Tuesday, November 30, 2010
8 to be Great and 21st Century Skills
Richard St. John's, The 8 Traits Successful People Have in Common: 8 to be Great is the distillation of a large number of interviews with successful people into the most critical lessons for success. He interviewed about 500 successful people in diverse fields and collected additional interviews of successful people, compiling a big database on their thoughts on the keys to success.
St. John identified about 300 traits and from those, he identfied eight major traits, shared most widely. The eight traits are listed below.
- Passion: Successful people love what they do
- Work: They work very hard
- Focus: They focus on one thing, not everything
- Push: They keep pushing themselves
- Ideas: They come up with good ideas
- Improve: They keep improving themselves and what they do
- Serve: They serve others something of value
- Persist: They persist through time, failure and adversity
One of the interesting characteristics of these traits is that they are not inate. They are thought to be learnable, which suggests that they can help nearly anyone achieve their success in their lives.
The Partnership for 21st Century Skills advocates teaching and assessing students on skills that go beyond the typical core curriculum. The 21st Century Skills include
- Creativity and innovation
- Critical thinking and problem solving
- Communication and collaboration
- Flexibility and adaptability
- Initiative and self-direction
- Social and cross-cultural skills
- Productivity and accountability
- Leadership and responsibility
This list of skills certainly looks like good skills for students to acquire. But if St. John is correct, and his list of traits are the most critical for success, what are the right skills to teach?
- Should we teach how to find and pursue a passion (found to be the most critical trait of successful people)?
- Should we teach students how to focus and minimize distractions?
- Should we teach students how to persist on long-term projects and how to overcome disappointments?
- Should we teach students how to assess whether a piece of work is actually useful to and serves others and how to make it even more valuable to others?
It is debatable, of course, whether St. John's eight traits are truly the most important. But if we assume for a moment that they are, shouldn't we teach students to acquire the traits for success?
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