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OPINION: A Commencement Address For Parents

May 25, 2012, 12:08 PM HST
* Updated May 28, 9:53 AM
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This year, give your graduate the greatest gift of all.

An ultimatum.

Whether it’s getting an apartment or joining the army, make sure they’re doing something fast.

Seeing your son or daughter leave the nest is ideally a tear-jerking experience. It can also be a cause for serious partying. But whether it brings anguish or applause, you need to get that kid moving, for both your sakes.

Unless your son is headed to Julliard and needs ten hours a day with his Oboe, the best thing any recent grad can experience is a little real-world elbow grease. Even if little Timmy has a trip to Stanford waiting for him in the fall, this summer it’s time to trade his PlayStation for a paycheck.

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Spectacular scholarships aside, many youngsters emerge from four year universities with debts rivaling their parent’s mortgage. College is a time for exploration, but before they get there, have your kid spend some time with Taco Bell.

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After rolling a few minimum wage burritos, they may think twice about a BA in art history.

Oh, and about that college thing. If your daughter’s GPA was National Lampoon-quality and no school will touch her, breathe a sigh of relief. She can still earn a great income without all that dreadful debt. AND she’ll feel less entitled!

Just ask any chef that started off at a dish sink. A few years spent clawing at a career will either hone you into a skilled work horse or turbo-charge your academic aspirations. Besides, college costs are climbing, and the value of simply holding a degree is plummeting.

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Grit is starting to become more important than grades.

Mark Cuban, pictured at right. Image courtesy of NASA

Billionaire Mark Cuban recently said in a blog post “I want people who can do the job. I want the best and brightest. Not a piece of paper.” Cuban makes note of the increase in non-accredited online classrooms that train people for specific technical skills in high demand. Cuban cites Khan Academy as an example of the online learning revolution. Khan offers free videos and interactive learning on a wide variety of subjects, from calculus to civics.

In a world where anyone will soon be able to learn anything, what will set people apart? If everyone has access to the same tools, what will make them special?

Creativity will be key. But it only comes with motivation. Get your child working to get them thinking. If they won’t leave the couch, then sell it. The world is about to move a little bit faster, and your kids need to hit the ground running.

The stakes are high for both of you. If you don’t shove them out the door, you may someday be blessed with the pitter-patter of forty-year-old feet.

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