Reading

reading

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.2 Timothy 4:3-4

In the 20thcentury, schools taught reading, writing and arithmetic. Some of you might remember that motto. School curriculums have strayed from those goals in the recent decades.

I found young lawyers, fresh out of law school, to be increasingly poor writers over my career. They lacked basic writing skills. Even I have to think carefully when I write. My wife is my critic to this day when I misuse a pronoun.

The fact that millennials of today will be the next generation of leaders might be a scary thought to some. This is a generation addicted to the digital world.  Turning a page in a book is not as convenient as reading something digitally on your phone or iPad.

Instead of reading newspaper (many of which are disappearing), they rely on things like The Daily Skimm or other online sources for news and current events. Or worse. Studies show they often  rely on their emotions or even peers on social media for opinions.

Some recent research on reading is more promising than I thought. Most millennials I know are quick to admit that they don’t read. Yet, there is the success of apps like Hooked, which has been downloaded over 2 million times.

Hooked is aimed at the 13-24 age group. It provides stories in the format of an SMS (or text) conversation. They are sometimes spell binding. Still, it is hardly a replacement for other literature.

The book publishing industry has been in transition to adjust to the trends of the last two decades. Chain bookstores like Barnes and Nobles are closing stores across the country. Digital book platforms like Kindle are commonplace apps on people’s phones and computers.

Digital books (or e-books) sales have peaked and actually slowed down with a sharp drop in 2014 which has since plateaued. In the first half of 2016, adult e-book sales  fell 18.1%.  Men are less likely to read fiction than women in the young adult age group, reading an average of 4 books a year to the six books read by women.

At the same time, the local independent book stores are thriving. Between 2010 and 2015, mom-and-pop bookstores have increased 21%. Owners of these stores have found that their customers desire a social experience, so they become community centers, not just book stores.

The former Post Office in Pinehurst has been converted to The Roast Office. It sells used books sold by the Givens Library and has an upscale coffee shop. It is the setting for a lot of social interaction and a place to hang out, not just read books.

Why is reading important? Both Gen Y and Gen Z see leadership as something important to their future, according to research.  They see leadership as a means “to make a difference and to improve the community in which they live” according Tim Elmore.

It was Margaret Fuller who said: “Today a reader; tomorrow a leader.”  She was the first woman journalist in the 19thcentury. You might think that quote is now outdated, archaic and not important today. You might be wrong.

Recently, Indra Nooyi  the CEO of Pepsi gave some parting words as she stepped down from her position. She said: “Be lifelong students.” In a constantly changing world, she urged leaders of tomorrow to “constantly educate yourself.”

I find the trends of the digital world to worrisome.  As Tom Kerstner notes in his book Disconnected, the digitally connected next generation “may be losing the ability to analyze things with depth and nuance.”  Not good.

Add to that the Google Effect (also called digital amnesia) where the brain has rewired itself so that information or knowledge retrieved digitally bypasses the brain’s memory bank. In short, digital info doesn’t stick in the brain.

Vocabulary in the middle schools has dropped from 25,000 words to just 10,000 words in the past decade. Most freshman entering college have only listened to Audiobooks or watched the movie but have never read the book according to The Mindset List of incoming college freshman.

The quality of the books is important too. As author Gene Edward Veith said: “The answer to bad books is good books.”

A leader of tomorrow may not have learned the lessons of history and are prone to make the same mistakes over and over again. An example: the trend of millennials embracing socialism as something good. That embrace ignores the fact that socialism has never worked historically. Ever.

That’s why a mentor to the next generation is so important. They can help their mentees see the value of reading and constant learning.  It won’t happen on a large-scale, but it is a step in the right direction.

I tell my mentees to  “never stop learning.”  I enjoy learning new things, and often, just preparing for this blog takes me into new and uncharted waters. I hope my zeal for learning is infectious. I often send my mentees articles of interest to stretch them.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY: A mentor can help his mentee upgrade their reading list by suggesting good or better books to read.

FURTHER STUDY: Google Effect: How it Affects Your Memory. New Republic (2014)

Disconnected: How to Reconnect our Digitally Distracted Kids by Kerstner

RESOURCES: For an ongoing list of good books to read, World Magazine has a list of recommended books in every category for free. It’s History Book of the Year for 2018 is titled A Nation Forged by Crisesby Jay Sexton.

