I see so many parents worrying already about their grade-school-aged children’s futures. DH and I are guilty of it too. While some folks have to worry about where their child’s next meal will come from or whether their child will survive an illness, overcome an impediment or outgrow a serious character flaw, others have the luxury to worry about whether their child will choose and pursue “the right” career, one that’s both successful and fulfilling, someday. While no one can predict the future or control all their future life circumstances, there is something we can do today to give our kids an edge in life: instill in them a problem-solving mindset.
Sometimes the simplest tidbits of mind-blowing wisdom hit me in the middle of a casual, unplanned conversation. This morning at dropoff, I was chatting with a school mom friend who works as a program manager for Google’s Computer Science Education Initiatives. Part of her job is to figure out how to introduce and help underrepresented kids (in terms of both race and gender – i.e., girls) integrate their imaginations with technology – to give them opportunities for learning and developing skills in coding, programming, problem solving, logic and physics.
As we marveled over today’s plethora of available and expanding career paths, which didn’t exist (or we’d no clue existed) when we were kids, she shared some invaluable advice:
“Don’t ask your kids what they want to be when they grow up. Ask them what problem they want to solve when they grow up.”
Whoa. That is so smart. (After all, their future career, position or industry may not even exist yet. Some of ours hadn’t yet materialized when we were still kids, right?)
“To be or not to be,
That is [NOT] the question.”
“To solve or not to solve,
That is the question.”
In fact, we should ask our children every morning, “What problem do you want to solve today?” And then ask them at the end of the day how they went about solving, or attempting to solve, that problem. Their answers may be anything from making it to the potty on time every time, to confronting or discouraging a bully, resolving an odd-man out friendship issue, or mastering a certain math, language or science concept they’ve been struggling with. Whatever it may be, get them thinking about how to tackle life’s big and little problems and questions, how to help themselves and others, and they will make and leave the world a better place. Prepare your kids for powerful living: train and equip them to identify problems and brainstorm solutions on the daily.
As some of you know, I recently returned from a blogging conference. And my first and perhaps most important take-away was the need to closely examine and ask myself, “How can I change the world through my writing?” Or in less daunting words – “What problem(s) can I help my readers solve?” “What question(s) can I help them answer?” What am I good at, or knowledgeable about, that can be shared to enhance others’ lives?
While I continue to figure that little question out, I challenge us to ask ourselves too each morning, “What problem do I want to solve today?” And at the end of the day, “How did I do?” Make this a practice, learn to be a solution, and it won’t just be Gen Z but all of us who make and leave the world a better place.