Tag Archives: success

Extracurricular Activities Are Overrated

When my kids were growing up my wife and I were always under pressure to follow the other school parents to be “soccer mom” or “soccer dad”. Whenever we were around with other parents we constantly heard stories of how busy they were busing their children around for sports.

In addition to that the elementary schools at my town always encourage the students to join school music band or choir singing. These activities continue to be important activities as the students move to middle school and high school. Unfortunately, I have to say all these activities are a waste of time. Before you jump up and down disagreeing my statement I want to lay out several reasons as they will not have any impact on your children future.

My assessment is based on my observation, experience as well as what I read over the years. Obviously not all activities are useless. Some universities and colleges, particularly certain ivy league schools do look at some of these activities as prerequisites for admission. Usually this applies to only certain exceptional students.

Time and Money Waste

A lot of these activities are not cheap. There is always a fee or monthly expense. Besides that you need to think about the gas you will need to drive them around. The most important waste of all is time. Each activity can last up to 2 hours and we all know time is money. Take soccer practice as an example. To be good at soccer, a 8th grader will need to attend at least 2 soccer practices a week and each can go for 2 hours. During any tournament or game, it could be 2 to 4 hours. And the parents will need to sacrifice by taking time off just to drive them around. Once the children past high-school, none of the experience gained will be useful because when they are in college not one professor will care about their soccer games. When they start looking for a job, not one employer would ask about these activities.

Extra Activities mean Less Important Activities

Believe it or not, in order to excel in today’s world you need to be really good in one field. Using computer field as an example, you need to know a lot of this subject. Not only you need to learn the programming language of today, you need to be also well versed with current technology. Without these knowledge, sitting in front of a hiring manager would be very challenging. I can tell you that the hiring manager would not ask about the soccer game you won when you were in 8th grade. Attending to these extracurricular activity means you have less time to learn anything else.

Children has Finite Energy

Children may have a lot of energy during a soccer practice or game over the weekend but they are likely collapse because lack of sleep or too tired to do anything else right immediately after the game. Most children around the teenage age requires a lot of energy as part of growing up. Putting them in sport activities may starve their bodies of required nutrients for their bodies to grow properly. As an example, one of our family friends has a daughter who runs in the track and very active in soccer. However, she is extremely thin and small for her age when she is compared to her peers.

Teamwork is Overrated

One of the biggest opponent of these activities are it instill teamwork values in them. Unfortunately, this term is overrated. Teamwork is not something you can learn by joining just a sport game. Teamwork is something you learn by being around a group of people aiming for the same objectives. In other words, you learn it during school projects, participating in a club or being a spectator in a game. I learned that teamwork is importing when I started working full-time. However, it is not often being used because everyone of us have assigned role in an organization. So often than not, the work is so segregated that the moniker “teamwork” is only used on the piece of paper but rarely practiced.

Education is More Important

What happens if the children spend all their waking hours participating in these activities but rarely allow them time to study. The end result is their grade may suffer. They may show up on trophy cups or school papers but when they continue to fail in all their classes, they may not be able to attend any higher education to pursue their dreams. My son’s girlfriend is an exceptional case. She is really good in her soccer and track. Additionally, she continues to do well at school. However, she rarely has any free time to do anything else.

My wife and I never pushed our 3 grown children to join any activities. And they turn up fine. My son will be graduating from Rutgers University with good grades and he will be working as an intern with Amazon AWS in the summer. That was the ultimate litmus test that I seeked for that confirmed my assessment is correct.

Extracurricular activities may help build characters but in a lot of times behavior starts at home through family values. Personally I believe children should be allowed to explore on their free time. Some may find interests in building cars while some may enjoy helping local community by volunteering. Children should not be defined how successful they are in scoring goals until they are too exhausted to do anything else.

Everyone Can Be Exceptional Employee

Every living soul at one time or another want to be able to contribute positively to a cause. Be it as an environmentalist, a teacher or a good Samaritan. In the corporate structure, being able to contribute to the success of a company is one thing, but how do you get recognized. Being recognized and getting the paycheck go hand in hand. Believe it or not, it is not difficult.

I have been working in several large corporations close to 30 years and I have learned to adopt several methods that will ensure continued success in my career. In large multi-national corporations, the human resources department always strive to keep and retain “A” employees. So it is in their best interest to keep these employees happy through higher salary and bonuses. However, it also go both ways. The employees need to be able to contribute positively.

