Help Your Child Discover

I’m going to completely contradict myself today, so hang on. In a previous post I stressed the importance of 10,000 hours of practice in order to achieve mastery in a given field, implying that if you are a student that wants to succeed in a particular arena, or if you are a parent wanting to help your child become successful, devote most of your time to a single effort. 

Is a singular focus in the teen years the right thing? Does this set a child up for career success? I’m beginning to think not. 

A singular focus in one thing may not be helpful in helping our children master life. Maybe a better alternative is to expose our children (and ourselves) to a wide variety of things, so that we can actually discover what we want to actually devote 10,000 hours of practice towards. 

Here are some reasons why: 

  • Exposure to variety of things naturally sets us up to fail. We can’t to be good at everything, and time and time again research shows that we learn more from failure than success. 
  • Exposure to a variety of things naturally exposes us to a variety of people, which helps us grow as individuals and as contributors to society. There is lots of value in realizing not everyone has the same skills, background, socioeconomic status, etc, and the younger we learn this, the better we are able to interact with others in a way that reflects a desire to build relationships with others. 
  • Exposure to a variety of things gives us to opportunity to find out what we do like. I wish I had a dollar for every time I got the response “I don’t know” when I asking a student who has come in for career and college coaching what they like to do, and if they do give a response it is something like “playing video games” or “cheerleading” that isn’t going to be a lasting skill for their lives. 

Maybe we need to become masters of discovery by practicing life and all its variety at an early age. Maybe this focus will help us truly get to the business of practicing a craft in a way that leads us down a path that takes us beyond work and into self-fulfillment because we truly know ourselves, and we’ve learned from the best teacher: experience. 

How have you helped your child discover him or herself

Mary Ila Ward

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