3 Skills + 1 Passion

For young people to achieve success in their career, it is no longer enough to have a college degree. New college graduates feel like a successful, satisfying, and sustainable career is out of their reach. But there is good news for them that is not dependent on the whims of the labor market or the stock market.

The answer to this problem can be found in a simple equation: 3 + 1.

“3 Skills + 1 Passion” is an idea I am recycling from Tim Ferris’s new book Tools of Titans. In it, Scott Adams, creator of the comic strip Dilbert, explained what he calls the “double or triple threat.”

Simply put, young people should focus their academic and personal studies on developing 3 marketable skills that can be used to pursue 1 passion. It does not guarantee success, but it’s about the best advice going these days.

First, let’s look at the skills. These 3 skills do not need to be highly technical or in great demand. Not everybody needs to learn to write software code or perform knee surgery. The real power of the 3 skills idea is in the combination of these skills. For instance, each of the following skills: public speaking, writing, and social media marketing are not all that unique or lucrative, in themselves. Lots of people can speak or write or run a social media campaign, and most of them do not make much money or garner much influence. However, the person who is excellent at all three can be quite valuable in the marketplace and has a real shot at finding a very successful, satisfying career somewhere. Of course, that is assuming that the person has a good work ethic, gets along well with people, and has integrity. And it may take a little luck along the way, but the odds are in the favor of the 3-skilled worker.

The key is that you need to be really good in each of these three skills. You don’t have to be superior, but if you can be in top 25% in three skills, then you have an excellent chance of being successful. Opportunities may abound. And failures will be recoverable.

For example, the subjects of the HGTV show Fixer Upper, Chip and Joanna Gaines, were successful long before they were approached by the folks at HGTV. They spent many years attempting to combine three skills: Home Renovation + Interior Design / Decor + Realty. They were really good (Top 25%) at all three skills, but they were not truly exceptional at any one of those skills. It also helped that they were hardworking, good with people, and had integrity. And look what happened. They slowly became successful at a satisfying career. Then they got very lucky and made the best of a great opportunity with HGTV. And the rest is history. They are now wildly successful in ways that they never dreamed of. Also, they love what they do because they are passionate about making old things beautiful. That is their passion.

With 3 skills in place, then you can add the passion. This is the catalyst that makes the career chemistry really cook.

Every person has things that they love to do, love to talk about, and love to think about. For some it is making music. For some it is teaching small children. For others it is cooking food and sharing it with others. No matter what that passion is, the wise young worker will find some way to integrate that passion into his or her 3 skills to create a career direction and make the world a better place.

There are many ways to identify a passion. Here are a few good starter questions: What do you love to do that helps other people? What are some dream jobs that you would do for very little money? What you would do to help others if income was unnecessary? How you would you spend $10 million to make the world better? How do you want to be remembered?

Once you have a general idea of your passion, then you can focus on bringing your 3 skills to bear in the arena of your passion. Or perhaps it is more like injecting a bit of your passion into the work where you can do well with your 3 skills.

Perhaps it is not possible to use your 3 skills in any way related to your passion yet, but it’s worth trying, and it’s worth considering what needs to change to move closer in that direction. It might take five years, but wouldn’t that be worth it all, in light of a 45 year career? You may not be able to work your way into a dream job, but you might be able to get very close. The odds are good if you employ the 3+1 equation.

Character Matters Sooner Than Later

Teenagers may think that the middle and high school years don’t matter much, and that having fun is paramount. Or they might think that making good grades, making the team, or being popular is what matters most. Those are common viewpoints held by teens and by the culture at large.

Everybody has their value system, but here is a different way of looking at the teen years. We’ve all heard that the teens are building character, one mistake and life lesson at a time. Let me put it a different way: Teens are building a reputation right now, and that reputation will follow them, unfair as that may be.

If I could speak to every 7th grader in the world, I would say something like this:

“Kids, listen up. Who you are right now in school does matter, and here’s why. Who are you are now is how others will remember you 20, 30, even 60 years from now. It’s a snapshot etched in their memory. It may not be fair, but it’s a fact. People will remember what kind of person you were, and it’s that lens that they will see you through, until you are able to replace that lens, which takes a lot of time. Continue reading “Character Matters Sooner Than Later”

The Social Combat of Being 13

A New World Order for Young Teens

tired stressed girl7th and 8th grade is when the social life of a child amps up in three ways: importance, intensity, and consequences.

At 13, a child’s social standing becomes extremely important to them, as it has become more important to all the other 13 year olds. For some, it is the most important aspect of life itself. Most teens would rather go without food and shelter than suffer any sort of social trouble.

