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Narrator: OTAN, Outreach and Technical Assistance Network. Work Ethic, The Building Blocks for the 21st Century Workforce. OTAN Technology and Distance Learning Symposium, 2020.

Josh Davies: Good morning, and thank you all for letting me be a part of the opening of the symposium here for you. I know that today and tomorrow are exciting days. There's a lot of stuff to talk about, a lot of really cool things that are coming.

And I wanted to get the opportunity to introduce myself and talk a little bit about some things that I think are really cool but probably nobody else does. Why? Because it's not always necessarily the sexy things that are out there, but it's some foundational stuff that we find that really drives where we're headed.

Now, for those of you who are unfamiliar, I've worked for an organization called the Center for Work Ethic Development. How many of you know what the Center for Work Ethic Development is? Have you heard of us?


Two of you, OK. Thank you both for being here. OK, I realize we're not exactly Amazon or Google or some of those other household names.

The Center for Work Ethic Development is an organization. We're based in Colorado. We partner with organizations around the country and around the globe, whether or not that's in secondary education, post-secondary, adult education, workforce, non-profit, community groups, corrections, anywhere and everywhere people are helping to prepare people to enter into the workforce. We help partner with you to help you do what you do better.

And with that, we really drive everything around research, around data, because we know that's what speaks the loudest. So with that in mind, I want to start off talking about a study that we did with employers. This is a really interesting study because it's a longitudinal study over four years.

Four years in a row, a group called Express Employment surveyed 1,500 hiring managers across the United States hiring for all sorts of different roles-- entry level, mid-level, senior level, all sorts of career pathways all over the country. Asked the hiring managers a simple question. When you are getting ready to hire somebody for a new job regardless of what the job is, what do you think is the most important skill or attribute in making a hiring decision? And gave them a whole list to choose from, and then they ranked them from one being the most important all the way down to least important.

What was very interesting about the study-- it was four years in a row that they did it-- the answers changed wildly between years with what the hot-button issues were, what the key phrasing was, except this. The number one answer never changed. Interesting, also, the one that came in last never changed. Everything else varied wildly.

On the screen here, you don't get to see all the options because it would be way too many. But you get to see six of the answers that were here. One of them is what employers said was the most important for four years in a row, and one of them is what they said was the least important for four years in a row. We've got attitude, education, specific skills, job experience, work ethic, and work history.

What I'd like you to do right now, in your heads or on a piece of paper, I'd like you to think about what you think employers would say was number one and what you think they would say was the least important. And no pressure, but you have seven more seconds to make up your mind. We've got a lot of information to go through today, OK?

All right, so let's start at the bottom because that tends to be where I hang out more than anywhere else. Anybody have a guess for what you think employers said was the least important? All right?

Audience: Work history.

Josh Davies: Work history. Who else agrees, work history? You have lots of people. Why do you think work history is so low?

It doesn't really matter what you've done. It matters what you can do is what she said, right? I don't care so much about where you were before. I care about what you're going to do for me moving forward. That's becoming more and more important especially as people are getting new skills and technology is changing. The world's changing, right? Past is prologue. I care about what happens next.

Indeed, for four years in a row, very low, but wasn't the least. What do you think, Wendy?

Audience: Job experience.

Josh Davies: Job experience. Anyone else, job experience? A few of you. Why job experience so low, Wendy? OK. So what you've learned before isn't as important as what she thinks is number one.

And oftentimes what I hear from employers is I'd rather you not have job experience because I don't want to have to untrain you for all the stupid things you learned there before you go here, right? But not the lowest.

Audience: Aw.

Josh Davies: All right, what do you think back there? Education. Now, before we go any further, you know who's in this room with you, OK? So a lot of them between you and the exit.

How many of us are doing what we went and got our education in? My husband is an excellent mechanic, but he only went to the sixth grade. Does education prove that you are smart?

Audience: No.

Josh Davies: Does education prove your value? But it sure does help get you a job. We say that education is the key that unlocks the door, right?

Audience: Yes.

Josh Davies: OK. So any other guesses at what's number 20 other than dumb people? All right, what do you say?

Audience: Work ethic.

Josh Davies: Work ethic is the least important.

Audience: [laughs]

Josh Davies: I've never seen someone so resoundingly booed since I got off stage. All right, we'll get to that one later. What--

Audience: I think it's specific skills.

Josh Davies: Specific skills.

Audience: Yeah.

Josh Davies: Why? Anything you can teach, right? More and more, employers are saying, if you just send us somebody with the basics, right? I need somebody with a high school equivalency. I don't care where it came from. I will teach them how to do the skills for this job, right?

Audience: Exactly.

Josh Davies: Exactly, but wasn't number 20.

Audience: Oh, my gosh.

Josh Davies: For four years in a row, the least valuable skill or attribute was education.

Audience: Aw.

Josh Davies: And now you're like, now, tell me, why did we have this guy kick off the conference? Again, here's what I will tell you. It's not that education isn't important. What employers are telling us is that education is now a price of entry. You have to have certain criteria to even be considered. Where you got it, where it's from, those things are less and less important. But it's not going to differentiate you.

Employers are also telling us there's a pretty significant and growing disconnect between the job skills required in order to be successful in today's workplace and what's being taught at four-year university. Well, with that happy note, what do you suppose then was the most valuable? What do you think employers said was the number one thing?

Audience: Attitude.

Josh Davies: Attitude. Where my attitude people? Almost everybody. OK, cool. So we're going to go back just a couple of slides. For those-- anybody here teach English as well? Any English? OK, good, some English folks.

In my high school English, I learned a concept called foreshadowing. Foreshadowing is a literary concept where you bring things up that you then reference later. Say, for instance, the title of my presentation, which is Work Ethic. The name of the organization I work for, which is the Center for Work Ethic.

Now I have my opening slide that gives you an opportunity to choose one of the choices. The number one choice is?

Audience: Work ethic.

Josh Davies: You guys are brilliant. All right, yeah. I already see some of you attitude people in the room copping an attitude with me. OK, I got it.

