I often get asked about what are the soft skills kids need to be successful when they get older. Many of the lists I see out there focus solely on what businesses are looking for in new employees. That's all well and good, but not every kid out there is going to become an employee. Many of our youth are going to go on to become entrepreneurs, artists, and creators. These 7 skills will be essential for every kiddo to not only be successful professionally regardless of their endeavors, but also to just crush life in general.
This one is a no-brainer. As much as we like to glorify the solo entrepreneur that through sheer force of will and determination thrusts their business onto the world, in actuality, nobody does it alone. For every Elon Musk out there, there is a whole team of people working behind the scenes to make Tesla and Space X possible.
The key to working effectively with others is the ability to communicate well. Sharing information is critical to complete projects, and that's true whether you are in an office working with others or a lone wolf business owner hiring free lancers or assistants to help you with certain tasks.
Your kid will need to at least be able to communicate things like where they are in a project, if they will meet a deadline or not, or instructions to a team member or employee on how to complete a task.
Maybe your kid is shy though. I know that I was when I was in school. I never spoke up in class. And that's alright. An easy way for them to practice communication is to be proactive about talking to their teachers.
If they don't understand something about the homework, ask the teacher. If they know that their homework is going to be late because they are going on vacation or have other obligations, write the teacher and let them know.
When I was a teacher, it was shocking to me how little my students communicated with me. They would tell me only AFTER the fact that they were confused or were struggling or could not complete a task for one reason or another (maybe the dog ate their homework). But by then it was too late. So have your kids practice communication early on and then they will have that skill locked in when they get to the workforce.
People want to be around people that they like. More importantly, people want to HELP people that they like.
A hiring manager is much more likely to hire someone that they like than someone they don't. Heck, they may even hire someone that is under qualified if they think they might have found a new pal around the office.
Even young entrepreneurial types can benefit tremendously from likability. Likability closes business deals, expands networks, and will help rally people to the cause.
That doesn't mean your kid has to be a social butterfly that charms the pants off of everyone they meet. Just teaching your kids some basic etiquette and how to be polite in social situations will go a long way in enhancing their likability.
No matter how carefully we plan, life is always full of surprises. The PG version of one of my favorite sayings is, "life happens." So when "life happens" to your kid, how do they react?
Do they throw a tantrum and act out, or do they realize that life isn't always fair and continue to press on? Having resilience in tough situations can be a big boost to your kid's future success because the person who continues to work through struggle is the one that will never give up.
You know sometimes there is a once in a century pandemic sweeping across the globe, endless money printing and inflation, and mass restrictions on travel and business...all happening at once. Maybe money is short too or there is a loss or sickness in the family.
Life is unpredictable and hardship is certain at times. The world needs strong, resilient kids that can step up in situations like this.
The best way to build your kid's resilience is to put them into challenging situations and teach them how to work through the challenge. Martial arts classes or rock climbing classes are great for this. Even day-to-day activities such as yard work, chores, and studying for school are great opportunities to teach your kids resilience.
Enthusiasm. It's infectious. People want to be around it. When you get fired up, other people get fired up too.
Great leaders are always enthusiastic about what they are doing. But that doesn't mean enthusiasm has to be fiery speeches and high energy. It can be subtle. A shift in someone's voice tone or a glint in someone's eyes when they start talking about something they are passionate about is enough to show enthusiasm.
Enthusiasm makes work more enjoyable and is a powerful source of energy. If your kid doesn't seem enthusiastic about anything or hasn't found their passion, do not fret! We don't all find our passion right away.
I didn't find what I was truly enthusiastic about (teaching kids!) until I was in my 30s. Still, it never hurts to get your kids exploring early and often to see if they can find something that really lights their fire.
My good friend and colleague, Sam Young, offers a whole bunch of passion based courses over at Young Scholars Academy. Last I checked, he even had a specific course on helping kids find their passions! All his classes are excellent, so check him out, and don't forget to tell him that I sent you.
"80% of success is showing up." Those are words of the legendary director Woody Allen. And while I think those words are a bit exaggerated, I do believe Woody was definitely on to something. Those that hang in there the longest will often beat out those that are smarter, more talented, and more advantaged simply because they refuse to give up.
The most common mistake I see with commitment (the same mistake I have made many times myself) is that people only commit once.
Maybe they are starting a new diet and they are all fired up about getting healthy and losing weight, so they commit to the diet at the beginning and pledge everlasting devotion to the task. Then...that's it. They don't commit again. Soon, motivation runs dry, "reasons" to quit build up, and they are back to their old ways.
Commitment is a daily practice. You have to commit again and again and again. There will always be some obstacle in the way or something that is more comfortable calling to you. You have to show up and decide everyday if you are committed to your purpose or are you committed to taking it easy.
You will commit to one or the other whether it is conscious or not, so make a conscious choice to commit and show up everyday.
One way to help build your kid's commitment is have them write in a journal or keep a video diary every day for a month. It doesn't have to be long. About 10 minutes will do.
Some days it will be easy to stay committed. Other days sports practice or video games or parties with friends might be temptations to skip. When those other avenues come a-calling, then your kids will get to show how committed they really are.
The best part is at the end of the month, your kids will have a cool gift to themselves. When they are older, they will return to their journal or video diary and get transported back into their young minds.
Think about a head coach sitting at a press conference and blaming all the players for the big loss, or imagine a CEO going on the news and blaming all the employees for the business failing. What's your reaction? My reaction is to cringe. Blaming others is never a good look. That is why taking responsibility is such an important skill to have.
Although it can seem scary at times, the more responsibility you take on, the more power you have because you are in control of whatever you are responsible for. When you blame, then you are putting the responsibility on outside forces which you cannot control. Of course, it is always easier to blame, which is why building a sense of responsibility early on can be very powerful.
A way to build more responsibility in your kid is to just give them more to do. There will be some kids out there that already have packed schedules and are feeling super busy and overwhelmed. They are already loaded up on responsibility and probably don't need anymore.
But if your kid has plenty of free time to spare, give them some chores to do, or maybe have them work on a fun project like building some furniture, creating a family photo album, or designing a family crest. A project is a great way to do something fun together with your kid.
Just make sure you reward them adequately for all of the responsibility that they are taking on!
One of the most impactful ways to create success is also one of the most simple; just asking for what you want. This can take many forms. Maybe you have been working hard and you want to ask for a raise or promotion. Maybe there is someone harassing you at work and you need to have a difficult conversation with them or HR.
These things can be scary to do! They take courage.
Many times people stay stagnant because they are scared to ask for something more or something different. They may stay in a job they dislike or never try to start that online business with the idea that has been bubbling around in their head for years.
When I quit engineering and started making online educational courses, I had to do a whole bunch of things that scared the bejeezus out of me (including writing blog posts like this). However, for me to pursue what I really cared about, I had to have courage.
To really maximize their success in life, your kids will need to have courage too. The only way for your kids to build courage - and I know they will probably hate this - is to do something they are scared of and see that it is not as scary as they thought.
Maybe they have always wanted to act in the school play, but they are too scared to tryout because they are afraid of embarrassing themselves. Push them to try anyway. Maybe they wanted to join the gaming club at school but they are scared the other kids won't like them so they never sign up. Push them to try anyway.
Trying something you are scared of is something to be proud of regardless of the result. It can also be an emotional roller coaster. So no matter what happens, make sure you give your kids lots of love, support, and compassion when they are flexing their courage muscle.