There is an ancient Jewish proverb from the Talmud, “A father is obligated … to teach him a trade. … Any father who does not teach his son a trade teaches him banditry.” Many young people go to college having never explored their vocational possibilities. Vocational calling is quite often learned though experience. Without actual experience, book learning can easily lead you astray.
I had lunch with an young estate planning attorney who was interested in switching careers and becoming a financial planner. He said that if he had spent a single day shadowing an estate planning attorney, he would never have gone to law school. Finding a career that excites and stimulates you can be challenging. There are few things more important to learn than what work you find fulfilling.
Parents can play a significant role, either in helping their children find a trade or in exposing their children to experiences to explore potential careers.
At a very young age, you can help your children “learn that you can get paid to do anything that other people are willing to pay you to do.”
Throughout life, and especially at the dinner table, you can teach the abundance of careers available to today’s entrepreneur. Whatever your child is interested in, there is probably someone who makes a living out of it. Entrepreneur’s regularly create jobs for which there is no employer but for which there is a demand. There are people who run drum circles for a living, adult band camps that rehearse for several weeks and then play a live gig at a venue, take people down white water rapids every day in the summer, and more.
In olden times, children would learn their parent’s trade and take over their parent’s business. While we like to give our children more freedom than that these days, teaching your child your own business is better than doing nothing to instill career wisdom. Today, wise parents give their children a huge choice in career opportunities. This makes the job of a parent more difficult, not easier. We have to help shepherd our children to choose careers where we may not have the required wisdom and experience. At that point, we have to use our general knowledge to assist our children both generally and also finding specific advice from qualified advisors.
You can also train your child to consider being their own employer and owning their own job. This is called being an entrepreneur. Being an entrepreneur requires two important skills which school doesn’t teach you.
School relies on an external motivation as the teacher decides what is important and the student produces that work. Being motivated by external motivation is a good skill, but if that is the only motivation you have, you will be a good employee but a bad entrepreneur.
To be a good entrepreneur, you need to be able to motivate yourself through internal motivation.
On the other hand, entrepreneurs are passionate about things that matter to them, often spending hours on projects only tangential to getting good grades.
Whether your child has excellent or terrible grades, creating circumstances when your child can self-select their activities, surrounding them with the tools and resources they need to succeed, and encouraging the passions they present are all helpful ways at fostering self-motivation in your child.
2. Value Failure
School teaches students to be cautious and do what our teachers consider to be a normal response of high quality. Truly innovative ideas risk getting poor grades. And getting a poor grade is the worst academic outcome possible. This causes students to become preoccupied with perfectionism. Perfect A students have a difficult time becoming entrepreneurs for this reason.
Margie Warrell quotes in her article, “Have You Learnt How To Fail Forward? The Lesson We Can’t Learn Soon Enough “:
“Test scores and measures of achievement tell you where a student is, but they don’t tell you where a student could end up” wrote Carol Dweck in her book Mindset. “If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning.”
Learning to respond to failure with a sense of curiosity rather than avoidance is not easily taught. It may take specific guidance over a long period of time.
The first step is that you yourself need to be comfortable with your child’s failure and normalize the feelings your child has in response to it. If they are frustrated, sad, or want to give up, acknowledge, “This is hard.”
Tell them stories about times when you or others failed. Tell them stories of perseverance, of training or studying for months or years to succeed.
Praise them for their perseverance, good ideas, and patience.
An entrepreneur is valued for innovation. To innovate almost always requires failure first.
Photo by Alice Dietrich on Unsplash