Now, I don't want to tell you that attitude is unimportant. It is a critical skill. In fact, when we broke down what you mean when you say "work ethic," attitude was always at the top of that list. But what employers say is they value work ethic more than anything else. Interesting.

We know that work ethic is the most in-demand skill. If we can show our job seekers, our students have these skills, they'll be better off than anyone else. That's great for today, but here's what we know. Technology is rapidly changing. Things like AR and VR are going to transform not just the way we learn, but the way we work.

We know this. Jobs are going to be changing faster than we can possibly imagine. It's estimated that 80% of the jobs we'll be doing in just 10 years haven't been invented yet. If you don't believe me, think back 10 years ago. 10 years ago, you know what the number one selling cell phone was? A Motorola Razr. That's 10 years. The iPhone had just started to come out.

You want to tell me nothing can change. It can change dramatically, and it's going to completely change industries. When you talk to futurists about what jobs they think are most likely to go away, it's an interesting list. Here's the cool part. Number one job most likely to go away in the future? Telemarketers, yes!

Audience: Yay!

Josh Davies: But before you cheer too loudly, you'll still get all the telemarketing calls. They'll just be really smart robots that don't mind hearing no, OK? Now, what's interesting, though, as you look at this, number two on the list, accountants and auditors.

Audience: Wow.

Josh Davies: We don't oftentimes think about skilled tasks being replaced, but the reality is technology, artificial intelligence and automation, are not about taking low-skill jobs. It's about taking repetitive tasks.

As we talk about how we need to start thinking about the future, we don't know what the future has in store, but we do know this. Things that are repetitive are going to go away. Jobs that are repetitive are going to go away no matter what they are.

That's what's great about teaching. If we can stay doing what we're doing and not be repetitive, we'll never be replaced.

But here's the problem. How, then, do we prepare our students? How do we keep our adults with the job skills they need in order to get employment? What programs are we going to need to develop? What certificates are we going to need to do? How do we know about this uncertain future? We don't.

But futurists will tell us this. When you look at the top 10 skills necessary to be successful in the future, what is number one on the list?

Audience: Work ethic.

Josh Davies: Work ethic. We know it's the number one, most in-demand skill today, and it will be the number one, most in-demand skill in the future. So this morning as you talk about cutting-edge technology, as we talk about how we can help grow the work that we do and improve the lives of our adult learners, I want to talk today about one of the things that we have to embed in our programs, and that's work ethic.

So let's do a little work ethic 101 here. Let's get started. First of all, let's answer this question. What do you mean when you say "work ethic"? How do you define it? If I went around this room and asked you all to define work ethic, I think you'd probably have-- I don't know-- 150 different definitions of what you mean by work ethic.

When you ask employers, it's not one thing. If you go read newspaper stories about work ethic, here's what they'll tell you. It's all about putting in extra time. Work ethic stories in the newspaper are about athletes who put in extra time at the gym.

That's great. And showing up regularly is important. But it's not the only thing on that list, right? Because you all know this. You've all worked with that person who's the first person there every morning, the last person to leave, and the least productive SOB during the whole time that they're there, right?

They're just putting in face time with everybody, wandering around. Oh, my gosh. You don't understand. I've got so much work to do. I am so busy. I don't even know what I'm going-- I'm going to have to come in this weekend again. Oh, my gosh. I'm working so late.

You're like, hey, Josh, maybe if you actually did work instead of running around and talking about it, you wouldn't be so dang busy, right? It's not just about face time. It's about arriving on time, but listening, following instructions, having a willingness to learn, to do more than the minimum, to get along with other people.

What we found from our research, both through employers and the Department of Labor, was this. There are seven core skills that drive success. We need people who have a positive attitude, who are bringing that every single day, not letting a bad moment become a bad day.

We need people who have solid attendance who are there every day every time they say they're going to be. People who have good appearance, not just in the way they dress, but in how they interact with each other, the words that they use, electronic communication.

We need people who have the ambition to do more than the minimum, right? How many of you have students who come to your classes and ask this question the very first day? What's the least I can do and still pass, right?

They do the same thing when they come into work. Like, what's the least I can do and not get fired? We need people with more ambition than that.

We need people who are accepting of others, accepting of the rules. We need people who show appreciation for the people they work with and for and, to cap it all off, who have the accountability to do what they say they're going to do.

Now, coincidentally, because these all happen to start with the letter A, we tell people simply that what employers are looking for is somebody who brings their--

Audience: A game.

Josh Davies: --A game. Clever this morning. I like it, all right? That's what we talk about when we say what do we mean by work ethic.

So if this is what work ethic is, it's just basic common sense. Here's my question. What the heck is wrong with kids these days? What is the problem with this generation? We talked about common sense. It's no longer common practice, right?

When you hear about this about this millennial generation, it's the me, me, me generation. I'll zoom in on this Time magazine story just in case you can't read the byline. "Lazy, entitled, narcissists who still live with their parents," right?

Audience: Right.

Josh Davies: Boom, right? This generation is destroying everything. They're destroying car ownership. They're destroying marriage. They're destroying avocado toast. Every single thing they touch, they're destroying. You read all the stories that are out there. It's as if we will never be the same.

But as a research organization, we wanted to know what really was the root of this. So we got in and we started to do some research around millennials and around the opinions around work. We found some really important trends that kept emerging.

We found the same words being used over and over again to describe young people entering in the workplace-- that they're privileged. They're narcissistic. They're entitled. This generation was so different, so Life magazine said in 1968 about those dang hippies now known as baby boomers entering into the workplace.

Because the patterns we see with the words and the word choices are the same. What changes is the generation. Because every generation coming into the workplace is seen the same way.

We think that somehow, this technology is going to change it, that this one's different because everyone's taking all these pictures on their phones, that it has to be selfies all the time, right? Hold on.

Audience: [laughs]

Josh Davies: All right, everybody, smile.

Audience: [cheering]

Josh Davies: Hold on. There we go.

Audience: Yay!

