Finding Success in the Real World - Mentors, Resilience, Up Series

Professor Julie Logan was kind enough to send us her paper on Dyslexic entrepreneurs and we were struck by the figure at right that showed that few entrepreneurs were influenced by education in their pursuit of their current career. Dys4 refers to endorsing at least 4 items on the Adult Dyslexia Checklist.*

By far the strongest influencing factors were a family business or mentor. That's good to know - but are parents or extended family members how important they may be in this regard? ...especially in today's bleak job market.

Finding a mentor is not always an easy task, but a few ideas come to mind:

- Gifts - Think widely about a child's natural gifts, interests, or temperament. If a child doesn't seem to have a particular interest or temperament, could it be that they are just very social and enjoy blending in? Perhaps this is their gift or talent?
- People- Look for teachers, tutors, extended family members who have shared interests or a personality that dovetails well with your child. Get to know them better, how did they choose their career, what do they do outside of work?
- Experience- Look for mini-expertise building activities, or try-outs of different disciplines. Don't overschedule so little free choice is available. Encourage volunteering, but give your child advice or a peptalk before beginning. Students are often unaware of the impressions they make in their first work experiences. The better the experience, the less tolerance for careless work habits, apathy, lack of initiative, etc.
- Make a cold call- Don't be afraid of 'cold-calls', letters, or emails to experts or famous people that your child might admire. When our son was in kindergarten, he became very interested in African art. We were living in Chicago at the time, so we emailed the African art department of the Art Institute of Chicago and asked if we might be able to visit and see off-exhibit items. We were delighted to have a museum intern take us behind the exhibit so that we could see items first hand and hear stories about them (the intern was surprised that he recognized many of the styles). Even if the interests or hobbies change, these experiences broaden their view about what's out there and how they might choose a career based on what they really love.

Over Christmas, we got a Roku and we've been enjoying watching the Up series with our kids. The series interviewed a group of English children through the years from age 7, 14, 21,28, 35, 42, and 49 - looked at their interests, hopes for the future, work, schooling, and families. It's a fascinating program, but interesting on a whole other level when watching with your teen kids. This second time watching it, I was more struck by the sharp contrast between 7 & 14 - 7 year olds seem to have such strong passions and exuberance, but by 14 years old, the children seemed so much more self-conscious and unsure. We talked a lot about Tony, the cabdriver that Michael Apted thought he would see in prison some day - but Tony had gifts of resilience and drive, and the director succumbed to a common bias about physically active and highly independent kids.

For more from Wikipedia on the Up Series.

* The Adult Dyslexia Checklist is an interesting topic, we should tackle another day. Very interesting that it is so different from the checklists that dominate the identification of dyslexia in the early grades.


  1. I just want to chime in that I have seen at first hand that entrepreneurs are NOT academically oriented people. I am a corporate and securities attorney and was early on in my career sort of shocked by the utter lack of ... well, respect, that business people have for those of us born to be bookworms. One of my firm's clients is a NYSE-listed company that has done very very well for many years now, and they pride themselves that apparently none of the people in control of that company has any sort of formal college education. I have to say, I sort of grew up with some assumptions about the value of making good grades etc. that only fairly recently have I questioned. Now that I'm 40, I think school kind of warped my perceptions about life and the "real" world. I still love learning for the sake of learning, but that isn't what life is really supposed to be about, I think. Not for MOST people.

  2. ps -- you don't need to post this, obviously, but thanks for the roku reference! I've been so out of touch with the world lately (working from home, et cetera!) I'd never even heard of it or anything like it. Goodness gracious.