Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Helping our Children to be Successful

Tremendous importance has been put on "smarts" - intelligence as measured by IQ, grades, and frequently SAT and ACT scores.  Sure, you need a certain level of education and ability to get a job but, "smarts" in the real world isn’t so much about intelligence or IQ. It’s more about grit, tenacity, courage and hard work.

My daughter is a tenacious sales person for a well known business internet provider. She tells me that there is a direct correlation between the number of calls she makes each week and the number of sales she is able to close. I can’t argue her numbers, but I also believe that her ability to be successful and make those calls each day - week after week, month after month - has more to do with tenacity, the ability to take rejection and, most importantly, to learn from each of the 10-20 calls a day she makes. She has put herself on a fast learning curve, discovering quickly, each time she contacts a potential customer, what works and what doesn’t work. She has learned techniques to overcome rejection and not just accept it. She is also learning the rewards of delayed gratification and self-discipline. These are important life skills that reach far beyond the degree in Political Science she earned four years ago.

CEO Tom Georgens of NetApp, the $6.3 billion data storage company, made a very interesting observation: “I know this irritates a lot of people, but once someone is at a certain point in his or her career – and it’s not that far out, maybe five years – all the grades and academic credentials in the world don’t mean anything anymore.  It’s all about accomplishments from that point on.” He goes on to say, “I don’t even know where some members of my staff went to college or what they studied.”

Greg Becker, CEO of Silicon Valley Bank is quoted as saying, “Some of the better venture capital firms that I know want people who are scrappy, who have been through trials and tribulations. These people will figure out a way to make it work, no matter what.” I would add that these are the qualities and experiences that every employer wants.

So, how do schools and families help our young people to develop these talents? The old
saying is, “If you want your child to become a problem solver, let them solve problems.”

Here are some things that parents and teachers can do to prepare children to develop the skills they will need to be successful in the world of work:
  • Promote perseverance
    • Help your children to:
      • hold high expectations for themselves over an extended period of time
      • place a high value on challenging goals and low estimates on the costs of working toward those goals
      • see that goals are feasible
      • maintain high expectations despite failures and setbacks
      • (Note: Watch this TEDX Video by Angela Duckworth)
  • Be a nudge
    • Let your kids know that you expect them to do their best and create a structure that will help them do it
    • Learning any new skill, athletic, musical, or otherwise, is not easy. Nudging also means scheduling
  • Welcome boredom and frustration
    • Success comes with challenges along the way. Confusion, frustration and boredom are part of the voyage.
    • Help kids to learn that accomplishments are not always easy and that having a hard time doesn’t mean they are stupid
  • Let her or him fail — and model resilience
    • Letting her fail and pick herself up is probably the most important skill a child can learn
    • Share your own failures and how you overcame them. Modeling is powerful calm and determination in the face of your challenges.

We need to help our children to see that IQ and SAT scores are not what define them. In the real world, perseverance, delayed gratification and self-discipline are the "smarts" that our children need to be successful. When we help them to develop these qualities, and not step in to rescue them every time they face a challenge, we will be doing our jobs as parents and teachers.

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