This is the time when thousands of students will graduate from high school and college. It is a great achievement for both students and parents.
Our society depends on successive generations developing the skills to carry on our society. This is no easy task. Our society has become increasingly complex.
For the parents, it is the fruition of the hard and expensive work of raising a child. Each child is different and they don’t come with instructions. Parenthood requires an extreme amount of hard work, dedication, love and patience. Congratulations.
The same is true of students. Sitting for hours and hours in class paying attention is not an easy thing to do, especially in our age of endless distractions. Learning discipline and perseverance is critical to becoming a successful adult. Congratulations.
No doubt, many students felt at times that what they were learning was of no significance to success. To be sure, our education system needs to do a better job of changing curriculum to maintain relevance in an ever-changing society.
That said, there is a basic foundation of knowledge that is necessary to preserve if each generation is to advance beyond the previous one. It’s not perfect, but the knowledge you have learned will continue to serve you in the future in ways that may not have been readily apparent while sitting in a classroom or memorizing answers from a textbook.
Just a hundred years ago, books were scarce. Expensive libraries were a critical resource. This is still true today, but technology has now put the world’s knowledge at the fingertips of anyone with a smartphone. The magnitude of this advance is almost impossible to overestimate.
But a mountain of data is of little use if a person lacks the ability to sift through the noise and find true knowledge. So many young people today use their smartphones to read superficial garbage. Your education is a foundation of relevant knowledge that will help you sift the wheat from the chaff. In school, you learned to cite legitimate sources for your studies and research papers. That skill is crucial in today’s world of fake news and bogus websites. Judgement is more important today than ever before.
Students graduating today face a world of relentless change like nothing we have ever experienced. Think about the rapid advances of the last 200 years. Now considering the 1,000-fold increase in the speed of communication and knowledge, the change of the next 200 years will be mind-boggling.
As you move on to college, graduate school or the work world, judgement, adaptability, hard work and perseverance are the key skills you will need to succeed.
Judgement is increasingly important because as the mountain of information grows daily, one’s ability to parse through the data and find critical knowledge is more challenging and critical than ever before.
Adaptability is important because change is now relentlessly increasing. In previous generations, one picked a career and mastered it. Careers lasted a lifetime. Not so today. Entire industries and careers are wiped out and created within the span of a few decades, even years. As the economy changes, so must you change.
Hard work has always been and still is a critical asset. There are millions of smart people with good ideas. But it is hard work that turns those good ideas into business and professional success. Without the ability to apply yourself, you will stall. As our society becomes increasingly affluent, those who have the ability to resist temptations and work hard will have a huge advantage.
Perseverance goes hand in hand with hard work. Despite hard work, you will encounter setbacks and failures. It is the nature of the beast. Perseverance is the skill that allows you to overcome adversity and setbacks and keep on plugging. Hard work is a sprint, but perseverance is the marathon. The old tale about the tortoise and the hare is as true today as it ever was.
In past generations, there was pressure to use your education to become a lawyer, doctor, accountant or some of the other mainstream professional occupations. Those are excellent professions that will stand the test of time, but success in today’s society is no longer limited to office jobs.
In fact, many of the millionaires in our society today are electricians, plumbers, computer programmers and various tradesmen who built up their own small contracting companies. You don’t have to sit behind a desk to make a lot of money. There are many manual skills that are very lucrative. Learning a trade not only provides a stable source of income, but you always have the opportunity to build up your own company if you work hard and have ambition.
It’s important to pursue a career that doesn’t make you miserable, but remember there is a reason they call it work. Don’t expect to have a blast every day. Even the most exciting jobs can become routine. But do expect a job in which you can grow and develop. The prospect of advancement will give you the energy and enthusiasm that will offset some of the boredom which is an inevitable offshoot of today’s intense specialization of labor.
For those entering the work world, hang in there. When you entered high school or college, being a freshmen meant you were low man on a four-year totem pole. Entering the workforce means you are low man on a 40-year totem pole. It’s tough. You are starting at the bottom.
That’s OK. Get motivated by the challenge of a successful career. Look around and you will see the amazing material success of our society and economy. It didn’t just happen. The abundance you see around you is the result of an amazing amount of hard work by the previous generation.
Now it’s your turn. You can do it!
Wyatt Emmerich is publisher of The Northside Sun in Jackson and owner of Emmerich Newspapers.