“Papa, I don’t want to do anything”
Recently I was helping my older daughter Luka study history. She was learning about the 2nd Persian War, started in 482 BC. I could see she was deflated. She looked at me and said, “Papa, why do I have to learn this? Am I ever going to need to know this?” Her question was representative of her recent disdain for learning in general. I turned to my go-to pep talk. “Maybe not,” I explained, “But the important thing is that later on in life you can choose to do whatever you want. In order to have as many choices as possible, you have to do your best at everything, even if it doesn’t interest you so much.” The next words out of her mouth were heartbreaking: “Papa, I don’t want to do anything.”
“People Get Paid to Work at Disney”
‘Quick, say something inspirational…’ I thought. I started to pull out all the stops. “Luka I think you will find a career that you love, but until you figure out what that is, think about the kind of life you want. Do you want to be able to travel around the world and live anywhere you want the way we have?” I then realized that I wanted her to strive for a career that was fulfilling and not just a means to live her life outside of work. But sadly, although the girls do enjoy our outings to explore ancient Rome and the surrounding areas, or our travels around Europe and beyond, the truth is the unlimited streaming content on their iPad is what they truly crave.
So I decided to get creative. “Luka, do you know that it’s someone’s job at Netflix to decide which shows to choose and show subscribers? ” I could see her eyes lighting up. “REALLY???” she asked in amazement. I decided to double down. “Yes! And someone at Disney decides which rides to build or replace in the parks.” Her mouth dropped open. “That’s a job that they pay you for?” I could see I had broken through.
How Can we Expose Kids to Amazing Careers?
I started to think about when I started working with Meliá after finishing my Masters at Cornell. My job was to fly around to gorgeous resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean to teach hotels how to increase their e-commerce sales. I remember having plenty of “I can’t believe they’re paying me to do this” moments. But by that time, I was already 27 years old. That was the first time I was so fired up by my career that I literally couldn’t wait to get started everyday. It didn’t feel like work at all.
I also remember, however, what it felt like to be 10 years old, asking myself what the point was of learning things that didn’t interest me. I wish so much that back then, I could have experienced 1 day of my life at the age of 27 (or later). It would have opened my eyes and given me an undying motivation to get as much out of school as I possibly could. And while I was reflecting on my childhood and thinking about what would have motivated me, it hit me.
What if certain companies that are likely to appeal to kids, such as Disney, Netflix, YouTube, TikTok, Tesla, Apple (I think the list could be quite long), created 1 or 2 day internships for kids? The idea would be that once per quarter, each company invites a certain number of families to their headquarters. Parents could bring their kids and learn all about what happens behind the scenes. Each company should have a scholarship program so that at least 50% of the kids can at least get a domestic flight and lodging paid for.
It seems to me that if we can give younger children a glimpse of potential ‘dream jobs’, then they would have something real to aspire to. Of course kids get some exposure to what their parents do, but how many of us follow in our parents’ footsteps? Why wait until they’re in their 20s before they realize what incredible career paths lay ahead? How many kids would be saved from boredom, apathy toward learning, social difficulties, and bullying if they had a North Star to work toward? Let’s find out.
I would like to ask someone to put me in touch with a contact at Disney or Netflix to put together a program like this. I would be thrilled to bring my kids, and I will sponsor another family that the company selects. Thank you!