A few days ago, I ran into a guy at the airport who is currently working as an engineer. We ended up spending an hour geeking out on the future of space travel and talking about quantum physics and discussing Logical Positivism and philosophy.
Over the course of the conversation, I mentioned the fact that my son loves engineering type stuff. “I sometimes wonder if he’ll end up becoming an engineer.”
“You have no idea if your kid is going to be an engineer. Maybe that kid who loves taking apart cars will be a mechanic or maybe an engineer. But maybe that kid decides, after two years of community college, that he’s actually really good at budgets and decides to go into finance or become an artist or become a programmer.”
“But what would you say to a kid who says, ‘I want to be an engineer when I grow up?’ What advice would you give?”
“I wouldn’t have any idea what advice to give. I’d rather talk to that kid who is convinced that he’d be a horrible engineer because he sucks at math. I wasn’t supposed to go to college. I was bad at school. Really bad at it. But I liked to figure out how stuff works. But nobody told me, ‘Hey, you don’t have to have it figured out in junior high or high school or even in the first year or two of college.’ I would let that kid know that it’s not too late. Doors might be closed, but that doesn’t mean that they’re locked.”
That conversation has stuck with me since then. What if he’s right? What if we told kids that they don’t have to have it all figured out ahead of time? What if they knew that doors might be shut but they aren’t locked for good?