Tim Elmore’s new book “Generation iY” has messed me up lately, particularly the chapter on amending the lies we told Generation iY. According to Tim, these are well intentioned platitudes we say to our children in order to encourage them, to build their self-esteem but at their core, they are lies that will potentially wreak havoc as kids get old. According to him, “we have lied to manipulate, and often we have lied out of love. We’ve even taught young people to lie to themselves. . . in ways that will eventually sabotage them as a young adult.”
Out of Dr. Elmore’s list of seven lies, the one that hit me the hardest was:
You can be anything you want to be!
Wait a second Tim, isn’t this part of the American Dream? Don’t people risk everything to come to America so their children can grow in a place they can be anything they want?
But the trouble is that wanting something and being able to achieve it are two very different things. “Desire is not the same as talent, and talent is not the same as accomplishment,” says Elmore. And he is right. If you want to see the consequences of this lie, just watch an audition show of American Idol. It’s eerily sad to see parents encouraging tone-deaf children to continue pursuing a dream that’s just never going to happen, no matter how much affirmation the kid gets.
I love my boys, I want them to think big and I don’t want to put limitations on their lives. But more importantly than blindly telling them that they should strive for an NFL career if that’s what they really want, I need to help them align their strengths with opportunities. I need to help them discovered their sweet spot where they’re most likely to do well and grow in it. Working in an area of one’s weaknesses is exhausting, frustrating and often leads to failure.
So how do you deal with situations where the truth is not what the young person across from you wants to hear?