My son, who skateboarded every day last winter, appears to have quit skateboarding. I try to play it cool — he can do whatever he wants, is what I tell him, but I’m not thrilled with the decision: He’s good at skateboarding and it seems like a good balance to his cello and piano lessons. But he’s done.
What I remind myself is that quitting is an important trait of people who understand their personal value.
This makes sense in the workplace: if you’re in a bad job, and you know it’s a bad job, most career counselors would tell you to quit .
It also makes sense in school: if you are not good at school, you should not be doing school.
Lisa Nielsen has a great ebook/diatribe about why people should drop out of high school. A study by the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth shows that kids who drop out of school actually show high potential because they are quitting as a process of figuring out where they fit: “What this select breed of underdogs had in common was nothing but a unique set of personal beliefs (stemming from emotional stability, internal locus of control, self-efficacy, and self-esteem) about their ability to shape the future. Those beliefs translate into the ability to choose one course of action (entrepreneurship, less prestigious career path, etc.) while quitting others.”
The big problem is that parents who show no capacity for booksmarts expect their kid to have capacity. But intellect doesn’t work that way. It’s genetic. So we have a whole section of the country who is not born to be booksmart going through the motions of being booksmart in school.
According to the study, these students often do better than their peers in both earning power and satisfaction when they quit school and focus on what they are good at.
Parents often live in a bubble when it comes to kids. We think our kids can do anything, that they have unlimited potential. But actually, they don’t. They are limited by their genes. If we could admit, early on, that our kids will not be great at most things, then we could help them focus. Kids have a natural instinct to focus on what they like. Parents are the ones who thwart them.
So often, though, it’s the well-rounded kids who were rewarded over and over again for getting A’s across the board who cannot make the leap to the workforce. Which is why there is such a low correlation between school work and workplace success. And there’s low correlation between well-roundedness and success.
So let your kids quit whatever they want. That’s the best preparation for what adult life is really like.