It seems like every few weeks I find myself with an opportunity to be in front of kids telling my story and offering career and even life advice. I truly enjoy having these opportunities as I believe the greatest satisfaction in life comes from helping others reach their fullest potential. Kids are our society’s future, so investing time with them is time well spent in my book.
Here’s what I find sad and even scary more often than not when I address them. The stuff I tell them, the things I’ve experienced with life and hold sacred they’re often hearing for the very first time. How is it that society still teaches kids their success in life is based on their success in school and accomplishing a degree? I most certainly was not a scholar and wouldn’t at all proclaim what I learned earning a college degree was the foundation of my success in my career and life. Now, maybe if I would have met my wife in a class that would be true but we met in a bar, so I digress. Some of the most intelligent and successful people I know weren’t great students and some had the audacity to not even bother attending college. Yet society still predominantly preaches you need to have good grades and most certainly earn a college degree with a high GPA nonetheless to be “successful.” That’s so not the world as I see it and when I say it as I see it; these kids are quite literally often hearing that for the first time. Why is that, mom and dad?
Look, I want my kids to work hard and do their best at everything they do, school included. I think that’s what any responsible parent wants for their kids. But everybody’s best is different, which in the end is what makes the world go around. Not every kid is wired for traditional learning or testing. I loved everything about school … except the classes. My education was filled with tutors and frustration for my parents and me. I graduated college (barely) and the only reason I went to college back in the day is it would have been sacrilegious in my family not to. I still think for many parents, not sending their kids to college is sacrilegious today. I’ve painted outside the lines my whole life. I argued on multiple choice question tests every chance I got with my teachers. And in general you could sum educational success by simply saying my creative right brain was constantly overshadowing my mathematical left brain, getting me into trouble. I’m not alone in any of this but damn it if that didn’t then, or would now, put me on an island when it came to what society values. Why should it be this way for students when as an employer, or greater yet a human being, I know the real world doesn’t work this way?!
Traditional education isn’t for everyone and College is more impractical today than it’s ever been, at least for learning a skill and landing a career. Agreed? Yet somehow kids don’t know this and are simply told to work hard, get good grades so you can earn a spot at a prestigious school, work again to score a high GPA and ultimately land a career and be “successful.” Of course all of that is still possible but I’d argue today it’s much more the exception than the rule. But nobody is telling our kids that from my experience.
All I can do is speak from experience when I speak with kids. I tell them I learned more about running a business and succeeding in life from being on sports teams in high school, and joining and actually participating in a fraternity in college. Again, when I say those things, they look back at me mouths agape and proclaim they have never once heard such a thing. I might not be a rocket scientist but I do know I’m certainly not the only one who got more real world education outside the classroom than in it.
I say all of this while saying I’m not anti-education or even traditional education. In fact, I pride myself in being a lifelong learner and devour insane amounts of content to feed my curiosity. My son is an A/B student (must skip a generation). He loves science and was tops in his incoming freshman class at a private college prep high school. Unlike me or his mom for that matter, he’s wired for school and most likely will attend college (and yes, we are saving for it now!) But here’s at least a partial point of what I’m trying to make. When I asked him what percent of his science knowledge came from what he learned in the classroom and what came from his own studies he guesstimated it was 80/20. That is 80% self-learning and 20% classroom. An hour a day in a classroom can’t supplant multiple hours a day watching YouTube clips expertly done by experts in their field. It’s a bold new world out there and learning any way you want to is a huge part of that. This leads me to the final point and the main point I try and make with the students I talk with.
Success in life comes down to finding your passion and a career you can develop it in. My son is passionate about science and I’m passionate about turtles, fish, and frogs. (Guess which passion gets rewarded more in our educational system?!) I believe every good parent ultimately wants their kids to find their passion in life. Agreed? Sometimes, kids can even find that through traditional education. Mostly though, finding your passion comes from learning outside the classroom, yet somehow that’s not what the majority of kids are taught. That’s nuts to me! My energy and indeed my passion is to tell my story to these kids and let them know there most certainly is more than one way to find your passion and purpose in life. It’s ok not to kill yourself working to master every educational discipline. You can get a C in a class and still get an A in life. Society never told me that then and it’s still not telling kids that now. That’s why I do!
So my fellow parents out there, tell me please, do you agree with what I’m telling these kids or not? If not, to each their own, but if so help me not to be the first one to tell these kids, your kids, the way society truly works more often than not. After all, everyone deserves to reach their fullest potential. The A students deserve to know the whole truth … and the C students most certainly do too!