Sometimes, a person can wait till their third year of college before deciding what they want to be when they grow up. Many, perhaps most career paths don’t require a lot of preparation. If you want to manage a restaurant, you don’t need a degree or years of practice before taking over and doing a reasonable job. You will have to spend some time in the restaurant business learning every job and station. There is no substitute for experience. Some jobs are like that, the entry-level is very accessible and success mostly requires showing up every day. Much the same can be said for retail success.
However, some careers are a little more demanding. If it is true that much reward is the product of many risks, part of that risk has to be the time and money you sacrificed just to enter the field. You can’t just decide you are going to be a gymnast at age 16. If you have not done the necessary years of preparation, you are too late. In the field of professional gymnastics, 16 is considered venerable by some. While we don’t want to say that these careers are impossible to enter later in life, it is generally true that you need to start young for the following:
You can’t just decide to become an attorney and expect to do well on the LSAT the very next day. Many people fall below the LSAT score range the first time they try. And those are the people who studied like mad. About two-thirds get it in the first shot. But that leaves a lot of people who have to keep trying. To pass that kind of exam, you need a lot of the right kind of preparation.
If your child shows aptitude for being a lawyer, you have to encourage them at a young age so that they will want to do the kind of study and preparation it takes to make it all the way. If they like to argue, don’t shut them down. Give them a safe space to argue and make sure they hone their arguments so they can do a better job of it. This idea terrifies many parents. But the skills of debate and applied logic and persuasion are not skills you just pick up in a couple of semesters. They are cultivated over the course of a lifetime.
You might have heard about the billionaire that failed the LSAT twice before giving up and finding their vocation. What you need to know is that these are not normative. There is not usually a pot of god at the end of a failed LSAT. So make it count the first time by preparing your children early.
You can learn to play an instrument late in life and be reasonably competent. But if you want your child to grow up to be a professional musician, be sure they learn to play when they’re young.
There is a huge difference between knowing how to play the piano for a church and being a concert pianist or studio musician. If you want them to have any hope of being a violinist, they should probably encounter one about the time they are old enough to hold one. Getting music out of one of those things is hard. Getting art out of them is the pursuit of a lifetime. Just be sure not to force it. If they don’t love the journey, they will wash out before they make it to the MET.
It is not just gymnastics. It is all athletics. They might learn the basic skills of a sport like football later in life. But if they don’t start as a child, they will not have the muscle memory and body training it takes to be successful. You have to know how to fall and take a hit and push your body to the brink. Those are not things you learn late in life. Those are the things coaches can build on to create athletic greatness. If you have a durable child with endless energy, consider athletics.
Some parents are afraid of contact sports because of the inherent dangers. But there has never been a better and safer time to experience contact sports. We have the science, technology, rules, and awareness to make athletic pursuits safer than ever. One of the best ways to ensure safety is to start them young. That way, they have years of training and muscle memory, muscle toning, and muscle strengthening. That kind of development will serve them well even if they ultimately don’t make the cut in the big leagues.
If you want your child to become the next Sidney Poitier, you have to get them in the school play right now. The skills they need often start before school. It is a matter of recognizing the traits and cultivating them. Your precocious kid might be the next great comedian. Your little drama queen might become an actual drama queen. Your child who wants to hear a new story every night might become the greatest storyteller of her time. The world is full of people with the right potential. But only a handful of parents and teachers and administrators see that potential for what it is and channel it in the right direction.
This can be an exceedingly challenging task because the traits that make a person a good actor are annoying and largely undesirable when they are children. Parents do their best to mute those traits and cultivate more desirable traits. Don’t think of your child as bad. Rather, regard them as people with traits you can shape into a profitable and productive future with a little patience, investment, and help from professionals who know how to draw out that potential.
If they have a head for numbers, your kids can become an accountant starting at any age. But if you want your children to be a lawyer, professional musician, athlete, or an actor, look for the early signs and start them as early as possible.