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We tell our kids to go to school, K-12 (elementary school, middle school, and then high school), and then we tell them to graduate. Perfect. Right message.

We then tell our kids to continue on to college, graduating there, and attaining some degree in higher education. Perfect. Right message here too.

And then we tell our kids to then go find a job at either big business (or government).

You can almost name the name brand companies that we tell our kids will hire them after graduation. The only problem is, this just may be the wrong answer. 

Fact: there are less than 1,000 companies in America that employ more than 10,000 people, and only 8% of all jobs comes from government. 

Leaders digging in all the wrong holes.

Leaders have good intentions, but the fact is neither big business nor government are where most organic new job growth is coming from in the economy. We are simply digging in the wrong holes, to quote my friend Jim Clifton, CEO of Gallup.

New jobs for our future.

As I detail in a prior LinkedIn Influencers post, in the U.S., jobs and job creation (mostly) comes from start-ups, shoot-ups, small businesses and entrepreneurs, in enterprise years 3 through 7. And out of 26M to 27M registered business enterprises in the U.S., only 6M create one job or more, and only about 2M of them are what we might call job creation engines. And almost all of these 2M employ less than 1,000 people. There are only 18,000 businesses that employ between 1,000 and 10,000 people in America. Half of all jobs in America, are small businesses with 100 employees or less.

Re-connecting education with aspiration.

As I detail in How The Poor Can Save Capitalism: Rebuilding the Path to the Middle Class, we have failed to connect education with aspiration for young people. As a result, young people are dropping out of high school at a 30% to 70% rate in the United States alone. 

Kids don’t want a lecture about grades or even graduation, no different than you do not go to bed dreaming about a 12%, subprime mortgage. You want to become a homeowner, and the mortgage simply facilitates this dream. You don’t dream about the car loan, you dream about the car. And it continues, a kid wants to (understandably) see a connection between their education and their life’s aspirations. 

LinkedInJHBKids either want ‘a good job,’ as my friend Jim Clifton, CEO of Gallup outlines in his groundbreaking book THE COMING JOBS WAR, or they want a legitimate shot at economic opportunity in their lives.

The question is — does our educational experience connect them with these aspirations? Do we even know what they are?

A school-based system for American BUILDERS.

If you want to identify young people who can become the next NBA great, we have a system for that. We can even tell you who the stars are in elementary or middle school.

If you want to identify young people who will become the next NFL or baseball star, we have a system for that, and we can tell you who the stars for those sports will be around the same ages.

If you are in Canada, they can tell you in elementary school who the future stars of their National Hockey League will be. They start at a very early age, nurturing these young people all the way up and through to the NHL. Canada has a system for that.

If you want to identify pure academic IQ in America, we have a proven system for that. It’s called grades, GPA and things like ACT scores.

But if you want to identify the one skill that America needs to continue to rise, grow and thrive — the builder/leader/entrepreneur skill set — there is absolutely no system for that.

We just leave that one to chance.

No wonder everyone from Bill Gates to Steve Jobs to Ted Turner to Michael Dell, just opted right out of college. My guess is, at some point the experience just wasn’t speaking to them. And it’s not just them.

I opted out of high school early, taking the test for the GED so I could focus all of my energies on my entrepreneurial dreams (comedian Chris Rock calls the GED a ‘Good-Enough-Diploma’).


I am not suggesting that every kid will or can be an entrepreneur. But what I am suggesting is that every kid growing up can benefit from a leadership mindset, and the skills of entrepreneurship translate into every aspect of life.

Whether it is running a household budget, when you have ‘too much month at the end of your money,’ being a teacher or an office manager, or whether it’s running a department of a company as an employee. An innovative, persistent, resilient, get it done, “figuring out what I am for mindset,” is always valuable.

I think that a proper high school degree, and even a degree in higher education, is essential in today’s environment, particularly if you come from a disadvantaged background. But these educational experiences must connect with a young person’s aspirations, or you will just lose them straight away.

Understood this please: a 30% plus high school drop rate is mission failure. This is not about blame or judgement. It is a material fact.

Any business with a 10-15% product rejection rate would be in very serious trouble, very quickly. Your customer, is just walking away from your product.

But I believe we can attract them to come back, and create a system that helps America win again, at the same time.

In How The Poor Can Save Capitalism, I call for a series of HOPE Business In A Box Academies, operating in American public schools. In these academies we would START with every high school student taking Gallup Strength Finders, as step one. It amazes me how much energy we spend trying to get young people to ‘fix’ their weaknesses, so I guess they can be ‘less weak.’ How about showing these young people what their strength’s are, and then creating a glide path that builds strength-on-strength? 

Our HOPE Business In A Box Academies are connecting their formal education to real life confidence, skill, aptitude building. And then connecting all of this, to real-world role models, an empowering environment, economic energy, aspiration (a code word for hope), and finally opportunity.

This inspiring video of young Princess Paulmerie, a HOPE Business In A Box Academysuccess story in Oakland, California, is but one example of what can be done to empower our young people. It tells its own story.

When I was growing up (9 years old), a banker came into my classroom and taught me and my class about the language of money, or financial literacy. I actually remember how this man was dressed. He had on a snappy suit, and looked really professional and upwardly mobile.

I asked him what he did for a living, and “how did he get rich, legally?” And I was serious.

He told me he was a banker, and that he “financed entrepreneurs.” I didn’t have a clue what an entrepreneur was back then, but from that moment on I was determined to become one! 

The next year I borrowed $40 from my mother and started the Neighborhood Candy House. Within a few short weeks, and at 10 years old, I was making $300 a week selling candy to my teachers and fellow students at school. Soon enough, I put the corner liquor store out of the candy selling business. Imagine what this does to the self-esteem and self-confidence of a 10-year old!

I don’t remember how tough classes or school was, or even all of the none stop drama that occupied my inner-city neighborhood of Compton, California. I was all wrapped up in my dreams. And here I am today, a businessman running a global enterprise, creating jobs, and meeting a payroll every two weeks.

As I make the case strongly in How The Poor Can Save Capitalism —- It wasn’t rocket science, it was role modeling.

Let’s actually prepare our kids for both the jobs that actually exist in the world, and the bold aspirations that are locked away in their soul.

Let’s re-imagine everything. 

Let’s go.


John Hope Bryant is the Founder, Chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE and Bryant Group Companies, Inc. Magazine/CEO READ bestselling business author of LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass), and is the only 2010-2012 bestselling business author in America who is also African-American. His newest bestselling book is HOW THE POOR CAN SAVE CAPITALISM (Berrett Koehler Publishing). Bryant is a Member of the U.S. President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans,and co-chair for Project 5117, which is a plan for the rebirth of underserved America.

Follow John Hope Bryant on LinkedIn Influencers here