Josh Davies: OK, good. Well, yes, technology is fun, but technology has been with us. It just has gotten better. Why? Because this technology was not the fancy smartphones. This technology that Newsweek was talking about in 1985 was the brand new shoulder-mounted camcorder, right? And that was somehow making people more narcissistic than ever.

And let's face it. Gen Xers, you know this. Somewhere in your parents' garage is a videocassette of every birthday you ever had that no one's ever watched. No one watches those videos.

Technology changes over time, but attitudes about young people in the workplace don't. In fact, when you start to get into it, the same things happen. So let's get into actual data. The Journal of Business and Psychology did a meta-study. So they combined 77 different studies on work ethic.

And here's what they found, that there was no statistically significant difference in the work ethic scores of any of the three generations.

Audience: Wow.

Josh Davies: However, I do want to point this out since we've been forgotten about in this entire conversation. As a proud, card-carrying member of Gen X myself, I'd like to point out, who finally is number one at something, right? Look at us, baby. Number one. OK, so, it's like, it's 0.03 points. So it's not like it's-- it's a rounding error. The reality is we're all about the same.

In fact, what's funny about these perceptions is how quickly they start to latch onto the next generation. For those of you who don't do generational research, here's the interesting thing. A lot of the folks in our adult ed programs are millennials because the oldest millennials are now nearly 40.

The youngest millennial's around 22, 23, meaning the youngest students we have-- 21, 20, 19, 18, 17-year-old-- are part of this brand new generation they have dubbed Generation Z. I just worry about the next generation who's going to be generation AA. That's my only problem with Generation Z.

Gen Z. The only reason I point that out is because now millennials have been in the workplace for a long time. A study came out a few months ago asking millennials what's your perception of Generation Z kids in the workplace. What do you suppose was the number one word that millennials used to describe this next generation?

Audience: Lazy.

Josh Davies: Lazy. It's amazing how quickly these attitudes shift from one generation to the next. What we find in our research is the reality is there's nothing unique about generations, but that we are facing a national crisis around these soft skills that's not generational. It's societal.

We work with some programs that do development of these skills in middle school, but we also work with SCSEP programs. It's a federal program. It's a senior citizen employment program where we're helping 50 and 60-year-olds get re-employed, and they're teaching them these same seven work ethic skills because we know there's a deficit across the board.

With that in mind, if we know this deficit exists across the board, it brings us to an important question that we have to ask. Can you teach adults work ethic? OK, let me try that one again. Can you teach adults work ethic?

Audience: Yes.

Josh Davies: You're like, I hope so, or else this is going to be a really bad opening workshop. Yes, we can. But we can't teach adults work ethic the same way we did it when we were teaching our kids work ethic.

What do I mean? When you teach kids work ethic, you do it by giving them penalties, right? If you don't do your work, you're not getting dinner. If you don't do this, you don't get to go out.

When we point fingers and we tell adults not to do things, that's fine for a short period of time. You better put that phone down. If you show up late again tomorrow, you're going to get fired. Oh, you think you're wearing that to work? I don't think so. Go home and change.

And we're pointing fingers and we're telling people what not to do. And that's fine. I'm staring at you. I'm mad. I'm angry. What happens when I turn my back? I don't even want to know what they're doing, right?

You can't punish adults into behavior change. It doesn't work. What we have to focus on instead is a simple concept known as WIIFM. We didn't come up with this, but I love it. And it's not a radio station.

WIIFM is this. What's in it for me? What adults care about is why it matters to them. Why will this make my life better? When you can attach that, that's when adults change their behavior.

When you look at the most successful things that we do, it's not because somebody wants to get a high school equivalency because they need a piece of paper. A high school equivalency - they're getting because of the value it has for them.

They're getting into this certificate program because they know that a career pathway in the medical field will help them, that Allied Health will help them not only just get a job, but get a career and make a difference for their families. They're not doing it because they love blood. Nobody loves blood.

They're doing it because they see the value at the end. In the same way, we have to help teach work ethic with this concept of What's In It For Me.

So how did we get here? How did we end up in this place where we have to teach the stuff that we should have learned in the first place? Why? Well, let me tell you this. It didn't happen overnight.

It's been happening, from our research, over the last 10, 20, 30-- in some cases, even 40 years-- where we've seen really just a breakdown of the places where we used to develop these skills in the past. Let's start. For most of you, where would you say you developed your work ethic?

Audience: At home.

Josh Davies: At home, right? Family environment where we're sitting around. We're talking about important things, the day. OK, who are we kidding, by the way? This is obviously an ad. No one's table looks this good ever. Even on Thanksgiving, ours is not this nice and clean.

But here's the interesting thing. One of the things that we find happening in the American home is a trend that started in the American office 10 years ago. I now refer to it as the Twitterization of conversation.

Anybody here have teenagers in their home? Some of you? Yeah, right? If your teen is in their room and it's time for dinner, do you yell at them to come downstairs?

Audience: No, you call them on their cell phone.

Josh Davies: You call them on their cell phone, which they won't pick up, of course. So then you send them a text, right? Like, food now. You may not even send them actual words. You just send the turkey leg emoji and they come down.

I was talking with a mom recently about this, and I was like, oh, do you text your kid? And she's like, oh, no. I don't do that. I was like, wow, you actually go get your kids? She was like, no, no, I just turn off the Wi-Fi.


Like, mom of the year, right? And we joke about it in our homes, but the reality is this started in our offices with email. We know this. We all had that time where we're in an office or a cube next to somebody, and we're sending them an email. Like, when do you want to go to lunch? Because we're too lazy to just actually lean back and ask the question.

And so it has no surprise that we're spending less and less time in actual dialogue with our own children. In fact, on average, how many hours per week would you think that a typical parent spends in meaningful dialogue with their school-aged children?

Audience: Two hours.

Audience: Less than an hour.

Josh Davies: We've got two hours, less than an hour. You're going the wrong way. Anybody think more than two hours a week? This isn't per day. OK, we've got some optimistic people in the back. Thank you. Thank you.

Well, it may surprise you that the typical parent spends 15 minutes a week in meaningful dialogue with their school-aged children.

