My son is very sweet. He's ambitious, at least with his words and intentions. Rarely does that translate into practice. For a while now, he's been saying he wants to be a digital artist, so he and I can make computer games. After all, I am a programmer. Why shouldn't we pair up?
Time and time again he starts laying out another idea for a game. Recently he had a pretty good idea. Usually they're terrible (sorry kid) but he's improving. We talk through the dynamics and how to make it the most fun. Then he begins talking about the art, and we get derailed. He's in a hurry.
I tell him time and time again that if you want to be an artist you must draw something every day. You don't even have to come up with an original topic, find some character you like and practice drawing it. His retort sums up everything I think is wrong with our educational system. "Why don't I wait until I go to college to learn to be an artist?", he asks.
It's a good question and the answers may not be so obvious. Or at least in ways that are made to encourage someone to independently learn and pursue their interests. My son, age 8, still has a hard time grasping the concept of self-directed learning. He went through Montessori preschool. Currently he's in a charter school focused on learning through experimentation. He still does not believe that he can reach basic competency without a teacher. That belief leads to one terminal question: Why not wait until you can get a teacher?
When we delay learning and practicing until we have the best teacher, we're creating a learning gap that can be next to impossible to overcome. Especially in a highly competitive field, the best jobs always have competition. You can be a line cook or a famous chef, the difference is how you approach you work and the dedication to the craft.
On any new endeavor you start with one thing in common. It can be something small or something big; you start with only yourself. Every active experience we have enhances and improves ourselves improving what we start with in the future. We make ourselves more valuable through practice, learning, and simply existing with our minds open and active. Active experiences are how we improve ourselves, and waiting until we get into college to practice any skill just stunts our growth.
To do great things we always stand on the shoulders of giants. The ladder to climb is our past-self; which is the combination of our active experiences and practices. Without that practice, we'll always be clawing at the ankles of greatness.