At 13, a child’s feelings of insecurity, awkwardness, and fear are at an all-time high. The hormones are raging, the insecurities are constant, and the emotional swings are intense. The biggest concern of every day is how to get through that whole day without any public embarrassment. Their fears are fueled by the intense anxieties of their peers. It’s a sea of fears as far as the adolescent eye can see. Continue reading “The Social Combat of Being 13”

Your Family. Your Culture.

The most common theme among parents of young teens lately is that they want to live differently than the culture. Most parents do not want their kids to ingest the current culture of materialism, comparison, busyness, and anxiety. They don’t like what the culture is teaching and demanding.

Most parents want to be connected with their community, but they don’t want to live just like everyone else (too busy and too anxious). And they certainly don’t want the values of the pop culture to become the values of their children. On the other hand, they don’t want their kids to be social freaks, always on the outside looking in. It’s an everyday dilemma.

Without a doubt, it is difficult to grow up well when immersed in today’s youth culture, which is filled with empty entertainment, rampant consumerism, unhealthy body imagery, and every type of narcissism. It consumes them and then uses them as consumers.

It is so rare to get wisdom from youth pop culture today that it actually makes the news. Recently, Robert Downey Jr., the actor who plays Ironman in the Avenger movie series, said at the MTV Movie Awards“I advise you to dream big, work hard, keep your noses clean, be of service, and because you can, define your generation.” This was a shocking statement because it is so countercultural in the Hollywood / MTV world. The cultural norm is the opposite: have fun, be sexy, and take everything you can from this life.

But it’s not just youth pop culture that is toxic; it’s everywhere. It’s in the cafeteria, on Instagram, in the classroom, and in other families’ homes. The culture is teaching our kids to always look good, have all the right gadgets, and be the best at everything, in order to keep up with everybody else. It’s a culture of discontentment, comparison, and competition that is making our kids more anxious and less happy than ever. It’s never enough. It’s an insatiable more.

As a concerned parent, the question is, “How do you create a family life that is what you want?”  Continue reading “Your Family. Your Culture.”

If You Have 4th-8th Graders…

…you should watch this 2-minute video that explains “early adolescence” and the need for doing things a little differently.

Advice for Middle School Kids

Recently, I asked my Facebook friends to give me advice for my 7th graders. Here’s what my friends have learned in their 30 years of growing up since 7th grade.

  • Be cool to everyone because there’s a good chance you will either marry, work with, or work for one of them one day.
  • “It’s not about the shoes, it’s about what you can do in them.” – Michael Jordan
  • The stuff you are worried about is probably the wrong stuff.
  • Everywhere you go, leave it better than you found it.
  • Sometimes it’s best to just take the butt whoopin’ you deserve and move on.
  • The prettiest girls are the ones you don’t notice right away.
  • The measure of success you hold now won’t be the same in 20 years. Be good to everyone. Many who aren’t “successful” now will be very successful in 20 years.
  • If you want to know what you are like, look around at the people you hang with.
  • You can pick you friends, you can pick your nose, but don’t ever ever pick your friend’s nose.
  • The person who chooses not to read is no better off than the person who can’t read.
  • Manners matter! Always.
  • How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
  • Some days you are the dog, and some days you are the fire hydrant. That’s life.
  • There is no such thing as normal…it is only a setting on the dryer.
  • Never miss a good chance to shut up.
  • “20 years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the things you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Leave the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sail. Explore. Discover. Dream.” ~ Mark Twain
  • Those who hate you don’t win, unless you hate them back.
  • Sometimes you just have to accept that “It is what it is” and sometimes you should fight it. Pray for the wisdom to know the difference.
  • “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

Motivate. Don’t Manipulate Your Kids.

lonely boy2Once again, his room isn’t clean, not by any standard. Her backpack, jacket, and shoes are scattered about the floor of the hall, again. His grades are sub-par in math, again. She is making the family late to school, again. He seems to be nonchalant about his music audition this weekend. She isn’t running enough to prepare for soccer tryouts next week.

How do you approach the lack of motivation: carrot or stick?

What’s the best approach: direct confrontation, positive affirmation, a new system of consequences? Push hard or back off? Constructive criticism?

Who knows? It’s a minefield, to say the least.

It’s a thin line between motivating your child and provoking him or her to rebellion. Motivating a child, especially a teenager, is not an easy road. There will be resistance, mistakes and regrets, and that is if you are doing it right.

Continue reading “Motivate. Don’t Manipulate Your Kids.”