Audience: They just want to know their grades.

Josh Davies: Yeah, just the grades. That's all I need to know. All determines whether or not you're leaving your room for the next month, right?

Now, here's the thing. As a researcher, I don't actually have any data that proves that this is bad. Anecdotally, I know it can't be good, but I don't have anything that proves this isn't good. Fortunately, there was some work that was done by another institution, University of Minnesota.

Audience: Woo!

Josh Davies: OK, we got three Gophers in the room. Nice. OK, good. Good, yeah. The University of Minnesota did a 25-year research project. They looked at youth, then analyzed them 25 years later to see what inputs early in childhood development had the greatest outputs in terms of later career and life success.

Was it their parents' income? Was it the ZIP code they were raised in? Was it their race? Was it their gender? They found none of those things was the best predictive indicator. What they found was was doing regular chores at home. So that's interesting research.

We then combed through some other research to figure out, are people doing more or less chores? This was interesting. So Brawn Research did a study where they asked 750 parents two simple questions. Question number one, did you have to do regular chores growing up as a kid? For almost all of us, we said yes. 82% of them said they had to do regular chores growing up as a kid.

These same parents that 82% had to do chores were asked, do you make your children today do chores around the house? Only 28% said that they did--

Audience: Wow.

Josh Davies: --to which I asked, why have kids? I mean, isn't the whole point just to get somebody to mow the lawn and do your bathrooms? I mean, is there another reason have kids? I guess, yeah?, OK.

This is a seismic change, though, in a single generation. And again, the University of Minnesota study found that it was the best indicator of future interpersonal and workplace success. Those of you who do have kids around the house, yes, feel free to take a picture and send this to them so that they know why you're doing what you're doing.

If you don't also want to read the entire almost 300-page research project, two key takeaways that I got from it. Number one, it didn't matter how difficult the chore was to do, just that it was done on a regular basis and there was a penalty for not doing it. And second of all, the younger a child does chores, the more impact it had on their future success. So just a couple of things for you to keep in mind.

Why is this important? Because most of us said that's where we developed these skills in the first place. And if we're not developing at home, whose responsibility is it to then teach us these skills?

Audience: Teachers.

Josh Davies: Teachers, our classrooms. How many people in this room are recovering secondary school teachers? Anybody?


OK. Yes, yes, I see you. I feel you. We're out there, yes. And here's why we're probably not there anymore. This vision of happy schools and lots of resources, right? Yeah, yeah, it's not even real back then either, right?

Here's the reality. Like it or not-- and I'm not here to talk about policy. I'm here to talk about unintended consequences. There's a lot of things that happen with education policy that create unintended consequences.

One of the ones nationally was the No Child Left Behind Act to create accountability in secondary education. A great idea, right? We want to have more accountability. Fantastic. How do we measure accountability?

Audience: With test results.

Josh Davies: Test results. We want to watch your improvement in test scores. Test scores determine which schools stay open. Test scores determine which teachers get raises. Test scores determine which principals get promoted. So what do you suppose schools focus on?

Audience: Tests.

Josh Davies: Tests. And as a result, we're testing more and more and more and more. On average, a typical high school senior today will have taken almost 100 high-stakes standardized test before they graduate. Your sophomore year alone, on average, nationally, you take 10 and 1/2 high-stakes tests that one year alone.

For me, the part that is most scary, though, is that we have preschoolers who take four high-stakes tests in their preschool year to start off the whole process. So if we're spending all this time testing, testing, and testing, that's taking up a lot of instruction. That's taking up a lot of focus.

At the same time, we have a counterfact that also we're dealing with, and that's this. And I know what those of you in the back of the room are saying right now. You're like, Josh, that is a terrible slide. I can't read it from back here. Don't worry. Heather's in the front. She's like-- Wendy's in the front. She's like, Josh, that's a terrible slide. I can't read it from up here either.

Here's what I'm just going to tell you. You don't need to know what's on this slide. Here's what you need to know. There's a lot of red and not a lot of blue. The red are all states that, over the last seven years, have had a decline in per pupil spending in secondary education. The blue states are all states that had increases in per pupil spending.

We're led at the top by our good friends in Oklahoma that lost nearly 23 percentage points per student. Don't worry. Look-- California, negative 13.1.

Audience: Yay.

Josh Davies: And this is not a good time to be in the top 10, just so you know. But regardless, we see almost all these states with double-digit increases. The blue states have small minor increases. There's really only one state that has had a significant increase over the last seven years, and that is North Dakota.

And I will tell you right, now all eight of those kids are getting a phenomenal education, OK? They're crushing, am I not? I'm kidding. There are more than eight kids in North Dakota. But this is about, with the discovery of oil and gas in Western North Dakota, it changed the state's economy, drove up property taxes, which is largely where they get their revenue from.

Regardless of where it is from, what we're seeing are declines in spending. So if you're losing money and you're putting more emphasis on testing, something has to give. So what types of classes are being offered less and less in American secondary education?

Audience: (Inaudible)

Josh Davies: Arts, foreign languages, PE. That's what all the news says. When you look at the data, here's what the data shows. There's only one type of class that has seen a significant decline over the last 20 years-- career technical education.

Why is that important? That's the work-based learning classes where we developed those skills. It doesn't matter if you didn't go into those fields.

A lot of you took career and technical education classes growing up in high school because that was just what you did, and you learned those skills as part of the process-- not because you wanted to get into auto tech, or not because you wanted to get into marketing, not because you were interested in family and consumer science. Don't call it home ec anymore. Because that's the reality. We develop those skills in those classes and, unfortunately, fewer and fewer students are getting those opportunities.

Even in our adult ed programs, we've lost a lot of career and tech ed classes. And part of the problem is this. In an era of declining budgets, CTE classes are expensive. They're hard to do, but the value far outweighs the cost, in my opinion.

Because if we're not developing the skills at home, we're not developing the skills at school, we're running out of places to learn these skills. But for most of us, the places we learn skills next was on the job, right-- those very first jobs.

