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Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


The 6 Big Price Tags of Preparing Students for the Future

Every year, educators talk about budget cuts and their school’s inability to do what’s necessary to equip students for life after graduation. As I have frequently stated, teachers are heroes, and I recognize there’s never quite enough money to do what’s necessary to prepare our emerging adults. Preparedness actually costs quite a bit.


There is a form of preparedness, however, that has nothing to do with money. It has everything to do with the price tag attached to genuinely preparing young adults for the world into which they will soon graduate. I actually don’t think it’s a money problem. For both parents and educators, I think we’re often unwilling or unable to pay the price it takes in other ways. Here are six big price tags we must be willing to pay:

1. You must have insight and foresight.

The first price tag is taking time to spot their strengths and weaknesses to see what areas they’ll need to grow in to be ready. This requires careful observation. Then, we need the foresight to envision what they’ll need down the road to make it as an adult. This requires perspective and experience. All of this means investing energy.

2. You must exhibit courage to have emotional conversations.

I just had an emotionally expensive conversation with a twenty-something. She has neglected to budget her money well, and over-spends her salary regularly. Then, she calls others for help. I’ve found it’s much easier to just give her $100 than to have the emotional conversation needed to explain why it’s not wise to keep giving her money. It’s harder to train a young adult than to simply give them what they want.

3. You must be able to face being disliked and misunderstood.

Along the way, if you’re going to prepare them for the future, you will likely make them angry with you. You’ll have to say “no,” “wait,” “here’s why you can’t do that” or “here’s why you must learn to do this.” You’ll be leading them down difficult paths. They won’t appreciate you in the moment, and they may even hate you for a while. Are you OK with that?

4. You must spot environments for them to experiment in growth. 

Young people don’t grow through mere lectures or even watching videos. Ultimately, they need to try new things. I believe humans are like rubber bands — we are only useful when we are stretched. This means we need to create or identify places that are safe for them to try and fail and to apply what they think they know. They need a lab, not just a lecture. This can be laborious, but I’ve found it is always worth it.

5. You must invest time — a lot of it.

Preparing them for responsible adulthood doesn’t happen overnight. It requires patience on our part and hours of forgiving, correcting, comforting, explaining and guiding. Often, we just don’t have the time, or won’t take the time to do this. We’re too busy or preoccupied with our own stuff. For us, time is more valuable than money — and it’s just too costly to spend it. Do you have time?

6. You must demonstrate your faith in them.

Finally, you can’t prepare them well if you don’t display a belief in their potential. They can spot it if you don’t really think they can do it. In fact, this shows up when we do things for them. Think for a moment: when we cover for them, we scream, “You obviously can’t pull this off on your own. Let me do it for you.” This is the ultimate insult. It makes them risk averse.

I spent an hour on the phone last week with a young adult who did not understand why I would not do something for him. He knew I could do it — but I knew if I did, he’d never learn to do it himself. We both cried. It was the most difficult discussion I’ve had this year. As we hung up the phone, I was sure he not only misunderstood my action, but probably now hated me. I am fairly certain, however, that he will appreciate me years from now. In the end, I am investing for his successful future, not my popular present. How will you spend your time and energy? Are you willing to pay these price tags?


Equip your students with the leadership & life skills
they need to become college & career ready with Habitudes.



  1. Ed Oyama on May 19, 2014 at 2:15 am

    Tim – what a build-up, sir. Reading on to points 4, 5, and 6, I found more and more that resonated with what I tried to do with students this past year, and what I can see coming ahead. It’s a difficult road. And it will cost time, energy and faith.

    That last story is a heartbreaker but a familiar one. As we mentor Central Asian students who see us as outsiders, we’re finding we have to be intentional and wise in what we provide help with and how.

    I heard an interesting story this weekend of a faith-based business in town that stopped hiring exclusively within their own faith… because they found that secular students did better work, and did not struggle with entitlement the way that their common-faith student employees did – because they were used to getting help for free!

    Love this post. Thanks again, Tim.

  2. Antone on May 19, 2014 at 7:47 am

    Some interesting thoughts, Tim, and as I reflected on this post, I realized that your six price tags used to be what education was about as a default! Go back to the colonial days and it was less mechanical and more more individual, tailored to the needs of the student. Mentoring was about character and producing a citizen that contributed to the good of society, not just pursuing personal agendas. Mentors would live life with students, because daily life was the laboratory of life.

    I still believe we as educators can make a difference. Everything we do in the classroom, from the climate, to being learner-centered, to how we assess, to how we structure a semester, can and will show how much we buy into the “price tags” of preparing our students for their future.

    Great reminder today of the sacrifice necessary for another’s success.

  3. Donovan Grant on May 21, 2014 at 2:51 am

    Nice post Tim. I love the 6 price tags. Makes me think back to preparing my middle daughter who has just completed her first year of Uni. It was not an easy road by any stretch and the big two that my wife and I invested in her was faith that she could achieve anything and time to let her own belief kick in. This message is definitely one that we need to share with others who believe in the next generation. Thanks.

  4. Clay Staires on May 22, 2014 at 7:20 am

    Thanks Tim. I had this discussion just yesterday with a 23 year old. “Clay, tell me what I’m supposed to learn from this.” He and his fiancé had just postponed their wedding after their fourth pre-marital counseling session. I really felt like I wasn’t supposed to give him the “answer”, but he needed to dig in and discover the truth himself. It was tough because he was hurting. Thanks for your encouragement today.

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The 6 Big Price Tags of Preparing Students for the Future