Last month, I read a statistic that 30% of incoming college freshman are first generation college students. That same USA Today article went on to highlight that:
“24% [of first generation college students] — 4.5 million — are both first-gens and low income. Nationally, 89% of low-income first-gens leave college within six years without a degree. More than a quarter leave after their first year — four times the dropout rate of higher-income second-generation students.”
Whether or not these young people succeed against the odds and graduate with a degree, they will soon encounter a whole new world changed by a global economy.
As a first generation professional, I have been earnestly trying to find my place and bearings in the working world. Because I was not exposed to any maps or models about how to navigate this terrain, I’m busily creating one of my own. A part of that map-making process involves me exploring and learning any knowledge and insight that will assist in skillfully finding my way over the course of my working life and sharing those discoveries with others.
My most recent indispensable find is Daniel H. Pink’s book A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future. I was told about this book a year ago. However, I now believe that I needed this past year of dedicated career exploration and professional development to truly appreciate the new world and whole new mind that Pink describes.
After reading Pink’s book, Oprah Winfrey purchased 4,500 copies of A Whole New Mind and gave it as a gift to Stanford’s class of graduating seniors following her commencement address in 2008. Why is this book so compelling? Because it simply makes a lot of sense. On a certain level, this book provides support for my very uncharacteristic pursuit of a masters degree in transpersonal psychology after earning undergraduate degrees in business and information and decision systems. In a parallel shift, a good friend of mine, a born artist, decided to pursue an MBA. I had imagined that I would be the person to get the MBA in our relationship. It’s a world turned topsy turvy. Pink’s book makes a convincing case for why we now find ourselves in a world economy with different values and emphases.
Those courageous and quirky students who chose to pursue art degrees have consistently been counseled to get some other type of degree, like business, to fall back on. A Whole New Mind implies that students who choose degrees like business and engineering also need to be counseled to get design and art related skills or minors in order to differentiate themselves in a global market flooded by knowledge workers. In an economy where the portability and ease of knowledge is exponentially magnified by technology, it’s exceedingly alluring for businesses to pay much less for a worker in another part of the world to do the same knowledge work (e.g., computer programming).
I have been operating with a very limited vision of the economy. I’m sure that I am not alone in this narrow focus. I have heard a lot about the “global economy.” However, I did not really understand the true impact of the global shift until reading this book. With an American-centered view of the world, I was confused as to why I was not able to easily find work again after obtaining my masters degree. The truth is that my undergraduate degrees, even though they were earned from a prestigious university, have undergone devaluation in this new global economy. My degrees are simply not worth as much as they used to be! Interestingly, Pink mentions my undergraduate university, Carnegie Mellon, several times in this book.
Pink does a great service by offering a description of six essential senses and related exercises to help the newly initiated global worker better navigate this new era of connectivity. Hone your design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning making senses. These six aptitudes are fun, creative and inspiring human abilities that will help reveal the unique contribution that only you can make to this world.
As I was completing my graduate studies in transpersonal psychology, which does impressively include all of these essential six senses, I felt like I was becoming a more whole person. In effect, I was creating a whole new mind through a new educational and professional path. May you also find the ways and means to a whole new mind on your professional development journey. Reading A Whole New Mind is a very beneficial step in the direction of becoming a global professional of the 21st century.
The message in the modified eye exam chart? America is the only economy that I need to give my attention – things have changed.