Anybody in here have a really awesome first job? Very few hands are going up on awesome. What was your awesome first job?

Audience: I was a the dungeon master for a county recreation department.

Josh Davies: A dungeon master for a county recreation department. I'm going to assume, by the way, it's a role-playing game dungeon master and that you are not actually running a subterranean lair. I'm going to go with that one, right? What was your awesome first job?

Audience: I started my own company shoveling horse manure.

Josh Davies: Started her own company--

Audience: Woo!

Josh Davies: --shoveling horse manure.

Audience: [laughs]

Josh Davies: I get the entrepreneurial part, but literally, you're dealing-- never mind. All right, any other great first jobs?

Audience: I was the youngest furniture salesperson.

Josh Davies: The youngest furniture salesperson, that's pretty awesome. What was yours?

Audience: Putting books on the library shelves.

Josh Davies: Putting books on the library shelves, learning important skills like the Dewey decimal system. Right? That's critical today. Let's move to the other side. Anybody have a bad first job? Some bad first jobs around here? You're like, oh, god, yes. What was your bad first job?

Audience: McDonald's fast food.

Josh Davies: McDonald's fast food. How many of you had a fast food or some sort of food service job as one of your first jobs? It's estimated that the NRA says-- just, that's the restaurant association, not the rifle association. The NRA estimates that 40% of us got our first start in some sort of food service job. Though the vast majority of those people don't actually go into a career in food service, it's a great place to learn some lessons.

The bad news is as a kid, for those of you who never worked fast food, the smell doesn't come off your clothes, right? There's no question. All your friends know when you have had the shift beforehand. They're like, [sniffs]. Can you go home and change? Anyone else had a bad first job?

Sold those family photo packages over the phone, doing the telemarketing for a whopping $3.25 an hour. But you learn important skills, like learning to be told no a lot. Regardless of whether or not you had a great first job or you had an awful first job, those first jobs, for many of us, taught us valuable lessons.

Sometimes you have to do things you don't want to do. You got to show up on time. Sometimes your boss is a jerk. I need to get an education so I don't have to keep doing this job the rest of my life, right? Whatever those lessons were, we learned them early.

The problem is this. In America today, we are finding a huge gap in youth employment. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has been keeping track of 16 to 19-year-old employment since 1948. Since 1948, it averages about 50% to 60% of 16 to 19-year-olds are engaged in the labor market.

You can see that trend goes up and down a little bit, but it's a pretty consistent line until you get to the dot-com bust of 2001. Then it starts to go down. The great recession of 2007-2008 exacerbates it. It keeps coming down, and now we have cut that number almost in half to around 30%, 35%.

The scarier part is that the BLS estimates that by 2024, that number will be down to 25%, meaning that only one out of every four 16 to 19-year-old will be engaged in the labor market, will have a job. Wow.

Now, a place, though, outside of this space for a lot of 16 to 19-year-olds wasn't working year-round, but it was doing a summer job, right? Summer job's a great way to get some of that experience.

Well, here's the thing summer employment peaked, in the '70s, around 75%. It's been going down ever since then. Now less than 45% of 16 to 19-year-olds will hold a summer job.

So why is it that so few young people are working in America? What's the problem? What's happening out there? What do you hear?

We hear this a lot. Adults are holding those lower-income entry-level jobs for a variety of reasons. Maybe they need health insurance so they're working at Starbucks. Maybe the McDonald's is tired of replacing these kids every 15 minutes, so they're just going to hire a 60-year-old who they know has nothing else to do. Whatever it may be, we hear adults are taking them.

I heard somebody else say sports.

Audience: My kid plays sports.

Josh Davies: Mine plays sports. Here's where I get to drop my own. (IMITATING ELDERLY) Well, back in my day, you played football in the fall. You played basketball in the winter. You're in track in the spring. That's what you did. Those of you who don't have kids in sports right now, when is the sports season?

Audience: All year.

Josh Davies: All year, right? There is no in-season and out of season. There are tournaments happening all the time.

I talked to my parents who have kids doing sports. They tell me about all these weekend tournaments and all these things. I'm not surprised their kids don't work. I'm surprised they can hold a job still, right? It seems that all they're doing is driving around the country to go to these different tournaments. I'm like, oh, my gosh. It's crazy.

Here's what's interesting. Challenger, Gray, & Christmas analyzed the BLS data since 1994 to see what was causing this huge increase in youth disengagement in the labor market. What was it? What was making it drive?

And here's what they found. The number of disengaged youth went from about 600,000 to over 1.2 million. That's that blue line in the top. Here's what's interesting, is this red line. The red line at the bottom is this. I want a job and I can't find one. What do you notice about that red line?

Audience: It's static.

Josh Davies: It's static. It doesn't move, and it's pretty low. The whole reason that blue line goes up is it's almost perfectly followed by that yellowish green line. That yellowish green line is that I don't want a job and no one's making me.

Regardless of for whatever reason, this culture, this idea, this concept that youth should be working has gone away. More and more parents are saying, I want your academics to be your job. I need you to get the sports scholarship, or else I can't afford this ridiculous cost of college anymore, right? Exactly, right?

And that's why, by the way, I find that more and more parents are putting their kids in the most bizarre sports. Because they're like, actually, the odds of a lacrosse scholarship are much higher. I'm like, you don't even know what lacrosse is. I don't care. I've read the numbers.

What you find is that more and more parents are saying it's OK not to work. And here, the problem with that is then we don't develop those early job skills until much later in life. And I will tell you, it's a lot easier to deal and learn those skills on the fly when you're 16 at Burger King or McDonald's than it is when you're 24, 25, 26 and you're in a professional job for the first time.

So let's recap. Not happening at home. Not happening at school anymore. And now kids aren't working at all. So where, then, do we get the messages around the value of work? How do we help develop these skills? Well, through pop culture and mass media. How's that working out for you? Yeah.

Have you guys seen this billboard around town? You guys seen this one? Probably not because the US stopped paying money for these kinds of things in the 1920s. The reality is that mass media and pop culture don't celebrate work. Work is not seen as something to be valued. It's not sexy. It's not fun.

