Success in the twenty-first century will require the development of skills and the acquisition of knowledge that seem foreign to us. Although we need not believe that everything we presently know will be worthless in a globalized economy, we must prepare as never before to face global competition. In order to keep up with the earth’s best and brightest, we’ll have to be smart, nimble, and wise, focusing our energy on the new circumstances before us.
The skill-development challenge is two-fold. First, adults who are young enough to be affected by a global marketplace will need to study hard to ensure that their skill sets don’t run out of gas before they’re ready to retire. Second, parents must find effective ways to prepare their children for an entirely new level of professional performance.
The good news is that we in the U.S. have the resources to invest in the acquisition of new-world abilities. Here is a list of things that will help parents guide their children toward acquiring the skills they will need to survive and thrive over the coming decades:
1. Focus on learning rather than on making grades.
Students in a globalized world must study to learn the subject matter and not simply to complete academic requirements. Too many young people concentrate on obtaining credits for the diploma or degree toward which they are working. Try to instill in your children a genuine appreciation for the substance of their coursework. They need to feel confident that what they learn will pay dividends later.
2. Develop the tools for self learning.
Under most systems of education, teachers spend the bulk of the class time on teaching the subject and little or no time on imparting how to study. At home and at school, from kindergarten all the way up the educational ladder, we should emphasize the development of self-learning skills.
3. Be punctual.
Many great people throughout history have pointed to punctuality as a cardinal virtue. Timeliness is a cornerstone of order, which is a principal goal for successful individuals and societies. If your children learn punctuality, they will do better at everything they attempt.
4. Save money.
Labor markets, stock markets, political events, and natural disasters sometimes catch us by surprise, and adapting to unexpected circumstances becomes unavoidable. Such adaptation is easier with some breathing room. The possession of savings allows time to regroup, retool, and retrain. Those who cannot buy time in such situations may be unable to make necessary adjustments.
5. Retain flexibility.
Acquiring the ability to adapt includes learning to avoid painting yourself into a corner. Young people who marry, take on debt, or have children before their financial situations are stable find it difficult to adapt to changing times. Encourage your children to think twice before making the bigger decisions of life. Avoiding major errors will help them retain the flexibility they will need to adjust to the changes that confront them.
6. Read, read, read.
Whether the medium is books, magazines, newspapers, e-books, or the Internet, the need to read will remain constant or increase throughout this century. Nothing will help an individual anticipate the twists and turns presented by the new world so much as reading broadly. Those who make reading a habit will have an opportunity to react to many of the changes as they happen. Those who do not will be running blind.
7. Develop a backup expertise.
Your child may be fascinated by a specific area of study, and the pursuit of dreams is certainly something you should encourage. The reality, though, is that no one should count on a single area of study’s lasting a lifetime. All of us need to develop at least one marketable backup skill or alternative expertise.
8. Use time wisely.
Time ticks away at an alarming rate, and as we grow older, we become increasingly conscious of its relentless hacking at our lives. If your kids learn to use their time well, they will be better prepared to face our changing world. Budgeting time efficiently will help them make the adjustments necessary to compete in a globalized economy.
9. Think outside the box.
To think creatively is probably the most difficult thing on this list to teach someone. Most likely, the best that parents can do is emphasize the need to be inventive and forward-thinking. Those who are innovative will be the ones most likely to succeed in a globalized world.
10. Be positive about adaptation.
Once you resolve to do it, adaptation is exciting. Those who understand that adaptation is never-ending will find the process to be stimulating. Teach your children adaptation, and positive energy will fill their lives.
Learning to adapt is neither optional nor easy. If we want our offspring to survive and thrive in this rapidly changing world, we must find ways to teach them to do it. Teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic is as important as ever, but parents should add to that list the skill of adaptation so that their children will enter this new century prepared for anything that comes their way.