Kids can follow their bliss armed with more than just hope

This post is by Geraldine Smythe, CEO and co-founder of culturebooster

“Do what you love and the money will follow…”

So goes the mantra of parents, career counselors, and superstars who’ve already made a splash in their field of choice. To a kid or teen, these guys can seem to have the “what do you want to do in life?” question all figured out.  But the truth is less obvious for most students. How exactly CAN they do better than just dabble and actually “make it” doing what they love, especially if what they love has no clear career pathway? And what if they have a skill (like our 10 year old friend Bradlee whom you’ll meet later on in this article) that they don’t realize is one so rare, they could be sitting on an obscure, but lucrative opportunity if they only knew how to develop their skill properly? Or, maybe a young person has some real-world examples of older siblings or friends who are struggling to find their place financially. All of those situations can be pretty scary for anyone about to fly the coop and not sure what to do next!

No matter how optimistic your kids might be, they have likely already heard it’s not easy to make it as a brilliant painter or an exceptional writer. And they may not be cut out to be a nurse or coder, or any number of other “hot” professions. Even if a young person has their fair share of talent, talent alone is not enough to stand out in the crowd. I’ve rarely met a student at age 12, or even 17, who knows without a shadow of a doubt that there is just one clear career path for them to follow for the rest of their life. Between longer lifespans, a competitive global economy, and Moore’s law exponentially expanding our technology possibilities, the world is almost too abundant in the options it offers up to a curious and energetic young person.

So what’s a kid to choose?

While I’m sure most parents would ideally love to encourage kids to just follow their bliss (and hope like heck they get paid enough for it), more of us are likely to intervene in their choice, nudging our children towards a “safer” career, even if we know it’s not squarely aligned with junior’s personal strengths. The whole process can be quite overwhelming for families and a cause for tension, but it doesn’t have to be.

At culturebooster, we think a better approach for world (and household) peace lies somewhere between these two oppositional approaches, because we all have multiple abilities to create unique “value” for the world and get paid accordingly. Our average lifespan is long enough now to develop a variety of skills over time that align with our innate strengths, letting us create numerous valuable contributions to the world: for example, new music for all to enjoy, an invention to improve factories, or a new service in business.

A new learning paradigm for the new century…

Traditionally, schools have evolved to teach students very specific “how to” skills to be proficient at certain subjects that are deemed important during different times in history. In the last 20 years as technology has exploded, academic skills have been reviewed and schools and society are heeding the demand to teach core subjects like math and science, downplaying or even displacing the arts. But, we’re recognizing more and more that what kids really need to master are the so-called soft or “21st Century” skills, such as problem solving or communication, in order to create value for today’s employers. So, while schools are where students learn such skills as “how to” do math problems or paint a picture with decent composition, they are painfully unprepared to teach students “WHY” this mastery matters and how to make a living as a wonderful mathematician or artist. Yet, armed with both the appropriate academic skill sets, AND a mastery of the soft “21st Century skills”, a young student can pursue the subject they love and navigate themselves successfully into a profession that can be as fulfilling to the soul as it is to the pocket book.

By helping kids focus on their personal strengths, then working on student-driven teams of friends to create a new project with value to people beyond the school walls, students exercise the exact soft skills in a real-world context that future employers care about deeply. culturebooster kids get to design, lead and launch a fun and creative fundraising project online to benefit their school or local charity. Throughout that process they put their soft skills to practice to deliver a real project as they learn to:

  • Communicate
  • Problem-solve creatively
  • Become digitally fluent
  • And collaborate on delivering a final product

The world will continue to change around us throughout our lives. The culturebooster program teaches kids how to manage change by relying on their own innate strengths. Doing so, they can see themselves through any challenges and navigate their unique path to achieving their dreams with confidence.

And this is our team’s entire inspiration! We founded the educational company because we were sad to see nothing much has changed in the career preparation approach schools take since we graduated from high school. But, the world has changed and continues to change immensely. Our team’s grand challenge is to bridge the gap between school and work, and assist students as they make the leap from turning their “how to” skills into assets for themselves and society.

A success story…

Who amongst us likes cold-calling and asking people for money? I can hear you, my dear reader, just shrinking in your seat at the thought! Well, it turns out, there are a few of us who not only have the chops to get this job done successfully, but actually THRIVE at it, too!

It was late in April this Spring when I went to observe a culturebooster class at City View Elementary School on the rural side of Wichita Falls, Texas. 14 students were absolutely pumped for class at this small, modest public school. Today was the day they were getting to jump on the phones at long last and make their “pitch” that they’d written together painstakingly, to ask local businesses to help them update their white boards at school, which were really in need of modernizing. They had decided they couldn’t ask parents for any more donations after a five-year intensive playground fundraising campaign had all but stretched families’ school budgets. Armed with Ms. Starkey’s one classroom telephone, and with her cell phone out on loan, the 5th graders split up into teams and role-played their pitches to feel ready to take their turns dialing out to the community.

That’s when I met Bradlee, a smaller boy for his age, outgoing, with a bright look in his eye. It turns out Bradlee was not the kid most teachers would jump to have in their class, as he could be overly energetic, rambunctious, even disruptive. He was also fearless and immune to getting into trouble. I learned he was no stranger to the principal’s office. This day though, he was going to win huge high fives from his peers, Ms. Starkey, and even another teacher, who had been across the hall after hours, wrapping up her work in her own room, nothing to do with the culturebooster class.

Bradlee’s natural restlessness and fearlessness turned out to be the perfect attributes that are so cherished in outstanding salespeople by growing companies everywhere. Not satisfied to wait his turn in line for a phone, and with a limited amount of time on the clock after the role-playing was done, and a long list of prospects to call, Bradlee took out his own phone and began dialing! And one by one, I witnessed him temper his patience and persist through hang-ups, adults slow to get their managers to the phone, and other out-of-left-field questions normally beyond the ability of a 10 year old to handle. By the end of the 2-hour class, he had secured his team’s first 2 donations, enough to buy 1 of 6 of the cherished white boards they so badly were working towards! The teachers were astounded at his poise, calm demeanor and sheer talent for turning his energy into a powerhouse of productivity for the team. I asked him to reflect on the secret to his success. And his eloquent response was, “I just like to keep it sweet and simple!” Turns out, he learned something really powerful about himself that day, something that no amount of future challenges will ever be able to take away from him again: he has a strength that others deeply value and appreciate him for... cold-calling!

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Knowing how to tap into your own strengths, talents, and interests is the first step to understanding what value you can create for yourself and the world around you. And when we create value for the world, the money will follow! At culturebooster, we look forward to working with your child to uncover their special talents and inspiration, while offering the opportunity to be inspired with friends along the way! Visit www.culturebooster.com to learn more today.

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