The Children’s Book Review
Published: February 22, 2012
Cynthia Kocialski is the founder of three tech start-up companies. In the past 15 years, she has been involved in dozens of start-ups. Cynthia writes the Start-up Entrepreneurs’ Blog. Cynthia has written the book, “Out of the Classroom Lessons in Success: How to Prosper Without Being at the Top of the Class.” The book serves up tips, insight, and wisdom to enable young adults and parents of kids to know what it will take to forge a successful career, no matter what their academic achievement.
Why did you write Out of the Classroom Lessons in Success?
My oldest daughter is someone who is never good enough for our local school system. She is always being asked to take tutoring and spend extra time at school in order to get better grades. After 5 years of putting in 10 additional hours each week doing extra classes and tutoring, her test scores didn’t budge. Despite all that extra effort and years of hard work, she still isn’t good enough – and most likely, never will be. At this point, my daughter doesn’t like school much. Over the course of my career, what I’ve learned is success in life doesn’t hinge upon getting the top grades. There are lots of average people who are highly successful.
How do I help my teen or child discover her inner talents?
First, you have to find your talent and that’s a matter of trying new things. Once you know what you want to do then it’s a matter of figuring out how to get there. Every year in school, teachers ask children what they want to be when they grow up. I’ve never encountered a teacher who followed up by asking, “Now, how do you plan on doing that”? The simple answer given by most kids is to go to school for it, but that’s vague and wishful thinking is not a plan. You need to figure out how to develop your core talent, and then you need to figure out what secondary talents you need to package it up. For many, this may mean getting help from an adult or parent because kids or teens don’t work well in an ambiguous planning task. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to plan to the end goal, the best most can do is to go from step A to step C. Don’t worry though, by the time you get to step C, you’ll be able to plan the next three steps. Unfortunately, we don’t teach kids how to plan well.
What advice or encouragement can you give youth who are struggling in school?
School isn’t everything. School addresses one talent – academics. You need to have a basic level of education to function in society, but not everyone is going to be Albert Einstein. There are many talents in this world. If your talent is art, music, or sports, then you should develop that talent. Stop spending every waking minute studying, only to get B’s and fall short. Your time is better spent developing your best talent then struggling to be mediocre at something that isn’t your talent. What do you think would have become of Mozart if he were required to be a straight ‘A’ student before practicing his music?
How does this book help youth?
It provides them with a different perspective on success. A lot of times we are told things as children that we just accept and don’t challenge, only to find out later that they tricked us. One of my favorites is the saying, “It’s not whether you win or lose that matters, it’s how you play the game”. No, really, winning matters. Who hires an attorney who loses all his cases, or a doctor who never cures her patients? I encounter way too many entrepreneurs who believe it’s all about effort – they’ve never learned how to compete. Instead of starting a business with the intent to win, they start with the belief that they’ll give it the good, ole college try.
What are the changes going on in the world that make this approach more important to our youth today?
As the world’s economies become more interconnected and globalization continues, our children and young adults will need to function in an increasing hyper competitive business environment. They need to go beyond what’s taught in their formal school setting to find their path to success. What they need to do is to develop those skills that differentiate them from everyone else, even those academically talented individuals need to develop those extra skills and reframe their thinking about success. It’s no different than a product. If all you have to compete on is price – in this case, wages – you will lose in a price war. Those developing countries have a lower cost of living and hence a lower wage base. If all you have is the core skill taught in formal schooling, then it becomes a feature race and anyone can copy features. Think about the iPhone. It was popular. What happened? Other manufacturers copied it, as new features were added to new versions, everyone else copied them too. Curriculums and course work can be easily copied. Our children and youths need to develop those not-so-obvious and intangible skills that mean a lot to the end result, but are not easily copied.
How do I create the life I want?
It’s all about intent. Fate isn’t going to suddenly surprise you one day and drop your perfect, ideal life on your doorstep. No one is that lucky. In a start-up, there’s always something that needs to get done. The rule of thumb is if what you are doing now isn’t moving you closer to the goal, then stop doing it. The same is true for creating your dream. Life is busy. It’s full of request from people around us. You can’t do it all. You have to pick how you spend your time wisely. Time is everything. It’s a non-renewal resource, you can’t check the balance, or get a refund.
Describe your book in 3 words.
Succeeding Beyond Academics
Who is your intended audience?
Parents raising kids and wanting to give them that edge to be successful later in life. Teens and young adults starting off in their careers.
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