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”

(Un)Happy Holidays

The Holidays — the six weeks of Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas, and New Years — are a magnifier. In general, happy people get happier, sad people get sadder, lonely people get lonelier, etc.

For some, life is going pretty well, and the holidays are the most wonderful time of year, chock full of sentimental decorations, music, food, smells, and traditions that celebrate love, peace, family, friendship, and all that is good in life. The holidays are the icing on a good cake. Bring it on. All of it.

For others, the holidays are not so happy. Instead, it is a time full of the most painful reminders of what is not present in their lives.  Continue reading “(Un)Happy Holidays”

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.

Parenting is Regulating

Every parent should regulate their children’s behavior until they are ready to regulate their own. It will likely be a 20-year process, which starts with full regulatory control of the infant and ends with total release of all control at adulthood.

What does it mean “to regulate?” In grammatical terms, it is a transitive verb, meaning that a subject rules or governs another object by adjusting the time, amount, degree, or rate of something upon the object.

Let’s take food, for example. An infant has no idea how to handle his hunger pains, can’t make decisions about food, and can’t feed himself. It is the parent’s job to fully control the diet of the child. The twenty-year old, on the other hand, should have mature eating habits within his full control: when to eat, what to eat, how much, how to shop, how to cook, how to balance his nutrition with exercise, etc. Continue reading “Parenting is Regulating”

The Power of Kindness

Josh was a normal teenager whose father died. His mother moved them from their home in the country to the city, with the hope that a fresh start would improve their lives.

But Josh was ridiculed in his new school for no good reason. In fact, he was ridiculed for a horrible reason.

Instead of responding with hatred or melting into melancholy, Josh chose to be kind. To everyone. Simply kind. And his world changed.

Josh’s kind strength is what our boys and girls should imitate in their own ways.

Peace in the Parenting Journey

Being a parent is overwhelming in mid-December, when everybody’s activities and pressures are multiplying. During the holidays, our expectation of family life is heightened along with our kids’ sense of entitlement and their frustrations with school. Arguments are common this time of year. Perhaps a few lumps of coal belong in some stockings. It’s a time of year when we doubt ourselves as parents.

The journey of parenting is far too long and dangerous to warrant any amount of comfort. Deep down we know that any number of things can get sideways in a hurry, and far too many of those things are beyond our control.

So, how do we know if we are on the right path? How do we know if we are making any progress?

Salesmen can gauge success with sales figures, bar graphs, and commissions. Coaches can measure success with wins, losses, statistics, and championships. But parents labor daily without any quantifiers of success.

Mom and sonSome might say that a good apple falls from a good tree, but it’s not as simple as looking at the immediate results of children. After all, we all know a few stable, loving parents who use good parenting techniques but have a child who doesn’t seem to be turning out so well. Conversely, we all know a few unstable families, and yet some of their kids seem to be flourishing. Some kids rebel, no matter what their parents do, while other kids succeed, in spite of all sorts of family dysfunction. In addition, many kids simply take more time to mature than others, in spite of all the efforts of their parents.

We cannot use the current status of a child to accurately measure the success of a parent. It’s not fair to the child or to the parent. As a middle school teacher, I have learned that you cannot judge a person on their 7th grade year. Well, pick any year, for that matter. It’s not fair to judge anyone on a short era in their history. Kids should all come with visible birthmarks that read: “Work in Progress.”

In addition, there is no other measure that satisfies the question: “Am I actually parenting really well?” Continue reading “Peace in the Parenting Journey”