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Don't Cry Over Spilled Milk: A Journey of Lifelong Learning

They always tell you not to cry over spilled milk…and believe you me, that saying is a better indicator of your character than you may think. I’ve long been a believer that how you handle yourself publicly, assert yourself as a leader, and treat others will directly impact your ability to succeed. From moving across the country 4x in 3 years for different jobs/promotions, having to adapt to brand new cultures, make friends, and manage my emotional well-being to being rejected from other job applications for reasons that literally make no sense (i.e. “you weren’t operational/supply chain oriented enough” when I was interning in a commercial role and brought nothing but process improvements to the table OR "you were the strongest interviewer, but I think you should focus on your process/engineering skills" -- uh...I've NEVER worked as an engineer even though it was my undergrad degree lol), I have learned that just relying on my ability to “solve problems” with math and science really won’t get me as far as I was once told. That’s what’s interesting about how we work with children these days…we place such an importance on STEM skills (trust me, I DO think math and science are important) and passing standardized tests that we forget to stress the importance of using soft skills to adapt and lead teams. THIS is what differentiates the leaders from the worker bees…

I shared an article a while back on Facebook & Twitter which talked about a study Google did which ranked STEM skills LAST in importance when determining the top skills held by their best employees. These top skills were…being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas. While the individuals actually have to complete their job effectively (which may or may not involve using math and science), their ability to be effective working in teams and potentially assume leadership roles is dependent on those soft skills. And many other companies would agree…how you communicate with others really is critical to your success.

The same thing applies to children. Children who are only focused on achieving the top grades or spend so much time focusing on individual projects/extracurricular activities miss a huge opportunity to interact with and learn from each other. Additionally, they miss an opportunity to learn how to step back and process information without immediately reacting to a situation.

Not every individual lacking soft skills will fail in life, but the odds are higher that they will experience roadblocks in some manner. An interesting article mentioned that there was a study done which looked at data from nearly 900 students. The researchers in this study found that about 1/3 of the impact on future crime outcomes was due to the social and self-regulation skills the students learned from ages 6 to 11. Again…not everyone will become a criminal who lacks soft skills, but what’s interesting about this article is that the window of time in which you can make the biggest impact on children is exactly the time in which we should be educating them on those soft skills. Put them in situations where they can work in teams, solve problems that are foreign, and analyze the outcomes so they can perform better the next time something challenging comes their way.

A great example of where this ability to self-regulate comes into play is the venture capital world. I’ve heard a ton of stories about investors testing their potential investees by putting them in situations where they might react adversely. The funniest example I’ve heard was about a man asking someone to spill a drink on a potential partner to see how they would react. When the individual was spilled on they LOST it…which was a pretty clear indicator to the investor that they wouldn’t be able to handle situations that actually mattered. The saying goes, “don’t cry over spilled milk” and you never know when that milk will come with money…

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