I love this graphic from Dmitri Martin’s This Is A Book. It holds such an important lesson for our students.
I’ve noticed that students I speak to have a powerful fear of ruining their lives if they don’t get the right grades in the right classes while keeping up with the right extracurriculars.
Life, as they see it, looks like this:
- Get good grades
- Go to a good college
- Get a good job
These students think they’re not allowed to make mistakes or change their plans.
As adults, how many of us still even do what we studied in college? Has your path been a straight line, or have you switched majors, changed careers, rethought goals, ended relationships, or been laid off?
Success is, in no way, a straight line.
A Series Of Short Stories
Life isn’t a novel, but a series of short stories.
James Altucher, Author of Choose Yourself
The average career length is 4.4 years, and for younger employees it’s even less than that. The plan to graduate from college, work a 40-year career, and then retire on a pension is pretty rare now.
Our high-achieving, but stressed-out students need to hear this. There is no three-step plan. We don’t live lives with one long plot line. Our journeys stop, restart, and change directions.
An 18 year old’s future career probably doesn’t even exist yet! Kids will need to be adaptable, quick at recovering from failures, and good at recognizing new opportunities.
They need to stand out, not fit in.
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There Is A Long Life After College
Let’s stop threatening kids that they “won’t get into a good college.” This creates a fearful future.
They need to hear that college is a life goal, but not the life goal. The real goal is to navigate that crazy, curvy line and pursue success.
I tell parents of these stressed-out kids that, rather than investing more in tutors and SAT classes, put those resources towards helping kids pursue what they’re interested in and (potentially) skilled at.
Get kids, even at an elementary age, hooked up with mentors. Let them see experts in action. Give them opportunities to experience what adults in their field of interest actually do every day. They should have chances to see how work differs from school.
Let’s focus students on the larger goal of pursuing a happy and successful life rather than the short term goal of “the right college.” Help them discover, and dive into, their unique intersection of interests and skills.
- Ask students “what are you interested in lately?” rather than “what do you want to be?” Ask them what the next step is to pursue their interest farther? How can you help?
- Have career days, but ask your guest speakers to discuss their journey, not just their destination.
- Promote curiosity in your classroom, and carve out time for independent studies.