?
I think it was judging. I was on "Beat Bobby Flay", and I had never judged a cooking show. I was on "Dessert Wars," but never on TV with big-name celebrities. Judging was pretty hard because I'm a very nice person. Even if it's not my favorite, I'll be nice and be like, "Oh, this is good." I had to be tough on them because they're competing, and I didn't want to be lollygagging.
What is the next thing you want to learn?
The next thing I want to learn is to cook on a timespan. I want to be able to cook cupcakes in less than a minute. That's one of my biggest goals as a baker and an entrepreneur.
Wow, is that possible?
I really don't know.
I guess you're going to find out. This is a little off our topic, but I wanted to end by asking if you have any general advice for local journalists? My kids are 10 and 6, and I always appreciate their perspective on the world.
For journalists, I would say, be creative. Don't stay inside the box. I know that's really normal to say, but for me, it's very important. If you stay inside your box, you're not going to be able to explore the other world that's out there. So I would just say step outside of your comfort zone, step outside of your box. And if it doesn't work the first time, you have your strengths and weaknesses, everyone has those. So I would say step out of your comfort zone, and if you don't like it, you can step back in.
Thank you, Taylor!!! Next week we'll take a look at what we've learned from this conversation on learning new things. In the meantime, check out the winners of the Center for Cooperative Media's collaborative reporting project open call, there are lots of ONA Local events coming up, and, if you're in the mood to learn something new now, check out this self-directed course from Poynter's News U on reporting across platforms. See you next week!
Correction: An earlier version of this story got a name wrong. It's the Center for Cooperative Media, not collaborative. It has been corrected. We apologize for the error.