And what's interesting, for those of you who watch daytime TV, which I only highlight daytime TV because it's the time when most people who aren't working watch TV, the top two types of ads nationally on local news, number one, pharmaceuticals, some sort of pill that will solve all of your problem.

But what I find interesting, the one that actually outpaces that, injury lawyers. Because what are the injury lawyers going to get you?

Audience: Money.

Josh Davies: Money for doing what?

Audience: Nothing.

Josh Davies: Nothing. Not learning a job skill. Not getting a high school equivalency. Not getting a certification. Your path to financial success is getting T-boned by a semi, right? And the strong arm got me $600,000.

Number one type of TV show on TV today? Reality TV. What skills do you need in order to be successful on a reality TV show?

Audience: Nothing.

Josh Davies: Yeah, drama. You need to be able to create drama. That's the only skill necessary. How many employers do you know that are looking for drama from an employee?


It's like the least valuable skill. It's below education. Trust me on that one. No employer's like, you know, we really could use some more drama here in the office. Do you get in fights easily? Are you easily offended? Awesome. We want you around, please. Thank you. No, nobody says that.

The reality is more and more work is seen as a stigma rather than something to be celebrated. In fact, I saw this the other day. I thought it was absolutely perfect. It really sums up where we are in America today about giving 100% at work, because it is true. We still give 100% at work, just not every day.


And this is why I asked, I was, like, can we please do Friday morning? I know I've only got 5%. I want to make sure I get all of them for that 5%. Saturday's not even on here, right?

The reality is we're in a deficit of work ethic in this country not because of some generational challenge, but because of the societal pillars that have been teaching these skills have been going away for 10, 20, 30, 40 years. And we are seeing the impacts of those. The impact of this lack of development in skills we see in a lot of different places.

This probably speaks to what most of you know instinctively, but I have data to prove it. Hold on. Some of the stuff is really earth-shattering, OK? Hold on now.

A study went in and it proved this. As educators, you may be surprised. Students who were in the top quartile of work ethic tended to graduate more frequently.

Audience: [laughs]

Josh Davies: I know that's difficult to believe. But here's the reality. For a lot of us, the challenge of this is is that, quite honestly, the same skills that make you successful academically will make you successful in the workplace. And concurrently, the ones that make you unsuccessful academically will also hinder you in the workplace. So we've got to overcome that.

Why? Because we are at a really weird place in America today. What do I mean? We've got this weird dichotomy in the labor force. Why? Because we have super low unemployment.

For those of who you don't see, we had brand new numbers just come out today nationwide. We're at 3.5% unemployment, the lowest in 50 years. Statewide here in California, including the Central Valley, we're still only at 3.7. This is generationally low.

But here's what's also interesting with that. We're seeing an inverse in the number of jobs available and the number of people looking for work. There are fewer people looking for work than there are jobs. Every single person who's unemployed right now could have a job if they wanted one.

But that's a part of the problem. Because while we have this super low unemployment, it's really driven not just by job creation, but by this, the lack of labor force participation. More and more adults are sitting on the sidelines. We are at record lows, 63.4% in the numbers that came out today, meaning that over one out of every three adults is sitting at home on the sideline not even looking for work.

Why? Because employers tell them they don't have the job skills necessary. They've given up hope because maybe they never graduated high school. Maybe they were told that it had to be college or nothing, and so they're not even trying.

Here's the reality. It doesn't matter where you enter into the workforce. More and more employers are saying this. Three quarters of them say the incoming workforce is inadequately prepared. They don't have the right skills. They don't have the work ethic. This is what they call the skills gap.

So what skills are necessary? What do we have to do to help get these adults back into the labor market? When you ask employers, is it technology skills? Is it computer skills? Is it certifications? Well, yeah, those things are important, but what's the most important thing? Basic soft skills.

More and more employers are saying this to us. If you could just give me somebody who will show up to work every day, follow basic instructions, and piss a clean drug test, I will hire every single person you send me. That's the reality of where we are.

The problem is we don't always see it this way, and a lot of our job seekers don't either. These are skills that they can develop. More and more hiring managers are saying that soft skills are not just nice to have, but need to have. In fact, 93% now say that soft skills are as important, if not equally important or more important, than technical skills when hiring.

That means that 7% of people who are hiring for jobs still think that you can be a jerk and I'll hire you anyhow. 7% of people think that's still OK. I'm not saying these 7% of people are stupid, but I will tell you this. 7% of Americans also believe that chocolate milk comes from brown cows.


I'm not saying those are the same 7% of people, but I'm saying there's a chance, right? If you think about this, when you think about the worst person you've worked with, bad hires, why are they bad hires? Because they don't teach well? Is it because they're not a good administrator? No, bad hires are because they're jerks. They lack soft skills.

Over and over again, you see this is the basic driver. Forbes magazine did a study with 20,000 newly hired employees and found this. Almost half of them had been fired within the first year and a half of employment. Why? It's not because they didn't have the skills necessary to do the job. It's because they didn't have the soft skills the attitude, the work ethic.

Has anybody in here ever worked with somebody who was not good at their job?

Audience: [laughs]

Josh Davies: Anyone? Hey, please don't point fingers in the back. That's just embarrassing, OK? That is embarrassing back there.

Most of us have worked with somebody who's not good at their job. How many people have worked for somebody who got fired solely because they weren't good? That number is much smaller. Because the reality is no matter what line of work you're in, if you're a pretty bad employee, but you show up every day people like you, and you're willing to pitch in and help out when asked, how long can you keep a job?

Audience: Forever.

Josh Davies: Forever, right? You plan the holiday party. You are December's employee of the month some years, right? That's the reality of where people are.

These soft skills, we're finding, are more and more important than ever. Harvard University did a study over 100 years ago that Stanford recently recreated and found the same results are true-- that, in life, 85% of your success comes from your foundational soft skills.

However, here's what I would point out. That blue part at the top is still important. We're not going to hire people without the technical skills necessary to get the job. We can't walk into this world and say, look, I'm a perfectly nice guy. You should hire me.

