What's the most valuable thing 16 year olds can learn today?

Every year or so, I go back to my high school to say hi to my old teachers and tell each other how is life going.

This year, they've invited me to do a 2-4h workshop to a class full of 16-17 year olds in whichever topic that I choose.

What do you think would be the most valuable skill a 16 yo could start to learn in 2-4h?

I've thought of:
  • Programming
  • Public speaking
  • Data Science
But nothing concrete / not a clear workshop idea. What are your thoughts?

Besides kindness ;), I'd say the most valuable thing a 16 year old could learn today would be how to identify problems around them and how to apply entrepreneurial skills to solve those problems, creating value for themselves and for their communities.

So, "How to think like an entrepreneur" kind of thing?

This. As a 15 year old I wish this was taught in schools more. For context, I'm in an early college tech program at my school and as a group we all have an entrepreneurship unit as part of the high school side right now. It's a joke though. One of the lessons, we watched an episode of Shark Tank. It's infuriating because that's not what we should be taught early on. Instead it should be small, bootstrapped companies that we start ourself. They also stress the idea of inventions and patents, and how we should look for new ideas. Obviously this is important, but execution is often times more relevant than a unique idea.

@rileyw Thanks for your insights, I think your point of view is really valuable! Are you serious? "Watch SharkTank + file patents" as a way of teaching entrepreneurship, srsly? Lol. I'm sorry for you, man. Hope you learn here in WIP everything they're not teaching you.
So I guess your approach would be more of a "entrepreneurship workshop"? But like real entrepreneurship haha How would you imagine a perfect workshop like that?

Haha, yes, seriously! It wouldn't have to be workshop persay, but I would at least go over that entrepreneurship isn't just about investors, patents or "making it big". I think a lot of kids my age have that pre-conceived notion. Of course it could be that, but there are a ton of forms of entrepreneurship. Online, in-person, bootstrapped, funded, side projects, full-time projects, big companies, solo projects, etc.

Besides programming, public speaking and data science, I can only think about sales and learning itself. Sales is the ultimate skill and how to learn is the ultimate meta skill.

Other useful (at least for me) meta skills:
- How to properly identify problems and opportunities (why 99% of startups fail)
- How to measure opportunity cost
- How to properly take pragmatical decisions based on opportunity cost (minimize regrets)
- How to organize your finances, avoid debt and stuff (personal finances is important af and this is not taught here)

As a personal note, I wish I had learned earlier to deal with emotions, breakdowns and stuff.

Hope it helps.

Really insightful answer, it really helps. Main points to me: metalearning + entreprenurial skills (selling, problem/solution, risk/regrets...)

How would you personally like a 4h workshop in which, either alone or in a group you choose, and me only being a guide, you have to:

  • List the top 10 problems you find in your own life, then choose only one
  • Go out and talk with target people and learn if this is in fact a real problem
  • Come back, think of a realistic solution
  • Google "how to make a website with Weebly" and sketch a crappy website in 20 min explaining your solution
  • Go out (either physically or virtually) and convince at least 1 target person to give you their email address showing your new website
  • Come back and reflect about what did you learn, what did you do wrong and what could you do to make it 10x better?

I'd only be a guide and refer to Google in case of easy/trivial questions.

Crazy idea maybe, but really interested in your opinion – would you find this any interesting?

So you're proposing a startup weekend? haha

I think that's a lot of stuff to do in two or four hours, I would take a less actionable approach and do instead a more philosophical approach. My two cents: teenagers live in a world of doubt and insecurity. They don't know what they want to do.

Telling them that they actually have much more options for life than they have been told is one useful thing you can do. Showing them the many paths they can take and giving them the tools to make this decision (the actionable part) is priceless. "Hey, you don't need to sell your soul to a multinational or do that pointless major if you don't want to. Here's how."

Tell them what you've learned until now. Take them out of the box, make them think. Make them feel ok if they are different, relieve a little bit of the pressure that they receive from their parents and teachers by showing them real life examples.

Showing them the "basic batman belt for life" can be lifechanging, even if it is just a introduction.

Of course, that's just my highly biased opinion, but that's what I would do if could go back two years and lecture myself and my classmates.

I 100% agree with you that if I'm able just to open their minds to accept other ways of life apart from the conventional college->bigcorp path, that'd be a huge success. Also, to alert them that the entrepreneurial/creative way is not as profitable as they probably think.

As I understand it now, your suggestion is much more of a "personal development workshop" than a "entrepreneurship workshop". I'm not sure I can do that just by merely exposing facts and real life examples, my instinct would be to do something actionable that would make them feel uncomfortable enough to at least start rethinking life. But I think that would may be too arrogant of me, as if I knew life any better. Hmmm. I like where you're going but I haven't been able to come up with a good concrete workshop idea just yet.

Well, anything you do will probably be useful af for them. So I guess you'll be just fine with whatever kind of workshop you choose to do. Do what you're comfortable with, it will certainly be good for them.

Start investing early! And read & learn, a lot.

Investing - compounding effect - you will be surprised to learn how huge of a difference it can make.
Read, learn, make mistakes, don't make them again, improve & finally conquer the world. Bonus points for helping the human race like Elon.

Learning how to learn. Mapping independent facts into a connected tree and make sense of abstractions quickly.

If one can learn that, everything else can be learnt quickly after that.