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APR 4, 2014

Confessions of a Tiger Dad: Preparing Your Kids for Today’s World

By Yoshito Hori

Yoshito Hori, president of GLOBIS University, managing partner of GLOBIS Capital Partners, shares his views from an entrepreneur’s perspective.

Automation, artificial intelligence and outsourcing are leading to the rapid disappearance of many traditional jobs. Middle-aged people are worrying if their own job will last them to retirement, and if there will be any jobs left at all by the time their kids join the labor market.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks 2014 listed “structurally high unemployment/underemployment” as No. 2 on a list of ten global risks of highest concern this year.

No wonder that parents everywhere are asking the same question: How can we prepare our children for this hyper-competitive, globalized world?

Since my wife and I have five sons, we have every reason to take this issue seriously.

After much reading and discussion, we came to the conclusion that the best thing for us to do was equip our boys with a high level of seimeiryokyu—“vitality,” or “resilience” in Japanese.

We believe that a good stock of seimeiryoku should make them resistant to failure, flexible in the face of change and positive in their overall approach.

But how does one provide children with something as abstract as “vitality” or “resilience”?

We broke it down into three key components.

1. Sporting ability
2. Ability to play go (Chinese chess) competitively
3. English-speaking ability and living abroad

Let me explain the points in order.

This is a simple one. Doing sports familiarizes kids with concepts like leadership, teamwork, self-discipline and competitiveness, while helping raise their baseline energy and positivity levels. In primary school, we get all our kids to focus on swimming; from junior high, they’re free to choose whatever sport they like best. As a family we also go skiing/snowboarding for ten days every winter. Being in good physical condition boosts a person’s life chances in the most straightforward way.

I imagine that this particular skill raised a few eyebrows. Why is it on the list? Because unlike many other games, luck plays no part in go. If you lose, you lose because you are worse than your opponent. If you want to win, you simply have to practice more.

And that’s what all our five boys do, taking go lessons or playing against the computer (constructive early exposure to IT), sometimes for several hours a day, to hone their technique. But practicing by itself isn’t enough; you need more pressure. That’s why our kids represented their primary school, competing at a regional and national level. Over six consecutive years, their school was No. 1 in Tokyo and in the top eight nationally, finishing as Japanese champion three times.

From go, kids learn valuable life lessons: how to bounce back from failure, how to focus on a long-term goal and how to concentrate (a single go game can last up to three hours!). It also builds a zest for winning that’s a source of strength in later life.

Plenty of successful people in Japan have been go enthusiasts, from the three great Tokugawa warlords who unified the nation to baseball star Ichiro and Hiroshi Yamauchi, the revolutionary third president of Nintendo who took the company from playing cards into video games.

Mastery of the global language of English opens up a window on the wider world. Nonetheless, my wife and I hesitated about whether to send our kids to Japanese or international school. In the end we opted for Japanese school. Why? Two reasons: First, we wanted the boys to have a solid Japanese identity before becoming citizens of the world. Second, we felt that Japanese schools did a better job in inculcating values of teamwork, discipline and so forth.

Both my wife and I lived for a while in Australia as kids—she as a primary schooler, me as a high schooler—and we both went to grad school in the U.S. Going to school abroad doesn’t just improve your English, it enables you to get on with people from different cultures and be less insular in your outlook.

We’ve made it a family rule that all our boys must spend at least one year of high school overseas—our eldest son is currently in Canada—and that either their undergraduate or graduate school studies must be done at a foreign university.

In conclusion
Since none of the next generation of Horis are yet old enough for the job market, I can’t report definitively if the “Hori three-point vitality method” actually works or not.

Still, my wife and I are confident that we’ve done our best to equip our boys with a robust foundation for living their lives in a bold, creative and positive way in a world that’s changing at Internet speed.

What about you?

How are you raising your kids to help them thrive in our competitive and globalized world? What is your family’s secret weapon?

(Photo: © olga_gl –