Advice to Grandchildren: Follow Your Dreams… But Keep Your Day Job

by Bill Sniffin

Just what is going on inside the brains for Millennials and Generation Z?  I got a first-hand look over the past month.

But first, what a great summer!  We have enjoyed the company of 12 of our 13 grandchildren.  Let me share with you what I have learned from them.

A few of them are Millennials (age 26 to 41) but most are Generation Z (age 5 to 25).  Now, this is important because as a group, they share some important characteristics.

A writer named Ben Cohen reported that a 30-year high school teacher named Richard Bruce as saying: “. . . student behavior steadily improved each year. The present crop of students is ‘massively well-behaved’ and ‘extremely pleasant.’ Even the juvenile delinquents are better behaved: the kids in detention no longer try and sneak out for cigarette breaks.” Bruce’s observations are borne out by statistics. Peaking in 1993, the number of serious violent crimes committed by juveniles fell from 1,108 per 100,000 to 188 in 2015, an 83 percent decrease.

Our grandkids really are massively well-behaved and extremely pleasant. I thought it was due to all that good parenting. Hmm?

I am blessed because most of them actually ask for my advice and most even contend they will follow the pearls that I share with them.

One of my future projects is a book written for them called “Follow Your Dreams . . . But Keep Your Day Job.”  We have artists, musicians, and athletes in this group.  Yes, follow your bliss but get a good education, develop good work habits, and develop a career at the same time.

Here are four suggestions that I intend to share with them in that book:

1. You will learn more from your failures.  Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly the first time. This is another way of saying practice makes perfect.  Remember that Madam Experience is a mean schoolmarm. She gives you the test first and the lesson afterward.

Sometimes when your project fails, it really is not your fault. Move on. This rule applies in today’s fast-moving, erratic economy more than any time in history.  The hardest test is to remember the lessons, you learned during the hard times and carry them over to the good times.

2. Embrace your competitors.  Thank God for fair competition.  Study your competitors and it will be the best education you can get. Today, competitors are everywhere and bedevil you almost instantaneously.

Over the years, I learned that I would make a lot more money and sleep a lot better by cooperating with my competitors rather than constantly fighting them.

3.  Low effort, high return.  That is the kind of situation we would all like to be in at times in our lives. Getting to this point is not easy.

Study and implement “the success box.”  Draw a square. Divide the square into four equal parts by drawing a vertical line down the center and a horizontal line across the center. 

You have four equal squares.

Write “high effort” in the top left square. Write “high return” in the top right square.  Write “low effort” in the lower-left square. Write “low return” in the lower right square. Now draw a line from lower left to the upper right.  That is the ideal business model: low effort = high return.

Most of us work a straight-line across the top:  high effort = high return. We may have underperforming parts of our lives that are: low effort = low return. 

In these economic times, many of us find ourselves dealing with the worst-case scenario of high effort = low return.

This success box is the easiest graphic example of how we should run our businesses (and our lives). 

4. The compassionate personality. I heard a talk a few years ago that changed my life. Former Gonzaga College President Fr. Robert Spitzer talked about how there are often two kinds of personalities in this world.  He called them the consumptive personality and the compassionate personality.

I call these two types the “all about me” and the “all about you” personalities. Frankly, most entrepreneurs have the former.  I certainly do. 

Luckily for me, my wife Nancy has the compassionate personality.  We joke that compassionate people have a lot more friends.     

On a personal level, I am working hard to become a person with a compassionate personality rather than a consumptive one.          I have a lot more advice to share but that will have to do it for this week.



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