The world, and the technology in it, is evolving. Self-driving cars are rolling in, robots are stocking Amazon shelves, and computers are working their way up the corporate ladder. We tend to approach change like a round of "Pop Goes the Weasel," cautiously and with all systems firing so that when it does burst in on us, we can be ready.
We look at the predictions for the price of college in five or 10 years, lay a little aside each month, and cross our fingers that our kids are geniuses and prodigies. We look further ahead at the job market and lay a little more aside, hoping for an economic resurgence of epic proportions. We squint our eyes and peer ahead and then do what we can in the now to get ready for what we think we see.
Truth be told, we can never predict the future. As the New York Times put it, “both history and psychology tell us that our capacity to predict the future is limited, while our capacity to believe in such predictions is unlimited. We have always been surprised.”
Try as we might to see an accurate picture, we’ll always get it wrong. When Dolly the Sheep was born, we thought we’d have little baby clones staging a revolt and taking over the planet. 20 years later, we’re still steering the ship. Let us all remember the collective adrenaline rush that was Y2K. Nothing ever happens quite like you think it will.
As parents, we can still prepare for the future. It’s our job. It’s our job to grow and raise humans equipped to handle the running of this place and to treat it with care. Since we cannot predict the specific scenery on the road our kids will take, we have to do the next best (and perhaps better) thing: “prepare for the unimagined – for change itself.”
Economist Joseph Schumpeter described a necessary evil in the innovations that succeed in a free market society as “creative destruction.” Any time a new technology comes in to play, an older system must retire. In every positive change comes a negative kickback. It's the nature of the system. As parents, we can help minimize the kickback for our kids by teaching them how to embrace the idea of change with just a few shifts of their mindsets, and they can do so with these three tenets:
Most of us were raised under the educational premise that school exists to identify our specific skill sets, hone them, and then set us loose in one particular field of expertise. This is no longer the case. Careers are more malleable than they ever were before. The best thing we can teach our kids is not to fear job and life changes. Veering from the original path is normal. It's better to be curious than assuming. Most of us assumed a certain vision for our career, a mostly straight shot to the thing we were most skilled at, and most of us were greatly surprised by the detours or new destinations. Our kids don’t have to be. They can learn from us to embrace the inevitable change.
In today’s society, you find that thing you’re good at and you go for it. You pool all your resources into math or communication or technology or whatever bent you discover in school. In reality, the most successful people in the world are the ones who love to learn for learning’s sake. They are curious and they let their curiosity lead them in more than one direction. We can help our kids be more adaptable to our ever-evolving world by encouraging their innate curiosity in all the directions they wish to take it.
If we’re going to teach our kids to explore any and all interests, we’re also going to have to help them embrace the ones that don’t pan out. This might be the most important principle on the list. No, they will not always get the job, or the salary, or the city of choice. The blueprint always looks a bit different than the finished product. That’s okay, it's actually a good thing. We all know people who have gotten most everything they ever wanted. Nobody wants to be their friends. Bouncing back from disappointment is one of the defining character traits of a successful person. While we can’t change external circumstance for our kids, we can teach them resilience, a trait that transcends the external. We can teach them to be okay when things don't go their way.
The future is mystifying. It’s supposed to be. That’s why it’s the future. While we can’t know what’s coming, we can prepare our kids in the best way possible, by teaching them how to embrace the inevitable change.
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