by Alan Viau

You want your kids to become successful adults. I certainly encouraged mine to be the best they could become in their chosen fields. But what approaches have proven to be winning strategies for success?

I recall my parents nagging at me about how to become successful. “Get an education,” they used to harp. It seemed like the universal mantra of the day. And I did get an education – a BSc in biochemistry, a PhD in chemistry and a post-grad certificate in marketing.

Unfortunately, my education did not protect me from layoffs and downsizing. One day I was vice president of a world-leading software firm, the next day … unemployed.

Given today’s quickly changing job market, what career advice can we give our kids who want to be successful? Do the old paradigms still work?

Spectrem’s Millionaire Corner surveyed high-net-worth people about the factors leading to their successes. Although wealth is not the only measure of success, it is certainly one people understand in our society.

The respondents cited three important factors for success:

Hard Work. Yes, this old stand-by still applies. No matter what, putting in the effort is still critical. But, you cannot just throw yourself into something without having an idea of where and what you want to be. Since you will be investing your time in an endeavor, you need to understand why you are doing what you are doing. Is what you are doing now going to move you closer to your goal?


Our son, Keenan, graduating from Sheridan College Musical Theatre Performance


It turns out that having education is still an important factor in being successful. However, your education, whether obtained through school or non-traditional means, is merely a launch pad into the game. It is a point-in-time accomplishment. The job market is continually changing and you need to adapt to the new realities. Today you need to make life-long learning a priority to be successful.

Luck. Half of those surveyed identified luck as being the wild-card factor in success. They recognized that being at the right place at the right time as the luck they needed to boost their careers. As an example, the late Tom Clancy‘s luck came when President Reagan read and loved his book. All you can do is encourage your kids to exploit promising opportunities that may come around.

These findings lead me to challenge the traditional question that gets asked of kids: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” That kind of standard thinking may have worked in my parents’ day and for early boomers when they planned their careers for 30 years. Today’s job reality demands a more flexible approach. Our kids need to set shorter-term goals, invest in themselves continually and get out there where opportunities happen.  To quote one of my favorite songs from My Fair Lady, “With a little bit of luck, [she or] he’ll be movin’ up to easy street.”



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