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How do you answer the question, “What do you think of if you were asked to find something in an encyclopedia?” (If you thought of a set of big, hardback books labeled by the alphabet, you’re not a Digital Native.)

What question would you consider if you saw a big, often yellow, fat, paperback book labeled by year and produced by a phone company that was delivered to your door?

a)    Where should I keep this because I may need it?

b)   What is this and why would I want it in my house?

(If you answered A, you’re definitely not a Digital Native.)

Do you remember life when your parents did not have cell phones? (If you answered No, you probably ARE a Digital Native.)

And your answer to this next question is one that reveals where you sit on the imaginary boundary of those called Digital Natives or Digital Immigrants: When told to search for or find some information, if one of your first thoughts is to “Google” it, you are at least a Digital Immigrant.

My Digital Native, high-school son had no idea why anyone would want a phone book!

So what’s the difference between Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, or Digital Hermits?

  • Digital Natives know life globally and relationally at a 24X7, continually connected way of being with people and information on our planet.
  • Digital Immigrants expand their awareness of technology integrated into all aspects of life (whether they use it or not); they willingly put their toes in the virtual world to explore what tech can do for them – often embracing new processes and ways of thinking and living that leverage technology.
  • Digital Monks possess an awareness that our culture is shifting to technology as an integrated way of life, for both young and old. However, be it resistance to change, fear of technology, lack of knowledge or skill, or a belief that “doing life and business” without technology worked fine – a conscious decision has been made to stay removed from technological advances in their personal world.

From The Outside Looking In On The Digital Natives

I am not a Digital Native. In spending a little time wit our friend’s two-year old, it was evident she knew how to use an iPhone independently. She could unlock the screen, open the apps, scroll to her Smurfs game, play all on her own, and she knew when to ask her parents for the power cord when it needed “juicy” to keep it working. No, at two, if I were given an iPhone back in the late ‘60’s, I would have traded that thin, plastic block for a pile of Play-Doh or Legos in a second. I’d have had no idea that I held the virtual world in my little hands!

But as our world progresses with technology at the center of business development, communication, and human connectivity at a global level, I remain curious about what exists in technology and how I could use it in my life and work in ways that help me live the life I desire. This definitely qualifies me as a Digital Immigrant. I ask and learn about integrating ever-changing technology into my life from those Digital Natives in my life. I remain amazed at the Digital Immigrants I know (like current college seniors) who hover much closer to the unseen bubble boundary of Digital Natives; they teach me so much.

While it is fascinating to observe a Digital Native child in action with technology, it is also fascinating to visit with a Digital Monk. These are people of all ages who are plenty aware that life is moving at warp speed with “always on” technology connecting us across our earth. Yet for numerous reasons, they opt to “step away,” and not immigrate into life as a Digital Immigrant. Perhaps they like the space and time that “quiet-without-technology” brings, or the creativity that spills forth when they pick up a pen and paper, or the joy in maintaining a handful of deep, “real” relationships where the primary form of communication is face-to-face.  Digital Monks choose not to infuse their lives with technology.

Digital Immigrants and Digital Monks are simply two different perspectives and approaches to dealing with technology in our culture today. And both espouse pieces of wisdom.

Our Digital Natives, however, may find it challenging or perhaps unnecessary to live life any other way than fully connected to life with tech. They will grow up with their heads in “the cloud.”

As adults today who are not Digital Natives, what a cultural phenomenon is developing before us as new communication norms become commonplace. (But since the topic of socially acceptable communication behavior in the population group of Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives is ripe with opinion – like, is it polite or okay to text when you are having a face-to-face small group conversation? – I’ll hold off on going there in this blog post!

Does it matter if you know if you are a Digital Natives, Immigrant, or Monk? No, wherever you fall on the spectrum is fine, but awareness of these differences can be fun to observe and discuss because it impacts our lives everyday. And the more aware of the differences in how folks view the world and technology allows us great opportunities to respect various perspectives.

By Dr. Heidi Scott, Communication and Leadership Specialist and Digital Immigrant

Generally 30-plus year-olds’ answer to this question is no longer, “A fireman, NFL player, Professional Dancer, or Mountain Climber.” No, typically mid-life folks answer the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” with another question: “Shouldn’t I be past this?!

Today’s languishing economy forces the continued quest for better work, more secure and/or profitable work, or simply the quest for a job. While this often feels problematic for those in this current workforce, it could be worse.

Consider the workforce generations surrounding the Great Depression compared to now. People then were forced to leave their “professions” – but fortunately, today we think less of our work as a profession we are tied to for life. Today it is the norm to switch careers multiple times before hitting age 30. Change is seen as a way of life. The ability to adapt to change is often seen as the criterion that sets people up for success as they navigate their careers.

