“Mama, don’t let your sons grow up to be cowboys!” So advises the country song – which may be good advice, or it may not.
The world needs good cowboys. And plumbers. And electricians. And shepherds. And mechanics. People good with their hands.
If your son shows strong interest in fixing cars, and has limited academic drive and giftedness, why in the world would you push him to become a lawyer? We need great mechanics, and his gifts and inclinations are already showing you a potential career path.
If your daughter gravitates toward making beautiful floral arrangements, why should she be guilt-tripped into being a business executive? Is there not an ongoing need for all sorts of gifted designers?
The fact is, we’ll always need people who are good with their hands. And even the greatest and wealthiest among us recognize that, when you find a capable and reliable craftsman, tradesman, or laborer, they are gold. These folks have tremendous earning power and job security, because there are so many shoddy and unscrupulous workers out there. People who are skilled in their work, and prove themselves over time, are almost always in demand. Compare that to the job insecurity of many in white-collar careers, and you begin to see that it is not a step down to learn and ply a trade.
I have five sons. It has always been my determination not to pre-determine their academic and professional careers, but to carefully evaluate their wired-in gifts and budding interests, and seek to move them in that direction, even if it is quite different from the course my wife or I took as young adults. And, sure enough, we’re having some surprises. As you will with your children.
If you have children that are good with their hands, and you worry about whether they will go to college and launch into some high-profile information-driven career, remember – this is not about you and your reputation. Most people throughout history learned trades that were passed down through generations, and many still do. You can be immensely proud of a son or daughter who works with his/her hands, and who is skilled in the tangible arts. Don’t rob your child of fulfillment in pursuing a direction that “fits” with her gifts, and don’t rob the rest of us of his abilities as we plan, build, landscape, and repair. Frankly, we don’t need a whole lot more lawyers, executives, and investment bankers. We will always need capable cabinet-makers, graphic designers, tailors, and – yes – devoted mothers who work part-time out of the home. These less-glamorous spheres of labor, using active minds and active hands, are where tremendously valuable work gets done.
(this muse inspired by Genesis chapter 47, where the sons of Israel appear before Pharaoh, and their skill as shepherds stands them in good stead, despite the fact that keepers of livestock were despised among the Egyptians. Bonus: this chapter also gives our earliest recorded instance of how executive leadership can use a national crisis to take over people and distressed assets. In this case, however, it also displays the benefits of shrewd advance planning by Joseph, and benevolence toward those in distress).
Please Tweet, Stumble, or Digg if you like!
Subscribe to Steve’s Leaves
Subscribe to Steve’s StickyFigure blog (marketing/social media)