Tuesday, July 16, 2013

More Risk-Takers, Please

An article in the Guardian recently pointed out that education policy – in Britain at least – is trying to push students to be “realistic”. The encouragement is that youth should take courses that will give them the greatest chance of a job. Students are being shepherded into stable careers in law, medicine, accounting and IT, while creative instincts are being suppressed. This passage, in particular, sums up the problem with such an approach.

“More than ever, we need creative optimists and risk-takers. We don't need more hand-holding and young people being steered into what are seen (for the moment) as 'safe' jobs. In the same way that parents now feel the need to keep their children in a health and safety bubble, this is another example of our inability to live with risk. It's a form of pessimism that is limiting lives and over time could distort education provision as funding and opportunities follow an increasingly narrow pathway.”

One of the downsides of the information age is we’re bombarded with bad news. We’re pre-occupied with staying safe. It’s invading every aspect of our lives. How we eat, how we play, how we raise the next generation.

But we need risk. Without it, dreams would never make it into reality. Ideas are the currency of today and technology is the enabler. We don’t just need creative optimists, we need Radical Optimists. People who believe nothing is impossible. Radical Optimists look at the world and want to make it a better place. Problems aren’t barriers, they’re challenges to be solved.

We should be encouraging our children to discover their strengths and provide them the support they need to be successful as people (not just professionally). Pushing kids onto a path that “might” guarantee a job, regardless of their passion, may sound sensible at a time of economic uncertainty, but fulfillment and passion is a more dependable measurement of a successful life than competitive advantage.