Learning by Living and Blazing New Trails

Educators are always thinking about how we prepare our young people for adulthood: how we create the well-rounded individuals that are going to lead our families, communities and our world. Teachers, principals and other school leaders constantly struggle with having to instill so many lessons: math, reading, writing, citizenship skills, self-esteem. The list goes on and on. I always want children and parents at my events to take away the need to teach young people to try new things, take the plunge and emerge stronger. Here's why:


Business and technology will evolve, but the basics will remain. Think about what our economy and workforce looked like 20 and 30 years ago: our realities were drastically different. Typewriters, white-out, fax machines, rolodexes, phone books, telephone switchboards, record players and appointment books are all now obsolete and have been replaced by our mobile devices. Business leaders that I work with every day tell me when they look for future leaders, they're looking for some basic qualities: entrepreneurialism, the ability to take risks and learn from mistakes, good judgment are just some of the qualities I hear business leaders label as necessary. Our challenge is to instill them in our young people: which begins at home. Encouraging children to pursue their interests, to try to figure out how machines work and how they might make their dreams come true. Learning specific skills is easy, but picking up some invaluable qualities is something that can start at an early age.

Well-rounded employees are desirable. There are many career paths that require specific skill sets and focused education, such as careers in law, medicine and architecture. Most organizations, however, are always on the look-out for people that can bring many different talents and plug many holes. For centuries, we've heard about the "renaissance" people of ancient Rome and Greece: those educated in different disciplines and how that is what ancient societies held as the ideal. In many ways, our current economy values people who can help many areas of a company. Current research shows that young people entering the job force now will change jobs fairly frequently early in their careers: some will have many career paths through their working lives. Arming children now with many different skills and encouraging them to pursue a few different interests will pay off in the long-run.

Recognize that here are many different sources of joy and fulfillment. Human beings are designed to move: our bodies and our minds are programmed to keep us on the go and the reason we rest is so that we can recover and keep moving the next day. Discovering new interests will expose us to new people, new ideas and keep our minds sharp, resilient and open to new approaches. The more we experience, the more we can express and share. The old saying "man cannot live on bread alone" can be applied to more than just food: our minds, our outlooks and interests should continue to evolve and change. We can keep our young people's minds resilient and open to change by encouraging them to pursue many dreams.

I am currently experiencing this myself: I recently launched my own clothing line, The Valdecio Collection because I saw a need and wanted to provide people like me with comfortable clothes that make an expression. I've been lucky to have been raised by parents that encouraged me to pursue many different joys and my career has evolved from education to business and now to fashion. Make no mistake, I will always continue to pursue all three -- which will help me get new ideas and stay on top of all sorts of different trends. We would all do well by encouraging the next generation to open their minds to new things, take plunges and apply the lessons they learn along the way. Life is a journey with many stops and many turns in the road and we should be raising people that can take the turns, not avoid them.