I was so fired up after reading Dan Pink’s book, A Whole New Mind, in 2010, that the day after I finished it I made an appointment to tell the headmaster of my son’s school about it. I loved the way it described not just the potential but the NEED for creative people like Max in the world. I thought that the headmaster would be just as excited as I was for ways to encourage the “right-brained” kids that their skillset was just as important as the more “left-brained” guys who excelled at math and science.

Alas, his response was, essentially, “Meh.” As the head a of an old private school for boys (in Johannesburg, South Africa) based on a British model, he was an educational traditionalist. He might have found the concepts interesting, but they didn’t light him up the way I’d hoped they would.

That’s why I’m telling you about it – so that you can encourage your creative teens that the world is their oyster. As Dan says, “The future belongs to a different kind of person with a different kind of mind: artists, inventors, storytellers – creative and holistic “right-brain” thinkers whose abilities mark the fault line between who gets ahead and who doesn’t.”

Here’s an introduction to the six “fundamentally human abilities” – in other words, qualities that can’t be automated – that are absolute essentials for professional success in the post-information age and also for personal fulfillment. It’s drawn directly from A Whole New Mind.

(Note: I get no perks from promoting this or even if you buy the book. I’m pretty sure Dan doesn’t even know who I am, although I’ve been following him and using these ideas in my coaching for years.)

  1. DESIGN. It’s no longer sufficient to create a product, a service, an experience, or a lifestyle that’s merely functional. Today it’s economically crucial and personally rewarding to create something that is also beautiful, whimsical, or emotionally engaging.
  2. STORY. When our lives are brimming with information and data, it’s not enough to marshal an effective argument. Someone somewhere will inevitably track down a counterpoint to rebut your point. The essence of persuasion, communication and self-understanding has become the ability to also fashion a compelling narrative.
  3. SYMPHONY. Much of the Industrial and Information Ages required focus and specialization. But as white-collar work gets routed to Asia and reduced to software, there’s a new premium on the opposite aptitude: putting the pieces together, or what I call Symphony. What’s in greatest demand today isn’t analysis but synthesis – seeing the big picture, crossing boundaries and being able to combine disparate pieces into an arresting new whole.
  4. EMPATHY. The capacity for logical thought is one of the things that makes us human. But in a world of ubiquitous information and advanced analytic tools, logic alone won’t do. What will distinguish those who thrive will be their ability to understand what makes their fellow woman or man tick, to forge relationships, and to care for others.
  5. PLAY. Ample evidence points to the enormous health and professional benefits of laughter, lightheartedness, games and humor. There is a time to be serious, of course. But too much sobriety can be bad for your career and worse for your general well-being. In [this new] Conceptual Age, in work and in life, we all need to play.
  6. MEANING. We live in a world of breathtaking material plenty. That has freed hundreds of millions of people from day-to-day struggles and liberated us to pursue more significant desires: purpose, transcendence and spiritual fulfillment.

Do you have a creative teen who wonders whether their skills are valuable? Do you wonder? Does this help?

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