Why getting the edge on the future of work should focus kids on cultivating, "their double or triple threats."

What the creator of Dilbert and Tim Ferris believe will help better prepare kids for the future of work.
July 18, 2023

This piece was first published on The LongRange - a weekly free newsletter on parenting in the age of disruption and accelerated change.

Issue: 23

It's been a minute, as my younger teen says.
Summer.  And the reminder against the plans for summer goals, to-do's, and general never-ending chaos of work and family, try to find time to embrace the beauty of "garbage time" with any kids you are lucky enough to have hanging around you.
Enjoy it all.

TTL: "The Logic Of The Double or Triple Threat."

Take The LongRange (TTL) is our regular look at innovative ideas on parenting, careers, learning, and life that can help better prepare kids for our world of rapid change.

In Tools of Titans, bestselling author and podcaster Tim Ferris shares the habits, routines, and philosophies of 101 high-performing people from tech investors, entrepreneurs, athletes, and entertainers. His discussion with Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert comic strip (excerpted below), makes the cases for encouraging kids to think about how to explore and develop three areas where they could be really good -  if they put in the work and why this narrative and framework, can help better help people to thrive in the face of ongoing change.

"If you want an average, successful life, it doesn't take much planning.  Stay out of trouble, go to school, and apply for jobs you might like," says Adams.

"But if you want something extraordinary, you have two paths:

1) Become the best at one specific thing.

2) Become very good (top 25%) at two or more things.

The first strategy is difficult to the point of near impossibility.  Few people will ever play in the NBA or make a platinum album.  I don't recommend anyone even try."  

"The second strategy is fairly easy.  Everyone has at least a few areas where they could be in the top 25% with some effort.  In my case, I can draw better than most people, but I'm hardly an artist.  And I'm no funnier than the average standup comedian who never makes it big, but I'm funnier than most people.  The magic is that few people can draw well and write jokes. It's the combination of the two that makes what I do so rare.  And when you add in my business background, suddenly, I had a topic that few cartoonists could hope to understand without living it."  

"I advise young people to become good public speakers (top 25%).  Anyone can do it with practice.  If you add that talent to any other, suddenly, you're the boss of people with only one skill.  Or get a degree in business on top of your engineering degree, law degree, medical degree, science degree, or whatever."

"Capitalism rewards things that are both rare and valuable.  You make yourself rare by combining two or more "pretty goods" until no one else has your mix... At least one of your mixture's skills should involve written or verbal communication.  And it could be as simple as learning how to sell more effectively than 75% of the world.  That's one.”

"Now add to that whatever your passion is, and you have two because that's what you will easily put enough energy into to reach the top 25%.  If you have an aptitude for a third skill, perhaps business or public speaking, develop that too.  It sounds like generic advice, but you'd be hard-pressed to find any successful person who didn't have about three skills in the top 25%." (p.270)

Tips & Tactics To Try:

  1. Encourage kids to explore their interests and try new things. The best way to find out what you're good at is to try various things. Let your kids know that it's okay to experiment and fail and that they should be open to trying new things even if they don't think they're good at them.
  2. Provide opportunities for kids to practice and develop their skills. Once kids know what they're good at, they must practice and develop their skills. This can be done through formal training, such as taking classes or workshops, or through informal activities, like playing sports or volunteering.
  3. Be patient. It takes time to find your passions and develop your skills. Don't get discouraged if your kids don't see their "thing" overnight.
  4. Be a role model. Show your kids you're passionate about your interests and constantly learning new things.

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