Which of these three statements would you like your child to be able to say as young adult: (1) “I have a job”, (2) “I have a career” or (3) “I have a talent”?
I would hazard to say that the third is by far the most desired work category to be in.
It is also the least understood category as the entry into a life of unusual talent and therefore unusual rewards and professional satisfaction seem like the rolling of a die. But that path to talent need not be a mystery; there is something we can do in our child’s life to prepare him for a life of real talent before he is swept away in a tide of professional anonymity in his early adult years.
Here in a pretty little 17th century wedding rhyme, I give to you a simple strategy for talent building:
But before I tell you how that rhyme translates into talent building, I want to talk a little more about jobs and careers.
The Difference Between Jobs and Careers
To state the obvious, a job is “low pay for low skill.” Having a strategy for your child to land a job in his life after leaving childhood is really having no strategy at all. All it takes is for parents to plan for nothing and to expect little. That’s it.
Even though “jobs” are characterized by small pay and little skill, they are not always small in the physical or emotional effort demanded from a person day after day. Any short order cook will testify to that.
Let’s now talk about careers. Careers can have relatively high financial rewards as compared to a string of jobs, but they can plateau quite quickly for men and be extremely hard on family life when mothers also pick up a career and are away so much from home.
A career does take planning and foresight and requires following specific training, certifications, and maybe even some university schooling. However even though it is more rewarding than a job, a person in a career is (generally) still asked to maintain an anonymous personality and look as much as possible like others in the same field. This makes it easy for employers to grade, compare, compensate, sort, and replace career people as needed.
With that comes the need for conformity so that very little personality and uniqueness that a person may have from another skill set will come through. You would never know that the computer geek who sits next to you in the cubicle of a large corporation is also an accomplished musician in his spare time. You can understand why a wonderful new tie for an accountant or a trendy pony-tail for computer technician becomes so prized as a way to express individuality in the workplace.
Coming up with radically new processes or recombining new and old ways of service is not part of the work description and instead of being doubly rewarded, you will be asked to leave.
How to Use the Wedding Rhyme to Build Talent
Now let us look at talent and let me unfold for you the meaning of the rhyme. A talent can be described and built up from four different skills combined together: an old skill, a new skill, a skill borrowed from a different field, and a skill that is able to showcase your talent.
In order to develop a talent, you will start with Something Old. It will be an old skill that everyone recognizes by name and for which everyone has some idea as to what an average performance of that skill looks like. A career does that too, but unlike a career, a talent will only use that old skill as a foundation upon which a child will add.
To keep your child on the talent path, he will also add Something New. It will be a new, up-to-date skill that brings the older skill into a more modern age (think Kahn Academy using YouTube instead of classroom lectures).
Your child will also add Something Borrowed. He will look at another completely different field of human activity, borrow a skill from there, and learn to apply it in a groundbreaking way with the old skill (think Minecraft combining computer gaming with Lego mania).
Lastly he will add Something Blue. Brides knew in the 17th century that if they wanted to catch the eye of everyone one in the room, they would dress themselves up in the prettiest blue garments they could afford. Here we take it to mean that a talent should be made presentable, understandable, and emotionally attractive to others.
This attractive blue will typically be something that adds pizazz to your child’s talent (think Dave Ramsey’s catchy show lines such “better than I deserve”) or causes others to strongly identify with what his talent is trying to do (think Martha Stewart’s trademark perfectionism showcasing elegant beauty in the home in order to sell home ware).
An Example of Talent Building
Let me give you an example of what talent building could look like in this fictional son who earned his own talent nickname. See how much of the Wedding Rhyme Strategy comes through in this practical example.
Your original problem:
Your son has spent a good portion of his teenage years enjoying sports in general and karate specifically, but there is no possibility this could help support him in adulthood or pay the bills for college.
Your talent-building solution:
Your son combines his hard earned karate skills with market-valued skills that others will gladly pay for.
Your son uses his interest in physics and creates free YouTube videos of himself using karate blows on a hanging punching-bag with close-ups, slow-motions, and sub-texts that demonstrate specific principles of physics found in textbooks.
He sells accompanying science guides containing clever mnemonics that use karate and athletics to help students memorize in preparation of science exams. Parents everywhere love his materials. His online nickname is “Fists-of-Knowledge” and he owns the tagline “Karate Kick Your Way Through Basic Physics.”
I think it is clear that developing a true, valuable talent in your child’s life will be far more satisfying and rewarding than trying to develop a traditional career path.
The obstacle to developing a talent early enough in your child’s life is in identifying one that you can meaningfully take action with today. That’s where I recommend you read my free e-book “How to Discover and Develop Your Child’s First 100 Hours of Talent.” Every child can develop a life-long talent—if you get started today.
Jonathan Harris is a homeschooling father of eight children, ages 2 through 15. He and his wife run a business from home and live in semi-rural Northern California, where they absolutely love raising their children.
A couple of years ago he began experimenting with ways to incorporate more systematically talent building time into his children's daily life. He's sharing tips of encouragement on how you can get started doing the same on his website www.10ktotalent.com. Go there to sign-up for his weekly tips and a free downloadable ebook about "How to Discover and Develop Your Child's First 100 Hours of Talent."