Radical Mentors also has its own list of recommended books.

(https://rwww.radicalmentoring.com/books/)

Goodreads has a list of best books by genre, decade or year.

WORSHIP: Listen to These Are the Days of Elijah by Judy Jacobs. It’s a bit long, but worth it.

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page or emailing me at otterpater@gmail.com

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

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Outward Bound

rafting-661724_1920

By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground.  Genesis 3:19

This title has a lot of significance to me personally. It conjures up the ability to learn about yourself while being in a wilderness experience that tests your resolve.

A recent news story described the failure of an athletic coach to get two of his players to take a position of leadership.  They refused, even after their peers selected them.

They didn’t see leadership as a distinction or an honor. One might assume they didn’t want the responsibility. Apparently this is not unusual with the next generation in athletics. If it is true in athletics, it will be true in life.

This is an important trend. Employers look for leadership qualities when they hire. In a 2016 surveyat Northeastern, over 80% of employers say they number one trait they look for is leadership potential.

As noted in Humanics,  leadership will be increasingly important in an age of AI and robots in the workplace. Right behind qualities of leadership, employers look for the ability to work as a team.

Tim Elmore may have put his finger on the cause for the recent decline of the next generation to embrace being a leader. He cites the work in 1954 of Dr. Julian Rotter who developed the Inward/Outward profile assessment.

By adolescence, people develop an internal preference to what is termed the “Locus of Control.”   There are two options:

  • An External Focus: The individual sees success being due to factors outside of themselves.
  • An Internal Focus: The individual sees they are responsible for their success.

Since 2002, studies show a growing trend in the next generation to seeing the world through an External Focus. They may be overwhelmed by the amount of information they have at their fingertips. According to Elmore, they begin to “play defense, not offense.”

If they don’t take responsibility for their success, their failure is then attributed to the fact that they were the victim of someone or something. Personal initiative is deleted from the equation.

A person who has an external focus will always be looking for someone else to make it happen, whatever “it” is, including leadership.   Those with an Internal Focus will succeed in any environment. They aren’t waiting on someone else to get the job done for them.

Which brings me to  Outward Bound.  It is an outdoor educational experience that emphasizes team work and leadership for youth and adults.

Its philosophy is to create experiential learning while being outdoors in a variety of settings – mountaineering, backpacking, sailing, whitewater rafting and even dog sledding.

.Outward Bound was based on a World War II survival skills course for members of the English Air Force. Started in the U.S in 1961, it now has 11 venues across North America and has expanded outside the US into South America and even India.

Outward Bound is not just for the well-to-do. They offer scholarships on the basis of need on a first come, first served basis. They believe everyone should be able to have the opportunity to experience adventure and challenge.

I did a rafting course on the Green River, Utah,  with my oldest son in 1987. He was 17 and I was 43. I survived, but the 24 hours solo experience by myself in Rattlesnake Canyon was a challenge. I just knew I was going to find a rattlesnake in my sleeping bag.

I did the trip for my son who had struggled with some personal issues while away at boarding school. It led to his final year away at school being his best. We had a blast together.

The Outward Bound experience, and others like it, forces an individual to develop self-reliance and teamwork skills, the perfect antidote for the “External Focus” of todays’ millennials.

In Genesis, after the fall, God was clear in speaking to Adam that “by the sweat of YOUR brow” you shall eat. He didn’t say by the sweat of “someone else’s brow”. It was Adam’s responsibility to take the initiative.

Our challenge is to help the next generation embrace the value of being self-reliant and have an Internal Focus. God has gifted each of us uniquely with gifts and talents. He did so with a purpose for our life.

It’s our individual obligation to take God-given attributes and gifts into the world. It’s not up to someone else to do it for us.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  One of the best things a mentor can do is encourage his mentee to realize his gifts and talents. Assessments can be helpful to give insights into what makes a mentee special, so they can plot a path for their careers and lives consistent with their aptitudes.

RESOURCESGrowing Leadershas a curriculum aimed at cultivating leadership habits.

Outward Boundteaches leadership and teamwork skills while challenging students in outdoor activities.

Financial Aidfor Outward Bound.

