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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Tell your kids to "choose" their future

The desperation of college grads to find "any" job after graduation combined with the typical view of a 20 year old that 6 months is an eternity, lead many to jump into positions and companies that are far from their personal interests or temperaments. Some may go on to turn it around later in life but based on my observations of mid-career job-seekers, many more will be stuck in a rut that gets harder and harder to break free from the longer one is in it.
Why don't more kids follow their dreams? Kids with a passion for something (anything!) are more attractive to college admissions counselors, recruiting managers, and even potential future spouses. Granted, our kids may not know what they want, or more likely, know what kind of job they can do that is related to their interest. We can help with that and along with guidance counselors and teachers we should be sharing out knowledge of the working world with our kids at an early age. But once they have an idea about a job or a career, is the desire enough?

Jonathan Rowson is a Grandmaster in chess, an author, can be found on twitter here, and is also a father. While he has achieved success in chess, peaking at 139th in the world, it seems that a quote from one of his emails in Paul Tough's How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character has done much for his online recognition. The quoted email discussed some of the challenges of achieving greatness in chess and goes as follows (somewhat abridged):

...it is crucial to distinguish between `wanting` something and `choosing` it. Decide that you want to become a world champion, and you will inevitably fail to put in the necessary hard work.  If however you choose to become a world champion, then your every action will say, "This is who I am."

Tough relates the comments to Angela Duckworth's discussions of volition vs. motivation.  They both explain in detail the nuances between the words (want/motivation vs choose/volition) and try to show how the attitudes of people both young and old can be categorized into losers and winners. I can't help but think that this has all been said a long time ago in a galaxy far far away...

"Do or do not, there is no try."

As we all know, the teachings of Yoda are eternal and applicable to all situations at all times.  In this particular case, our kid's careers, it can help them to get a job. However, not just any job, Yoda's (and Angela's and Jonathan's) advice can lead our kids to finding a job and a career that they are actually excited about. So to answer my question way up in paragraph 2, no, desire is not enough. Our kids need to act on that desire or in Yoda's phrasing, "Do". We can help by talking through what is necessary to achieve a career in whatever discipline our kids have shown an interest in (although it may require some research on our part as well). Look at the prerequisites (future film directors can click here). Is there anything that our kids can start now that will put them a little bit closer to their dream? Perhaps we can apply this to ourselves as well, instead of just "wanting" our kids to be successful and happy, we can "choose" that they will be.

"Jedi Chess"
Todd Laffler (photographer)
http://www.lafflerphotography.com/

By the way, this will be my 6th article about motivation.  I am starting to think that it might be an important topic...

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