The question we should ask kids instead of “What do you want to be when you grow up?”




“Congratulations! The job you wanted to have when you were five [years old] is now yours. What do you do now for a living?”

This prompt from music publicist and radio host Eric Alper prompted a lively discussion on Twitter back in January, as social-media users chimed in to share their youthful dreams. Some had successfully realized their aspirations of becoming a teacher or paleontologist or, in the case of singer Donny Osmond, the goal of becoming none other than … singer Donny Osmond. Others had veered from their original visions of finding gainful employment as ballerinas or astronauts or hairdressers. A not-insignificant number of people had planned on metamorphosing into birds or cats or dogs, a worthy ambition indeed.

The point of the prompt, insofar as any Twitter prompt has a point, was to get people to ponder whether, and how, their dreams had changed as they grew up. But according to organizational psychologist and Wharton management professor Adam Grant, we really shouldn’t be asking kids what they want to be when they grow up in the first place.

In a recent essay for the New York Times, Grant suggests the mere question is problematic in at least three ways. First, he notes, “it forces kids to define themselves in terms of work.” There are big dangers to identifying too closely with your job, from the risk of burnout to losing your sense of purpose when layoffs or changing industries take your job away, as anyone who’s ever dealt with depression that often accompanies unemployment can attest.

Esther Wojcicki on Teaching Kids to Be Independent Thinkers




This excerpt is from How to Raise Successful People, a book by Esther Wojcicki, a teacher and the mother of Susan Wojcicki (the CEO of YouTube), Janet Wojcicki (a Fulbright winner), and Anne Wojcicki, cofounder of 23andMe. Steve Jobs’ daughter Lisa was one of her students.

Back in the ’80s, my daughters were known in our Tolman Drive neighborhood as the lemon girls. One day they noticed our neighbor’s lemon tree, and she nicely agreed to their plan of using it to start a business. They came up with a price (50 cents per lemon), and sold their goods door-to-door. They even sold lemons back to the neighbor with the lemon tree. Once they filled up their piggy banks, they’d spend their earnings at their favorite dime store, Patterson’s on California Avenue.

I guess being an entrepreneur runs in the family, because my granddaughter Mia has a successful business making and selling slime. Yes, slime. It’s exactly what you think it is.

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