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Leading This Next “Generation Whatever”

Last week I shared with you the experience I had in seeing my two oldest boys get into the schools of their choice, and what I learned during that process. Now all of you know that I have three boys, and many of you have probably already met my youngest son, Shaan. Today, I want to tell you a little bit more about him. He is the embodiment of what our next generation is going to be and I’m not ashamed to tell you that I’m both really excited but also a little scared.

Shaan’s 13 and is living his best life. He’s in the 7th grade, loves to be part of the different clubs at school, has a high ratio of girls for friends in comparison to boys, and loves to be actively engaged. So let’s first discuss what really excites me:

When we hosted Build IT last summer, it was our final year in New Jersey, so we thought why not bring our kids along to see what Mom and Dad do. Did Shaan steal the show? 100%! He was thriving in his element, he manned the snack station, would make sure that everybody had food and water. He would visit the different booths to make sure that all of our sponsors were being well taken care of. Did he help himself to a few of the choochkies? Yes, he did (Thanks, Cisco????). But what does Shaan teach us about this next generation? They are fearless, have a zest for life, and are not afraid to speak their minds.

If you were to put me in a room with 500 adults at the young age of 12, I’d probably have been a blubbering mess. But Shaan was having conversations, picking up on the industry lingo, talking ITBD solutions, and he loved it. He was in his element. Everybody at the show knew Shaan. Did he get a standing ovation at the end of Build IT? Heck yeah! Nothing holds him back. It doesn’t matter if there’s 500 people at this conference or one, he’s going to go and be the best version of himself.

Shaan is a social being and loves being an active participant in life. I learned very quickly just how much so. Two weeks after we moved into the new school district, I’d pull up to the school drop off area and his principal would be standing outside welcoming all the children. Normal, yes, but in less than two weeks, the principal knew Shaan and would take a moment to say “Hi Shaan” as he would hi five Officer PJ as he walked into the school. They all knew him. Yes, he was the new kid, so for most of us it would have taken a while to make new friends. Not Shaan. I’m not ashamed to admit that it took me about 9 months to go say hi to all my new neighbors. For Shaan, in the second week of us having moved in, he had gone up to every door and rung the bell to introduce himself. He made friends with one of our neighbors, a widower, who loves to garden. He would ride his scooter to her house and chat about all of the gardens he started (now how many actually survived is a different story, but I digress). He is that social being and it’s important to him. They need that interaction to be happy.

At the beginning of each school year, elections are held for the student body. Before Shaan moved into our current town, I never thought that he would be one for politics. When Shaan decided he was going to run for student council last year, I was a little shocked. He was the first of my children to show any interest in politics. But that’s not the surprising thing – when he didn’t win his vice president seat for student council, he was okay. His ability to handle rejection, not one, but two years in a row and being willing to put himself out there as the “new kid” showed me his ability to handle rejection. He was still on the committee, participating and making a difference. He wasn’t going to be deterred once he put his mind to something. Shaan is adamant, he’s going to be the President of the United States one day. And so what if he lost his vice president campaign, there’s always next year ????

This next generation, in the age of Tik Tok and social media, will have to work harder to do what’s right. Earlier this year, there was an issue about some comments being made to a young girl at school. Shaan came into my office after school one day and said, “Mom, they aren’t bullying me but they are bullying her. I think I’m going to have to say something.” And he went and he told the counselor. I think they’re much more aware of what being a kid is like in this generation. There are some things he just chalks up to being a kid. Did I make a lot of donations to school causes these past two years? Yes, but that in itself shows he knows that whatever difference he wants to make in this world has to start from home first. This next generation is going to be different. I’m hopeful of it. They want to make a difference, and they know that the difference starts with them.

Now what scares me: Does this next generation know the value of hard work? In us wanting to provide a “better life” for our kids, have we made them lack the fundamental skills of hard work? Or are they smarter than all of us and able to use their resources better? I don’t know the answer to that question. But I do know Shaan was able to get me and his dad engaged in his political campaign. He had both of us discussing his purpose and was able to get his dad to help him with printing posters with the help of our graphics team. Now, did we do the work for him, or was he resourceful in knowing how to engage the WHO’s to get it done? I don’t know the answer and that scares me.

This generation is also impetuous. In the age of one-minute Tik Tok video that tell the “news” I don’t know if they’re doing enough research to make the smart decisions. What I do know is that Mom and Dad are usually wrong, and they know the truth. He got his news from Inside Edition – WHAT?! Now I know networks and politics are divisive, but research should still be a valuable skill. Were we like that as kids? I don’t know, but what I do know is that encyclopedia Britannica was a huge investment when we were kids. We didn’t have ChatGPT writing papers for us, or Tik Tok delivering the news. Now don’t worry everyone, the history teacher in me is working on that piece of Shaan’s personality to ensure that the nuclear launch codes he may have in the future are in safe hands! Your welcome, America.

I’ve loved writing this piece because not only did it put a smile on my face to see the beauty that is in my child, but also the opportunities that Sunny and I will continue to help support him on. Too often we only look at the day to day work of being parents and forget to take a closer look at our children. This is the next generation that will be leading the world. What do we see in them that inspires us? And what are the opportunities for us to support them?

For all of you employers out there, get ready for this next generation. It will challenge you. For those of you who are parents, go home tonight, tell your kids how great they are, and then tell them to take out the trash and to write a paper on climate change on the way down to the curb – no ChatGPT allowed ????.

For more content like this, be sure to follow IT By Design on LinkedIn and YouTube, check out our on-demand learning platform, Build IT University, and be sure to register for Build IT LIVE, our 3-day education focused conference, September 9-11, 2024 in Orlando, FL!