WORSHIP: As we enter the Christmas season, listen to Labor of Love, a beautiful song.

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page or emailing me at otterpater@gmail.com

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

 

Soft Skills

handshake

I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  John 13:16

 When I went to high school and then college, the emphasis was on gaining knowledge and learning. Fast forward to today, and, to an extent that is still true. But my generation, and some that followed, didn’t have digital distractions.

Our lives, outside of study, classes and exams, were spent interacting with one another in a collegial manner. We quickly learned social skills, some better than others. We interacted face to face, not texting or using social media to communicate.

Millennials and Generation Z (also called iGen) are the first generations to have grown up with the internet and digital communications. One result:  studies show a marked decline in their soft skills.

Those interpersonal skills, or “soft skills”, are important in the labor market. Companies want employees who can supervise or direct other employees and who have leadership skills.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal was entitled “Wanted: Employees Who Can Shake Hands and Make Small Talk”.  In the article, Scott Johnson is quoted as saying that you have to educate employees (mostly millennials) not only how to shake hands but you have to “teach them how to look you in the eye when they do it”.

One millennial, Kyle Wheat, admitted that he was terrified of any personal interactions, partly because “it is not what they really teach you in high school.” He admitted that he wasted an entire day trying to fix a printer because he was too scared to ask anyone for help.

Soft skills include the ability to team work and communicate, as well as problem solving skills. Being flexible and having a work ethic is important to all employers.

The ability to make small talk is important. When you go to the ATM these days, there is no human interaction. But when you have a problem, a computer is of little help. You need to speak to a real person, hopefully one that has empathy and will help you solve your problem.

It’s been said that the millennials lack empathy. Their self-absorption gives them a myopic view of the world. Their worldview starts with “me” and often doesn’t get beyond that. The obsession with selfies is symptomatic of their inward focus.

The need for soft skills follows themes of two posts I wrote recently, one entitled EQ, and the other,  Humanics.  Employers like Bank of America are one of several companies that are now teaching soft skills. Bank of America has 17,300 enrollees in one employee program.

David Deming, a professor at the Harvard Business School, notes that jobs which require a high level of social interaction are a growing share of the labor force. “Work…has shifted toward an emphasis on things we can’t do with technology”.

He adds: “There is no way to program a robot to figure out when a customer has had a bad day.”

A 2017 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) confirms several things I have written about: “College graduates aren’t proficient at critical thinking, communication or professionalism.”  I would add commitment to that list.

One commentator put it this way: “You can teach someone how to fix a computer….. but bringing those professional skills to the corporate world is absolutely critical.”

Subaru of America, Inc. has also jumped into training to correct those soft skill deficits. One program, labeled “Respond, Inc.”, has topics covering obvious things like showing up at work on time or wearing appropriate attire.

Subaru and Bank of America are some of the more publicized training efforts. A friend of mine who is in the insurance business and supervises 50 agents said that he is constantly running into these kinds of issues with millennials. He has had to develop internal training programs for things that were never needed before. He is not alone.

To older generations, these are obvious and glaring deficiencies. But to the millennial, it is the norm. They don’t know any better. As I have often said, it’s what you don’t know that hurts you in life. It’s a cultural blind spot.

The challenge here is that education hasn’t kept up in teaching soft skills demanded by the workplace. There needs to be a greater emphasis on teaching critical thinking and learning interpersonal skills than the current emphasis on developing student self-esteem.

While the next generation has a learning deficit in soft skills, I can’t entirely blame them for they are a product of their environment. This is a problem is fixable, but often millennials need a mentor to guide them.

Not every employer is capable of setting up programs to teach the soft skills which will lead to a successful career. Employers might consider setting up a mentor program within their company, pairing an older employee with a millennial.

Who knows?  It might work.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Mentors are in a prime position to help mentees with soft skills, even to the extent of being sure that he knows how to shake hands correctly.

FURTHER STUDY:  The 7 Soft Skills You Need to be Successful– Omnia Group.

Key Attributes Employers Seek on Student’s Resumes by NACE

WSJ Article: “Wanted Employees Who Can Shake Hands and Make Small Talk

WORSHIP: As we enter the Christmas season, listen to Emmanuel (Hallowed Manger Ground).

