HER – The Miracle Future We Can Give Our Children
About 2 years ago, I became really concerned about where our country is headed. My fears were not based on our political landscape, it was from the research we conducted for my last book. Right now, we are facing the biggest restructuring of work since the Industrial Revolution. Alarmingly, about half of our country’s workers characterize themselves as “underemployed,” kicked to the curb by change. Many are having difficulty seeing a future where technology removes all forms of task work. Others are holding 2-3 jobs to keep a roof over their family’s heads. While change continues to accelerate, many of us are in immediate need of a new mindset. This is especially so with parents.
As we take away task work, what’s left?
More interesting work.
While our country is stalling on retooling everyone for the future, Germany and China are going pedal-to-the-metal in teaching and changing its workers. For example, we complain about robots taking our work. Most American companies lay people off the moment they become obsolete. Assembly line and coal mining workers are in the news as casualties of technology. But, Germany embraced full robotics on their assembly lines and didn’t lay off their workers. Why? It is a common-sense outlook. Teach the workers to do more valuable work such as problem-solving, quality improvement and providing accountability to relevant stakeholders. The results speak for themselves.
Our country’s leaders, on both sides of the fence, ought to be yelling from the rooftops that the new work is here and its exciting, interesting, and meaningful. But, we will not understand where to look unless we get off the couch, learn, relearn, and unlearn. Rather than developing the courage to tell the truth, our leaders promise jobs that don’t exist and a return to the past that will never happen. Last year, Mitch McConnell made a statement to the press. He said, “These coal miners ought to go into trucking.” Yes, trucking is currently the #1 job for men. But, Daimler just completed a 5-year test run in Nevada using driverless trucks. Shortly afterward, Anderson Graduate School issued the findings that today’s 5.2 trucking jobs will dwindle to just 600,000 in about 7 years.
Our educational system continues to prepare our children for the Industrial Revolution. In the meantime, we now live in a world where the average college graduate will change careers, not jobs, 4-6 times. Most of our schools are not teaching our children how to develop creativity and adaptability. Our educational system doesn’t teach sales, influence, building support systems, defining personal vision, wealth, entrepreneurism, flexibility and adaptability. Most schools are still focused on getting our children to fit in, which begs the question, “fit into what?”
From our perspective, parents must become far more aware in how to prepare themselves as well as their children for the future of work.
Where do we begin? This one is far simpler and often more difficult than what we might expect.
The single most important ingredient that provides the fuel for practical self-change is loving one’s work. In the old world of work, increasing shareholder value or filling bolts in holes was enough. Today, the emerging work isn’t about tasks, it is about solving problems, creativity, accountability, empathy, visibility, narrative, and leading change itself.
In this new world, parents must lead the way in seeing their children get the kind of education and mindset to find the work they love and develop the life skills to succeed, no matter their choice. And, if 50% of these parents are underemployed, this is a good time to up-level their outlook and become scholars with the new world of work. Because, great role models are far more valuable than simply telling children what to do.
I’ve been working on a book project with Dr. Mary Campbell. I began working with Mary when she was the chief talent officer at USC. Both of us believe this is an urgent time to educate parents in how to prepare themselves, as well as their children, for the future of work. Actually, that future is right here.
As our children grow and start thinking of an adult future, this would be the single worst time in history to respond with, “That’s a stupid idea.” Or, “Don’t do that, this is better.” Communications like this set the stage for war with our children or we teach them to distrust themselves.
Recently, I was given an experience that brought home the importance of this mission.
I was waiting to board the plane back to LA after delivering a keynote speech in Portland. The driver dropped me off about 3 hours before departure. In the guest lounge, I was in-the-deep with writing and editing. Purifying the message happens to be one of my joyful experiences. The man next to me was also quickly working and drinking coffee.
Suddenly, he turned towards me and said, “You are working so intensely on that document, would it be rude of me to ask what it is?”
“I own a business that helps people transform their relationship towards work. One of my colleagues from academia and I are working on a book to help families better prepare their children for the future of work.”
“What the premise?”
“Well, change is taking on such gigantic proportions, we need a whole new mindset in how we select work and we need important new life skills to succeed, no matter the profession.”
I could see he was sitting on top of something that was painful. He asked, “How do we select our work?”
“We used to focus all of our energy of meeting 2 basic standards in our work, predictability, and survival. Now that we have lost those standards, which we mediocre, there is an entirely new opportunity to raise the standards of what we choose to do with our lives. Change is uncomfortable. The only reliable fuel we have found that drives personal change and action is loving our work, doing the work that is meaningful. Otherwise, it is just a job.”
His face turned sheet white.
“I’ve been at war with my daughter for two years.”
“She leaves for college this year and wants to study marine biology.”
“What, on earth, is wrong with that?”
“I believe she can make more money with many other professions.”
“You actually think she will make more money if she doesn’t like the work? Look, no matter how much you try you will not be able to control your daughter. This stand-off that you are having is shielding both of you from meaningful collaboration at a very tender point in your lives.”
There was a period of intense silence. Then, he looked up and I witnessed the surrender as he opened his mouth. He declared, “I’m wrong, aren’t I?”
I responded, “Yes, you are.”
“What shall I do?”
“Go home and tell her you were wrong to imply ‘Don’t be you.’ Tell her that you love what she wants to do with her life because it will be honorable and good. Tell her she is going to become a wonderful marine biologist. Tell her it isn’t your place to tell her what to do with her life but as her father, you will do your very best to help her understand how to succeed.”
At that very moment, the hostess came over and told him his flight was almost done boarding. He turned at the door and looked at me as if he had seen a ghost. For a flash, his eyes welled up. His free hand covered his heart, face flushed, he mouthed the words, “Thank you.”
On my plane, there was an older Lesbian couple in the seats ahead of me. They are celebrating retirement with a first class trip to Costa Rica.
The guy next to me resembled a Shaman.
It was a convivial group but I didn’t want to talk. I sat in the gratitude of doing the work that I love and looked out the window as lakes and rivers sped below us, and the sunset over the Pacific. Tears fell.
I was thinking of her.
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