“How much money do you make?” an inquisitive boy shouted from a small square table in the back of the room. Believe it or not, this was the first question I received when addressing my daughter’s 3rd grade class during “career day”.
I was more than a little surprised with the inquiry and stammered a little before I got out, “Just enough”. He pressed me and followed up with “How much is that?” I told him that I made exactly what I deserved and moved on to what I hoped would be an easier question.
Luckily, I got a “Does speaking make you nervous?” and “What did you study in college?” before I received a thoughtful “Do you have to work a lot of weekends?” There were still 5 or 6 questions to be asked, but I felt it was time to wrap up and told the group I would take 1 more. I searched the room and tried to find the person whose hand had been raised the highest and would be the most disappointed if I skipped them entirely.
“Ok, how about the young man with the red shirt”, I said. A smile beamed across his face, before he asked, “How much do you get paid every time you speak?” Again, a little surprised I replied that it depended on the size of the group and the topic.
“Is it more than $100?” shouted out another student and before I could answer I heard, “How about $500?” from the other side of the room. For the first time in my career, I was speechless in front of an audience. Luckily, Mrs. Street brought the speech “auction” to a close and asked the class to thank me for the visit.
I left the room surprised that a 9-year-old would care how much one of their classmate’s parents earned for a living and absolutely floored that they would ask the question.
My experience in Mrs. Street’s 3rd grade class reinforces what is happening throughout our country. Many of today’s youth believe that the only way to feel good about yourself is to be successful, which typically requires a great career and a big salary.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a new trend and it’s only getting worse.
Our children watch us work long hours, drive the best cars, go on lavish vacations and live in big houses filled with more stuff than we could ever possibly need. We justify all the effort and consumption – aka the chase – as a necessary part of being successful. In addition, we insist that they strive for perfection in everything to ensure they don’t “fall behind” their peers.
Now, we’re all so busy trying to outdo everyone else that no one slows down long enough to ask – “Is this really the best way to live?”
Maybe, it’s time to try a different approach.