In days of old—even as recent as when our daughter was born—I think it was easier to dream of a child’s future.
They would learn a bunch of stuff, eventually get a diploma and/or degree, become something (scientist, musician, roofer, chef . . . ) and that would be it.
“Ah. Watch how she asks for the iPad! A lawyer in the making.”
“The future artist at work. He’s my little Jackson Pollock!”
I still do that.
There are days when our daughter shows signs of being a scientist. Other days? Inventor. Still others? That lawyer asking for the iPad. (She’s good, by the way.)
But something needs to be added: Resilience.
The ability to turn on a dime, if necessary
The wherewithal to continually up their game and learn new skills as things change
Most importantly, they must retain the ability to hold their heads high as they realize that—once again—it’s time to run a system update on themselves. It is not personal. It is just part of the process of progress.
My father retired recently.
The hardest part for him to swallow? The feeling that he had become out of date, that his skills were no longer in demand.
During his generation—for the most part—a person found a career and stayed with it, gaining expertise along the way. People with long histories were in demand. They commanded the meetings with their wealth of knowledge.
Fast forward to my generation’s career path.
I have had to update and change course at least three times. I have been outsourced and replaced by robots. My fields have shrunk due to the increased power of technology.
Example? I was prepress fanatic. I still am. I would be happy to take the next hour to explain trapping to you. Or how to work a metallic ink into your piece. Or the difference between “white” and “none.” Rich black vs. double strike black. Optimal steps within a gradient. Like poetry to my soul.
But the knowledge is less necessary. Many of these issues can be resolved directly with the pressman/woman. It is much easier to correct said “issues” directly in the workflow.
So? Buh-bye prepress. My prepress knowledge is held in the back of my brain like, say, the lyrics to Rapper’s Delight. Fun to know? Definitely. Essential to my future success? Maybe not.
I look at the generation growing up now.
How many times will they need to retrain or upgrade? If mine has been three (so far), will theirs be six? Or even more?
Maybe when I look at our daughter I should sub-vocalize:
“Ah, my little lawyer-slash-scientist-slash-inventor-slash-resiliant-person-who-never-stops-learning.”
I think the trick, though, will be to teach our children to be on the lookout for when it is time to update their skills.
Our local fence builder is carrying on the traditions of expert handwork. He also now has a Facebook page. He realized that flyers would work for some of their customer base, but that Facebook would reach another set. Brilliant. Facebook does not take away from his expertise. It adds to it.
My sister used to teach guitar lessons in her living room. Now? On Youtube and her website. Outstanding. The cozy afternoon session with one student has been transformed to a highly-technical recording session which will reach hundreds in the same amount of time.
So the fence builder and the guitar teacher had to take a step back and regroup. Pick up some new skills. Redefine themselves in the process. But, boy, was it worth it.
So, my hubby and I have started bringing the idea of resilience into our daughter’s expectations for her future.
For example, this week she wants to be a veterinarian again. It’s a cyclical thing.
So we brainstorm scenarios about how she could run the business. Can she use the iPhone to track her business like that doctor in the Intuit commercial? Could she also start a store for healthy animal treats? And what if that does not work?
I don’t know if there could be a class called Resilience 101. If there was, I’d be on board to teach it.
But perhaps resilience is best learned in the stream of life. The more we address it, the less a surprise it will be, pointing out examples from their own life along the way. And that means the children of today will be ever more prepared for the constantly-changing world.