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page or emailing me at otterpater@gmail.com

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

Trickle Up

trickleup

“Have you never read, ‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’’?”  Matthew 21:16

Many will remember the story of the apple falling on Sir Isaac Newton’s head in the 1600’s. Whether true or not, he is recognized as having discovered gravity.  Basically, water normally flows downhill. That’s a fact of nature. It trickles down.

But there are other forces that can reverse that. A strong wind, such as one when your car is traveling fast, can cause rain to trickle up your windshield, not down.  It takes a fairly strong force to overcome gravity.

When it comes to generations, the normal course is for the older generation to “pass it on” down to the next one. What gets passed on are generational values, ethics and, hopefully, spirituality.

But when it comes to technology, the polarity of passing it on reverses. It would appear that the younger generation’s use of digital technology is actually trickling up to older generations.

We view generations from the lens of history and experience. We see “new” technology from a historical view. iGens don’t see it that way.  They only know the newest technology. It’s not new to them. It’s their norm.

For the rest of us, we knew about flip phones and “dumb” phones. iGen has a clean memory slate when it comes to past technology and history,  Instead of them adapting to us, we are adapting to them.

iGen is the first generation to only know smartphones. Our idea of a smartphone came from the Dick Tracy watch of the 1960’s. He had a cool watch which acted as a phone. It was really far-fetched in its day.

Now we have iWatch or Apple watch from Apple which is like a miniature computer on your arm. No one thinks it is far-fetched anymore. It can tell time, check your pulse, give you the weather or stock market report, and you can google or use Facetime on it.

Early on, Facebook was embraced by millennials.  But when grandma wanted to look at pictures, she was used to having a real picture in her hands. That’s gone away with digital pictures.

Grandma had to join Facebook to see pictures, so she took the plunge. Then, she started commenting on the pictures much to the horror of her children and grandchildren.

Even my wife refused to get a smartphone for the longest time.  She now has an iPhone and an iPad.  She uses Facetime with our grandkids, some of whom call her every day. She caved in because it was a convenient way to stay connected.

This was unthinkable just 10 years ago. The iPhone was introduced in 2007. In five years, over half of the younger generation had smartphones.

When I travel to remote places like Sub-Saharan Africa, everyone has a mobile phone. If they can access WIFI or the internet, they have a smartphone. No one thinks twice about it. Smartphones became the norm so quickly that it’s hard to imagine a world without them.

But not all is perfect with this embrace of digital technology. It brings with it some disorders like loneliness, anxiety and depression that are just now being discovered.  The technology is so new that it has taken a couple of years to tie these disorders to being caused by digital technology.

Parents and mentors are now rethinking   as to how to dial back the amount of screen time the kids of the next generation are getting.  A significant drop in vocabulary and the ability to think critically over the past decade are also byproducts. None of these are good consequences.

While technology is “trickling up” to older generations, the response needs to be measured and clear. The Greek historian, Hesiad said it best: “Observe due measure, moderation is best in all things”.  Sometimes, too much of a good thing may not be all that good.

Parents are being accused of being distracted by smartphones, even at the dinner table. They need to be aware that it’s not just their kids’ screen time that needs to be monitored.

This is not just an American phenomenon. Millennials are similar everywhere in many ways. It doesn’t matter if you are in Asia, Mexico, Africa  or North Carolina.

The challenge here is to help the next generations develop sane and sound habits around new technologies. This is easier said than done because the embrace of the digital world is so pervasive that peer pressure often is a barrier to changing habits.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY: Learning the benefits of a technology from iGen has to be coupled with understanding the risks of overuse. A mentor should be aware of when a mentee crosses the line in order to guide them.

FURTHER READINGHarvard Business Reviewon how Generations X,Y and Z are (or aren’t) similar in 19 different countries (2017).

Atlantic: The Dangers of the Distracted Parent(2018)

Kerstner:  Disconnected:How to Reconnect our Digitally Distracted Kids.

Jean Twenge: iGen: Why Today’s Super-connected KidsAre Growing up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy – And Completely Unprepared for School

WORSHIP: As we approach Christmas, listen to  I Heard the Bells on Christmas Eve.

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page or emailing me at otterpater@gmail.com.  Photo: If you wondered about the picture, it is, in fact, upside down.

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