Career Choices Abound as a Way of Life

So facing issues related to the work people really want to do seem to be a very normal fabric of our society. Each week I encounter people wrestling with questions about their next best career moves. I hear people eagerly initiating conversations centered on strategic business building steps to grow their business.

Here are 4 coaching tips to guide you if you face the internal (and often haunting) question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” – regardless of your age!

1. Passion over Position – What aspects of certain work stirs your heart’s emotions and drives up your energy levels? I’m not talking about a position or title. What parts can you articulate of certain work you have done or that you think would be great to be a part of? Those passions are things to look for in whatever work you seek or do.

2. Pursue Personal Springboards – How can you tweek your current (or past) work into a springboard for future opportunities? What can you be capturing now to build your personal portfolio that may help you demonstrate the value you can bring to an organization in the future?

3. Attitude Brings Latitude – How can you find contentment in whatever space (whether mentally or physically) you are at currently? What is a positive spin you can put on 3 things today in your work life (or quest for work)? Attitudes are infectious. Develop your ability to find and focus on positives – even when the poison of the negatives appear much more readily! Become the positive mindset that employers want to infect their workforce.

4. Navigate the Networking Niche – There is great value in asking those you value, “Who do you know that you think I’d like to know as I … [grow my business, look for work, etc.]? Good-willed people enjoy connecting people. Who do you know and respect in some capacity that you can connect with about whom they can introduce you to? Make those conversations occur.

In today’s economy and in our current generations, the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is one that is cyclically answered throughout life! Change is a constant; adaptability and learning agility are a must.

By Dr. Heidi Scott   – The Leader’s Consultant, Speaker, Trainer & Coach

I’m not the overly emotional type. Yet a few weeks ago I found myself waiting with the masses to board a plane in a crowded, major airport. As folks rearranged items in their carry-ons, made last minute phone calls, and appeared with typical glazed-eyes after a long, hot, and muggy Midwest day… a scene capture my attention.

Evidence of Family Relational Pain Swirls Around Us – How Can You Help?

A young boy about ten stood in the pre-boarding area with who appeared to be his mother – or at the least, someone who loved him dearly. The affection and emotion was mutual. He buried his face in her neck – the woman’s tears spilled over as she held and soothed him.

With her hands on his tear-stained cheeks, she pulled his blond head away from her and looked in his face with sympathetic eyes and spoke soft words. He shook his head back and forth – the tears pouring freely. I couldn’t hear their exchange, but reading his lips saying, “I don’t wanna go” was exceptionally clear.

I’m not the crying type … but tears welled up in my eyes. Just imagining the pain of sending your child away against his will, as he cries and clings to you stirred my emotions.

I looked down to gather my things, looked up, and the boy had disappeared down the jetway. The woman stood trying to hold it together and then made her way toward where I stood. She paused, with anguish on her face as her eyes swept the gate attendant area for one more glimpse of the boy.

Without thinking – compassion moved me a few physical steps toward her. I’m not even sure if I said anything, but I extended a hand toward her. With quick recognition of a caring, human soul, she embraced me and wept.

“What’s his name?” I asked as I now held this stranger in my embrace, comforting her during her time of emotional pain.

“Lance,” she said through sobs. “He’s 10, hasn’t seen his dad since Christmas and the courts don’t care what we feel. I’m his mom; but he’s got to go.” And then she cried a bit more.

Who knows what all of the other passengers thought – or if they even witnessed this exchange as anything out of the ordinary. “Can I pray for him right now?” I asked.

“Oh yes, please do.” And there together as we hugged, our hearts joined in prayer for God’s peace to embrace Lance on a flight he didn’t really want to make. My voiced prayer asked God to comfort him, and to help him know y God and his mother both love him.

“And Lord, please comfort this dear mother right now. Amen.” She thanked me. And in a sea of people I’ll probably never see again, including this dear woman, we parted ways. She was headed back home to a quiet house. I was headed on to the plane to deliver a message to a weeping blond boy seated in the front of the plane.

“Hey Lance. … Lance…” He wiped the tears from his eyes as his head turned from the window, past the people in his row, to the aisle where I moved down. “Hey Buddy, your mom (And I used her name so he wouldn’t think I was some weirdo) wanted me to tell you she’s out there praying for you.” I smiled at him – and I’d like to think I saw a sense of peace or relief wash over him just a skosh.

Airport scenes of parents and children separating under situations like this happen every day. Maybe there are more of them now with summer underway.

No judgment here. While I am filled w/ gratitude that our 2 kids have never had to know the anguish that Lance does, family relational pain is real and can be tortuous to those involved.

So I wonder, “How can I help a hurting kid or parent today? What will this look like?”

Who will come across your path in the next 48 hours who could use a bit of compassion and care? And more importantly, how will you reach out?

By Dr. Heidi Scott – Consultant, Speaker & Coach developing people, teams, and organizations