I didn’t say, don’t spend money on your kids’ education – I said don’t waste it. And wasting it is paying for an education that is not in line with your kid’s talents, strengths, and passions.
We want our kids to be successful. This comes by discovering and living their greatness – their unique abilities – not by living a life dictated by others. I hear it over and over again when talking to most anyone who has been to college lately, “I got a __________ degree because that is what my parents thought I should do.” And many resent the wasted time and resources studying something that now has no real impact in their lives.
A college education is another tool to help prepare our kids to be successful; this requires us to talk about what personal and professional success is.
To be professionally successful means that our kids must add value and make a difference in the workplace. At least in our country, we are no longer in an industrial (make things) age; we are in an intellectual (provide service) age – most of today’s businesses provide service instead of products. No longer are employees hidden behind machines; work today has employees face-to-face with customers. To connect with customers and inspire their loyalty (which is the key to business success) requires that employees be both intrinsically good at what they do and interested in doing it. Since not everyone is good at everything and is not interested in everything, the more aligned the role is with the employee’s hardwired abilities, the better the employee fits and performs. Fit matters.
Couple this with a reduction in the workforce because of the recession to a point most organizations must now get more done with less. The right person for the right job is exponentially more effective and more productive. These are employees who know their talents, strengths, and passions and work in roles that allow them to do what they do best. Much of the preparation can come from a well-aligned major.
The other measure of success is the personal success. And as the name indicates, the definition of personal success is unique to each of us. The definition of success for one person may be to influence the lives of children, work in discovering cures, or making a million dollars a year. Each person must identify his or her personal definition of success to be inspired to achieve it. Defining success for our kids takes this responsibility from them; they must define success in their terms in order to own their lives and be accountable. As parents, we must learn not to mandate the path but rather to mandate owning the path. Which path they choose must be theirs.
Here are two examples:
I know a very successful attorney – where he defines success as financial success. He insists that both of his sons be attorneys and thereby be “successful.” Neither wants the work, the lifestyle or the money. To move ahead in their own lives, they have disconnected from their father who refuses to listen or acknowledge what they want for their lives. They now have no relationship.
Another friend was brilliant in architecture; he loved everything about it – he could visualize space and dimensions with the most amazing ability. His parents told him they would pay for a business degree, nothing else. He didn’t have the money so he got the business degree. He is not living his dream or bringing his best to either his work or his life. Money wasted.
Nature enables us to be wonderfully successful as it gives us our unique abilities – are very specific talents, strengths, and passions. In our talent areas, we learn more easily, are actively inspired to learn and think broader – we have a natural competitive advantage.
Before we spend money on college or other education, it is critical to help our kids self-discovery – to learn about what they are both good at and interested in doing. When they approach college with a clear understanding of who they are, they will start to see options and opportunities in their world that are a good fit for them – those environments that allow them to do what they do best and are most passionate about doing.
When students come to college and have not wisely chosen what to study, (studying something their parents mandate, their friends are doing, or have no idea why they are studying), they are bored, frequently over their heads and struggle through school. Many quits. The attrition rate is significant for incoming college freshmen who do little or no career planning.
Additionally, if a student’s major is not in line with his core abilities, he frequently underperforms at school. When it comes time to stand out and get hired, his grades and performance have not been the best; he is passed over for others who were more successful in the major. This affects the school’s reputation as businesses find less competitive and prepared students when they recruit. Students leave schools without the ability to compete or to use the information they studied over the previous years.
We all look for a return on our money – and it is fair to ask what the return on the investment (ROI) of the education will be. Don’t waste money on your kids’ education – spend it wisely – insist that whoever pays for the education get a strong return on the investment. Be sure they know what they are good at and passionate about. Be sure they know their world and the places that offer the best options and opportunities for their particular combination of unique abilities. Then the education will bring someone who is already good to a greater, more competitive and more successful level.
Not everyone is good at everything. But everyone is great at some things. Identify those and guide your kids to study what matters to them and to use what they study to invent a successful (personal and professional) life on their terms. After all, whose life is it anyway?
Jay Forte, a former financial executive and corporate educator, now the business and motivational speaker, greatness coach, and author, is a nationally ranked Thought Leader and President of Humanetrics. Jay guides organizations – their leaders and managers – in how to attract, hire and retain today’s best talent. He coaches individuals in how to reconnect with their talents and passions to achieve personal and professional greatness. He works with teachers and administrations to help them inspire greatness in the classroom, and with students to help them learn how to decide what to do with their lives.
Jay is the author of Fire Up! Your Employees and Smoke Your Competition (March 2009), The Greatness Zone – Know Yourself, Find Your Fit, Transform The World (2010), and the online resource “Stand Out and Get Hired.”
A prolific author, Jay has published more than 90 articles nationally and internationally in the areas of high-impact management, talent management, employee performance, coaching, mentoring, inspiring greatness and greatness living. He has been published in more than 150 periodicals, magazines, newsletters and online formats and has been the regular guest on many radio programs.