Companies adopted what they call “Performance Management” to gauge if the employees are “A” players. Usually employees are placed into several tiers:

  • Exceptional – these are the employees who continue to perform above expectations. They are usually recognized by everyone in the organization to go above and beyond what is asked of them.
  • Above Expectations – employees who meet the expectations are placed in this tier. Employees usually meet the goals and objectives they were expected to complete.
  • Meet – the employees who have met all the expectations after a negative rating previous year. This usually applies to employees who continue to struggle at their job assignments but have made some improvements.
  • Development needed – employees who did not meet expectations and is expected to be appraised again.
  • Unsatisfactory – this applies to employees who failed to meet expectations are expected to be on the “chopping” block.

While the above ratings seem simplistic enough, companies place a lot of thoughts in ensuring the process is full proof. I’ve seen some process so complicated and convoluted that completing the process became a chore itself. And some companies would go to the other spectrum and make the process as simple as possible.

I have been completing my performance management for all my professional life and I’ve seen it all. While I continue to think the process is a chore but a necessary one. Without the process, I would not be getting the salary that I hoped for and I would not know if my peers are valuing my contribution. I’m happy to say I have always been in the exceptional “A” employee. You can be too and here are several tips on how to place yourself in the exceptional tier

Be Motivated and Excited

To be able to achieve the goals you set out for yourself, first you need to be excited about the job. If you believe the job is boring and you are not going anywhere, no matter how hard you tried you will not make the cut. Employers and managers do sense when the employees are not performing. If the employees always come to work late or the employees disappear for no apparent reason, this is usually due to the employees feel bored or no longer have any interest in performing the work. If you want to be recognized, you need to first recognize your weaknesses.

Set Clear Goals (using your prior year achievements)

At the beginning of the year, every employees must set goals and objectives that they are supposed to achieve. Usually this is not a clear piece of paper. Employers know this and they usually provide a template from last year for the employees to fill. The best way is to look at what you achieved last year and tweak it slightly. Add new objectives if you believe there are specific projects that you could excel add. As an example, if you will not become the President of the company, you would not add it in your objectives. Set clear goals and something you can achieve.

Listen and Listen Again

Keep your ears on the ground and listen to the company’s direction. If you are aware of the company may perform a job cut due to economy downturn, update your goals to point out how you can contribute positively to the continued success of the company in the challenging times. Again, keep it clear and achievable. Be agile and adapt to the changing environment; in this case you do not need to keep updating the Performance Document but do keep a record of what you have achieved during the year. This becomes handy as you rate yourself at the end of the year.

Asking is Important

During the year you need to be able to perform the work assigned to you. If you are not clear of the assignment, ask. When you ask employers or managers will notice that you are attentive and are willing to learn. This is something that I continue to use to help me prioritize my work. When I’m not able to meet the deadline I will clearly communicate to my managers and “ask” for further guidance. Now that I am a manager, I expect my employees to take the initiative to ask questions. If I do not get any questions, I expect the assignment to be completed without problems.

Advertise Smartly

Completing the work is one thing but being recognized is very different because managers do not sit next to you the entire year. You need to use the best technology available to assist you – the email. Advertise your achievement subtlety so your managers are aware. As an example, you may thank your clients for being a good client and how you could be of any help by including your manager as CC. Or you could forward the positive feedback you received to your team thanking them for helping in the project (and copy your manager).

You Are Not Important

Employment is voluntary and believe it or not it is not about you. Companies exist to make money and they have shareholders and constituents that they need to make happy. As an employee, you need to remember this and always place the company’s interest first. While most companies have consider employees as important asset, the ultimate goal remains to bring in profit to sustain the activities of the companies. By placing company’s interest first will help you how to adapt to any changing environment and hence meet and exceed company’s expectations.

Get Feedback

During the course of the year it maybe necessary to seek feedback from your managers or people that you work for. This is helpful in ensuring you are on the right track and also show you care about the assignment. Completing the work and then hide yourself in your cubicle will just do the opposite. Similar to the point above, use the feedback session to advertise your achievement. Employers love to obtain feedback particularly from clients. If your managers know that you were part of the achievement, they are likely to provide positive reinforcements through bump in salary or bonus increase.

Most recently college graduates go through the coursework with the intent to make “big” money but companies continue to place their interest first and will hire employees who will provide benefit to their operations. To that end they will use tools and metrics to ensure the employees meet the minimal threshold if the employees should be kept or let go. Sometimes it is a shock to these graduates that they are on the chopping block because they put their own interests instead of the company first. Hopefully my points above will help anyone to climb the career ladder and make the “big” money as they progress through their career.

If you have other pointers, I would love to hear them. Thank you for reading.