If you don't have the basic certifications, education, the job skills, it doesn't matter. You still need that 15% to get your foot in the door. But without the 85%, it's a revolving door.

So we have to do what we can as instructors, as teachers, as developers of people to not just focus on the technical skills. Those are important. But what can we also do to embed the development of these people skills that we know they're not getting anywhere else?

I'm so glad you asked because that's the final part of the presentation. All right, so developing work ethic is going to be where we go and how we do this. So this is going to be your strategies. I'm going to give you, this morning, six different strategies on how you can help develop this with the students that you work with regardless of how old they are or where they are in their journey or what they're doing.

I give you six because I'm going to tell you this. Some of you are going to be like, that's really stupid, Josh. That would never work for me in my-- OK, great. Skip that one. If you could just get three of these of the six, you're going to find that you can make some amazing things happen.

So let's start with number one. You've got to create awareness. Imagine this. I want you to think of the laziest person you know in this world. They might still be on the couch at your house, OK? But the laziest person you know.

Imagine having a conversation with them and asking them this simple question. Hey, lazy person, how's your work ethic?

Audience: [laughs]

Josh Davies: What do you think they're going to tell you?

Audience: (Inaudible)

Audience: Oh, not so bad.

Josh Davies: Oh, not so bad, I'd say. I mean, I know when I want to, I can really work hard. It's a total lack of awareness. In fact, here's what's interesting. There was a study recently done with 6,000 millennial workers. Now, millennials in the room, reminder. I spent all morning defending you. This just happens to involve 6,000 younger workers.

So 6,000 younger workers were asked at work, any of these words, do you think they describe you when you are working? Are you people-savvy, tech-savvy, loyal, fun-loving, or hardworking? The number one response, 86% of them said, yes, I am a hard worker. 82% said I am fiercely loyal to my employer. Are you fun-loving? Oh, no, only 14% are fun-loving.

Because when you think about younger workers, what do I think about? Nose to the grindstone, here for whatever it takes. I don't want to have fun. I want to do what's best for the company, right? Not a lot of nodding heads here.

Why? Because these same 6,000 millennials' workers' bosses were asked to describe these same 6,000 workers. There's a slight disconnect between the perceptions of the two.

Here's the good news. They're far more tech-savvy than they think they are. Here's the best part. Loyal to their employer goes from 82% to 1. That's a challenge that we have.

But the good news is as we get older, though, our self-perceptions improve. So do me a favor. Go into your folders. If you open up your fancy blue OTAN folders, you'll find there is a notepad like this inside. I need everybody to get out your notepad and just tear off one sheet of paper. Everybody just needs to get one sheet of paper out of there.

And you're not going to get this sheet of paper back, so make sure that it doesn't have anything else written on it because I know you've been taking copious notes all morning long. Now, I want you to take that piece of paper. I want you to turn it over-- oh. Thank you. I want you to turn it over to the blank side.

And what I'd like you to do is I'd like you to draw a giant circle in the center of that piece of paper. Draw a big circle in the center that piece of paper. Then what I would like you to do, I would like you to look around the room at all of your awesome friends and colleagues who are in the room today. Nice.

So here's what I'm going to ask you to do. You're going to do your own self-assessment. And what I'm going to ask you to do is I'm going to ask you to rank your work ethic compared to the other wonderful people in this room.

If you think your work ethic is not necessarily the best but you're in the top quartile, the top 25%, what I'd like you to do with that circle is put two eyes on it and make a little smiley face. If you're thinking to yourself I'm not the best but I'm not the worst, two eyes and a flatline face. If you are just now looking up from updating your status on Facebook and you're like, what are we doing?


Where were we? What? Huh? Or if you think your work ethic maybe could use a little work-- you're maybe not in the top. You're in the bottom 25%. You're going to put two eyes and you're going to make a frowny face.

So again, you're comparing your work ethic to the other people in this room. If you think you're in the top 25%, you'll make it a smiley face. Middle 50%, a flatline face. Bottom 25%, a frowny face.

When you have made up your mind, do me a favor. Take that piece of paper, fold it in half so that nobody else can see what you wrote, and then hold it up high so that I know you have finished your assessment.

Some of you are taking this very seriously. You're counting people in the room. You're like, more than her, less than him, more than her. Do me a favor now. Take that piece of paper, trade that piece of paper with somebody nearby you, but resist the urge to immediately open up that piece of paper and look at it. But just trade it with that person.

Then take that piece of paper and trade it with somebody at another table other than your own. Then take that piece of paper and trade it with somebody at least one other table beyond your own.

So now you should have traded your piece of paper at least three or four times. If you feel like you'd like to trade it again with somebody nearby you, knock yourself out. But what we should have done is we should have completely randomized the room. So you should have a random person's piece of paper in front of you, somebody you don't know.

If, by some dumb stroke of luck, you ended up with your own paper back, don't tell everyone around you. Hey, look. I got mine back. Then they know it's not random. So you are going to simply do this.

Now, open up that piece of paper. It should have on it, this random piece of paper, a smiley face, a flatline face, or a frowny face. Allright, Neda, Penny, how many people do you think we have in the room?

Audience: About 230.

Josh Davies: About 230. I'm going to go with about 220 because the math is easier. All right, so at 220, that means that 55 of you are in the top 25%, 110 of you are in the middle, and 55 of you are in the bottom. Easy math.

OK, so let's do this. If your piece of paper has a smiley face on it, if you're one of those top 55 people, do me a favor and stand up now. Let's see where those 55 people are.


[groans] Sit down.

Audience: [laughter]

Josh Davies: I'm going to guess that was more than 55. Now, now, now. Interesting. Well, let's go to the other side, then-- the frowny face. If your piece of paper had a frowny face on it, if your person thought they were in the bottom 25-- and that was about 55 people-- please stand up.


Five. Five people. And before-- some of you right now are like, oh, she's really good. It's not her paper, OK? Just remember that. It's not their paper.

