In a recent SAT class I was teaching in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, I overheard two students discuss their career paths. “I hope to catch on with a dance troupe.” said one. The other responded by discussing her dilemma about choosing between Broadway and touring as a singer. They are 17 years old. Not age 7. And, without giving away how I know them, I’ll suggest that I know enough about their talents to know that they are as likely to become professionals in these fields as pretty good high school basketball players are to play in the NBA.
We were cultured in the Dead Poet’s Society ethos where we were scarred by the horrible movie Dad who pressured his son to give up acting. I get it! I don’t want to burst the bubble of either my children or anyone else’s children. There is no reason why these young ladies should not vigorously hone their talents. But, too often, when I am providing college counseling advice to our clients, I will hear a student suggest a career path that does not comport with a realistic understanding of how the world works. I am a perpetual optimist. But I am also a realistic one. I have no problem telling an aspiring film maker that he should pursue his passion. I also add that he should spend the summer immersed in studying his craft, learning how to edit films, understand the nuances and subtleties of camera angles and lighting, and create several short films. I tell such students about the 10,000 hour goal (mastery comes after many hours!) and that they need to curtail their socializing, video-game playing, social media viewing, endless texting etc. to get in those hours. And, I tell them that there is no certainty that they will be successful. Some move forward. Many don’t.
I would like to think that I have saved many parents some hard battles with their children when I go through this exercise!