What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

It’s a standard question we ask our children. It is a fantastic conversation starter when we encounter kids barely old enough to speak or college students who are still unsure of their future. I’m guessing it was a question you might have asked yourself once or twice…maybe even recently.

I delivered a keynote presentation at my local middle school today as part of their 7th grade Career Day. The assembly kicked off the day where students were visited by a number of parents and local citizens who shared what they do for a career, living or occupation and fielded questions from the students. My session was focused more on the big picture of leadership and goal setting and how it was critical for the students to understand that no matter what career path they choose, being a goal-oriented leader in everything they do will help them along their journey.

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I kicked off the session by asking the kids to define what success means to them. I wasn’t looking for the definition from Webster’s Dictionary and I didn’t want them to cheat and ask Siri. I simply wanted to hear what they thought it meant to them. Some students shared ideas like “achieving your goals,” or “being a good role model.” Many of the kids focused on money (instead of what money can or will do for them and their plans) and perhaps one of my favorites was the young lady who simply said “happiness.”

I then asked the question that Career Days are based on – “what do you want to be when you grow up?” I gave the kids a few minutes to think about it and write down their answers. I asked for a few volunteers to tell me and their fellow 7th graders their dream job. One kid wanted to be an architect. When asked “why” he answered that he loved to design things. Another yelled out “a pro soccer player.” Now, I know many kids dream of being a professional athlete but it’s just not that simple. “How many kids your age play soccer?”, I asked. He didn’t know so I guessed somewhere between 4-5 million. I then asked “how many play professional soccer?” He shrugged his shoulders, not having any idea. I guessed out loud that it was probably less than 2,500.

In reality, it might be less than half of that numbers but you see the point I was trying to make. The odds are certain stacked against him…but I wasn’t going to discourage him from his dreams. I hope he goes on to be an amazing soccer player who maybe represents our country or plays in the highest levels of the game.

After a short pause, I asked “Do you want to earn an income from the sport of soccer?” He nodded his head. “Could you be a coach or trainer or equipment provider?” Lots of people can make money off the game of soccer but a much smaller number will be paid to play the game. Sometimes you just need to look at your dream job from a different view-point. I simply modified the question just a bit to show him some possibilities.

“I want to be a Super Hero”2522135992_a38f974fc1_z

This was the answer I got form the last boy I called on. Having presented to middle school audiences before, I know there are always a few smart-alecks in the room who might be looking to have some fun with the guest speaker. (I should know because I was one)

“What kind of super hero?” I asked.

“The kind with a cape that saves people.” He quipped. “And I want some cool super powers so I can change the world.”

In full disclosure, I haven’t seen a single super hero movie since Christopher Reeve was Superman. No Bat Man, no Iron Man, not any of the Spiderman movies. I don’t know the X-Men, The Transformers, The Ninja Turtles or any of the other comic-book stories brought to the big screen. I wasn’t going to take too much of the other students time going quip for quip with this kid so I left it at that and moved on. I know that I, along with the other adults in the room this morning, feel good knowing one day, when he gets older, matures and wises up he’ll learn that there are plenty of jobs for super heroes in our world every day. We just call them teachers, firemen, police, soldiers, doctors, nurses, parents and many others who don’t need a cape or super power to be awesome and change the world.

Most can do it simply by building relationships, solving problems and having fun.

So let me ask you…what do you want to be when you grow up?



Photo Credit: Eneas De Troya via Flickr

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