Do They Have a Project?

Everyone wants their kids to be successful. It just seems like we have a very poor understanding of how to do that. Think of the most successful–financially, professionally, personally–people you know. Think of the people whose world class skills you admire the most. Think of the greats of history. 

How did they get there? It was almost never on the conventional path. And yet this is precisely what we spend our time and energy directing our children towards!

“It’s a bit sad to think of all the high school kids turning their backs on building treehouses and sitting in class dutifully learning about Darwin or Newton to pass some exam,” the great investor Paul Graham writes, “when the work that made Darwin and Newton famous was actually closer in spirit to building treehouses than studying for exams.”

Mastery doesn’t come from rote recitation. It comes from falling in love with something. It comes from hard work, sure, but only when the hard work is aligned with a passionate love of a subject or a craft or a field. Forget credentialing, give them something to sink their teeth in!

As Graham writes, “If I had to choose between my kids getting good grades and working on ambitious projects of their own, I’d pick the projects. And not because I’m an indulgent parent, but because I’ve been on the other end and I know which has more predictive value. When I was picking startups for Y Combinator, I didn’t care about applicants’ grades. But if they’d worked on projects of their own, I wanted to hear all about those.”

If you want a kid who has real skills and real passion in this world, you’d be well served to do the same. 

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