Every parent wants their kids to grow up to be successful. But everyone defines "success" differently.
Jeff Bezos learned to not spend time deliberating over decisions that are easily reversible. Warren Buffett learned that success means the people you hope will love you actually do love you. Oprah Winfrey learned which bridges to cross and which bridges to burn. Steve Jobs learned about the power of asking for help.
All of which is great advice...but what about the actual skills your kids will need to succeed? Which skills pay the greatest lifelong dividends, regardless of pursuit?
Here's my list of things every parent should help their children learn:
1. How to sell.
To many people, the word "selling" implies manipulating, pressuring, cajoling...all the used-car salesman stereotypes.
But if you think of selling as explaining the logic and benefits of a decision, then everyone needs sales skills: To convince others that an idea makes sense, to show bosses or investors how a project or business will generate a return, to help employees understand the benefits of a new process, etc.
In essence, sales skills are communication skills, and communication skills are critical in every business. And career.
2. How to ask for help.
Steve Jobs said, "Most people never pick up the phone and call. Most people never ask, and that's what separates, sometimes, the people who do things from the people who just dream about them."
And if that's not a good enough reason to teach your kids to ask for help, consider this:
Asking for help, without adding qualifiers or image enhancers--when you just say, "Can you help me?"--makes several powerful things happen, especially for the other person.
One, you show respect. Without actually saying it, you say, "You know more than I do; you have experience or skill that I don't."
Two, you show trust. You admit to a weakness, you make yourself vulnerable...and you implicitly show you trust the other person with that knowledge.
By showing they respect and trust other people, and by giving those people the latitude to freely share their expertise or knowledge, your kids don't just get the help they think they want.
They also get the help they really need.
3. How to manage time.
There's a huge biggest difference between being efficient and being effective. (Just ask Stephen Covey.)
Efficient people are well organized and competent. They check things off their to-do list. They complete projects. They get things done.
Effective people do all those things...but they check the right things off their to-do list. They complete the right projects. They get the right things done.
Teach your kids to focus on, work on, and produce results in the areas that help them achieve their goals. That's the essence of time management.
And while you're at it...
4. How to use the only work-life balance formula that works.
Work-life balance: Everyone talks about it. And everyone struggles to achieve it.
Partly that's due to faulty math. Many people assume the only way to achieve work-life balance is to spend the same number of hours on work as they do on "life": Spend eight hours at work and you must need eight hours of "me" time.
But for most people, that seems impossible. Many work more than eight hours a day. Many sleep at least seven hours a day (or at least should). Add in doing chores and eating and showering and commuting and getting a little exercise and all the other things you need to do every day.
What's left? For many, maybe an hour or two. Which means work and life will never balance.
Instead, teach your kids to do a different kind of math. Teach them to focus not on the number of hours they spend on "life," but on the quality of those hours.
Teach them to focus on making the most of every "life" hour they have--in whatever ways leave them feeling the most fulfilled.
That's the only way to balance the work-life balance scales.
And is the best way to truly live.
5. How to be emotionally intelligent.
As my Inc. colleague Justin Bariso has shown in a series of excellent articles, higher emotional intelligence (also referred to as EI or EQ) can lead to better performance, better pay, and greater overall success, and can even help prevent you from being manipulated.
Emotional intelligence affects how we make decisions, manage behaviors, and navigate social complexity. Recognizing and understanding the emotions of yourself and others not only improves performance, it tends to be a fundamental skill found in high performers.
More importantly, emotional intelligence helps us improve our relationships, whether professional or personal.
6. How to see pressure as a privilege.
Approximately 75 percent of Americans say they regularly experience physiological and psychological symptoms caused by stress. Research shows that Generation Z in particular is much less able to manage and deal with stress: feelings of fear, trepidation, and hesitance keep them from performing as well as they could.
But here's the thing: Pressure is something you want to feel. Feeling pressure means you're in a position to be successful at something meaningful, something important...something that truly matters to you.
Teach your kids that if they work hard and get to a certain level and then feel pressure...it's actually a privilege to feel pressure. Pressure is a sign they're pushing themselves.
That's a good thing.
They can't achieve more unless they try to do more--and become the people they hope to be.
7. How to not just be smart...but also wise.
As Jeff Bezos says, "The smartest people are constantly revising their understanding, reconsidering a problem they thought they'd already solved. They're open to new points of view, new information, new ideas, contradictions, and challenges to their own way of thinking."
That's because wisdom isn't found in certainty. Wisdom is knowing that while you might know a lot...there's also a lot you don't know. Wisdom is trying to find out what is right rather than trying to be right. Wisdom is realizing when you're wrong, and backing down graciously.
Teach your kids not to be afraid to be wrong. Teach them to not be afraid to admit they don't have all the answers. Teach them to feel comfortable saying "I think" instead of "I know."
Then they'll never stop learning.