Are We Preparing Our Children for the Future?
I was giving a keynote speech entitled, “The Art of Change.” Throughout the days of our programs, our participants produce transformational professional change. They break free of the survival and predictability standard that has entrapped so much of our culture. They define and do the work that matters to them personally and to the outside world. In our environment, these changes are not poverty pledges. Many of our clients end up making far more or, at the very least, meeting their financial standards for success. That journey becomes a watershed experience about personal change.
I tell our keynote audiences what we have learned about personal change in the last 26 years with particular attention to the mindsets and life skills necessary for a high degree of success. In the 90’s this information was valued by individuals highly motivated to establish new careers or reinvention. Progressively, the information is about change for all of us. Now, we find a majority of working professionals quite confronted by accelerating change with a sense of not being able to keep up. Many of them are part of the growing underemployed or the disengaged. In their experience, they are peddling as fast as they can. In this scenario, it is easy to be dismissive of our graduates as anomalies, doing what they love, reinventing at will and making good livings.
But, as change in the world around us continues to accelerate, not only do adults need a vastly different outlook in how they approach work but they must learn to how to change themselves because here’s the rub:
Many of them are parents.
As technological advancement continues to speed up, extraordinary opportunities emerge for our children. But, if parents pine for the past and see the world through the lens of a disappearing industrial revolution, they will make statements like, “My children will be the first generation to have less opportunity than me.” This prophetic statement poisons the mindset and outlook of our children.
One of my friends is Cathy Sandeen, the Chancellor for University of Wisconsin. She has been studying the impact of change on education. Current predictors are our children will, “change careers not jobs four to six times.” There isn’t a greater need for the nation’s parents to be snapping out of their own outlook by not only learning how to change their own lives but transforming the way they prepare their children for that world.
During the question and answer session of my keynote, a rather dignified and well-dressed gentleman vigorously raised his hand. His body language seemed uncomfortable and angry. Of course, he was my first pick to speak. He said, “What do you have to tell these young people who want to pursue a ‘feel good’ degree like environmental science?” I paused quite a long time, wanting the question to sink into the audience. My response? “Well, actually, I was thinking that environmental science is a rather courageous and vital career choice.”
I went on to share that we already see within our work that the future will be bright for those who learn the skills of change, that find their security through personal growth and are motivated by using their natural gifts, by finding work that matters and doing that work with practical success. They will sustain that success by developing the art of personal change.
When the event came to an end, the same man stridently walked over. I asked him what he did. “I run two career development programs for high school.” It is one of the most successful charter schools in America. He was showering cynicism on his clients for wanting to commit to anything outside on an MBA, a degree in technology or engineering. It is in experiences like this when I realize how big the crisis of mindset and information has become. By protecting our own beliefs and developing the arrogance to give advice prior to being informed does set up many of our children for a future with less opportunity. I hope they rebel as soon as possible.
If you are a parent or someone who influences children and this story unnerves you, we are at a critical time in shifting our vision from the past to a successful future. Everything I am sharing is learnable. It is doable. On this one topic, there are no excuses.