So we had about-- I don't know-- 150 people who think they're in the top 55 and five who think they're in the bottom. Here's what's funny. We just got done making fun of millennials because they don't know how bad they are. And now we are God's gift to work ethic in this room.

Here's the reality. Again, it doesn't matter by age. We are terrible at assessing our own work ethic. Why? Because, simply put, when we look in the mirror, we oftentimes have a very different perception--


--than who we really are. Why? Because we judge our own work ethic based on our intentions and other people judge our work ethic based on our actions.

Audience: But we're here.

Josh Davies: But we're here. I didn't ask you to judge yourself against people who were still sleeping. I said judge yourself against everyone else in the room who is still here. What I love is 25 of you came in late to this workshop, and only five of you still thought you were had really good work ethic.


Come in late to the work ethic keynote, odds are, you maybe put yourself over there. No, the reality is this, right? Some of you maybe even showed up late.

Why? Because I was dealing with a student concern. I had to get something taken care of or else they wouldn't have been able to graduate. They wouldn't be able to get into this program. I was doing it because I'm here for my students. Your intentions said one thing, but to everyone else, your actions say something else.

So one of the first things we have to do is we have to help people create awareness. Why? Because people don't know what they don't know. We have to help them understand what the expectations around work ethic are and that it's not about what they mean to do. It's what they actually deliver.

To put it more succinctly, they say when you give presentations, you should always quote famous people, so I will quote a famous American poet. Any of you poetry fans out there, you may know this person-- famous American poet, Ice Cube.

And he says this. He says, "You had better chickity check yourself before you wreckity wreck yourself." amen, Cube. Amen. You have to create that awareness. You have to let people know that they don't know what they don't know.

All right, how about number two? We've got to allow for discovery. Now, for those of you who have teens, you already instinctively know this. But here's the thing. Especially as adults, we don't like other people to tell us what to do. We don't like people to tell us the rules. We don't like to tell us what we should or should not do. In fact, the more that people push us, the more we push back.

What we have to instead do is allow people to discover things on their own. Because when people discover the things, it's more powerful than when someone tries to force something on them.

Let me give you an example. For me, I did not grow up in California, unfortunately. I grew up in a very small town in Nebraska. My parents did not have a lot of money, so we did not go to the ocean for our vacations. We went camping for a week or two in the Black Hills of South Dakota every single summer. Every single summer, that was all we did. That's all I knew, except for one summer.

There was one summer. I remember my parents were like, we're not going to go the Black Hills this year. And I'm like, Disney, Disney, Disney. And they're like we're going to go visit our cousins in Wichita.


And I'm like Black Hills, Black-- so we go to-- actually, technically, it's Derby, Kansas, in case you care. So we went down to Wichita to spend a week or two with my cousin down there. And now, this is 1986, mind you.

My cousin had two things in 1986 that I didn't even realize were so cool. Number one, they had a below-ground swimming pool. You didn't have to climb the ladder and the little blue tank. It was a legit swimming pool in their backyard.

And this is 1986. They also had HBO. We didn't have basic cable. They had HBO. So we spent the week swimming in the pool, watching movies. It was the most amazing week ever.

I remember the Friday night vividly. We were all hyped up on Mountain Dew and we watched Jaws 1, Jaws 2, Jaws 3, and Jaws 4 back to back to back to back. We're still all hyped up. It's like 2:00 in the morning. My cousin says, let's go swim in the pool. I'm like, yeah. Terrible idea.

If you don't remember, swimming in a pool like that at night with the lights, there's these weird shadows and all this other stuff coming on. And man, I am hyped up. I've seen nothing but sharks. To this day, sharks scare the bejesus out of me.

I don't know what it is. When I go to the ocean now-- and I do go the ocean frequently-- I never get in the water any deeper than my knees. There is crap out there that will kill you. I don't know if you know that.

Again, I do a lot of research. So recently, I started to do some research because last summer in particular, there were a lot of shark attacks. I don't know if you noticed or were paying attention. All across North America, there were more and more shark attacks than ever.

So I started to do some research about how many people these folks were mauling. Why? Because it seemed like Shark Week was getting all this attention and people love sharks. I'm like, they kill people.

So I started to do some research. The last year they had worldwide data for shark deaths was 2015, worldwide. You know how many people these monsters killed?

Audience: Five?

Josh Davies: Eight. Out of billions of people, only eight people die? Do you know, in that year, what killed almost four times as many people?

Audience: Geysers?

Josh Davies: Selfies.


The shark-to-selfie death ratio is almost-- it's at three and a half-- almost four to one. The scarier part is the number of selfie deaths worldwide keeps going up and up and up. It was nearly 100 in 2019.

It got so bad in India India's launched an entire campaign about where you should not take selfies anymore. And the sad part is this. You know somebody died doing every one of these things.

See, here's my problem. When I see a sign like this, I'm not looking at it as a Don't Do list. It's like a checklist, right? You're like, oh, crap. Where can I find a tiger?


Because here's the reality. Signs don't teach us anything. If you go to any restroom anywhere in America, any public restroom, there's a simple sign that says what?

Audience: Wash your hands.

Josh Davies: Wash your hands. All employees must wash hands before returning to work. Do you think there are employees in there who are like, ah, something I had to remember to do when I left. What was it? I can't remember. No, OK? The jerks who don't wash their hands, the sign's not helping them. Signs don't change things.

I think to myself about my phone. And it's funny. I have a different relationship. My wife is on her phone all the time. She loves it. She has all sorts of different things. I remember an experience I had. I was in Washington DC. I was at a conference.

And I was there. I was going from my hotel to the conference center. I was working on a little text message on my way. And as I'm walking, I got to a pretty serious point in the text message, so I had to two-thumb it. You know that, where you're like, ooh, this is serious. Ooh. I can't just one-thumb this bad boy.

So I go to two-thumb it, and I stop right here. And I want to say maybe three seconds after I stop to two-thumb my message, a bus flashes because I was at the curb.

Audience: [whistles]

Josh Davies: And if I hadn't have stopped to two-thumb something that message, I probably wouldn't be here. And since that day, I've realized it doesn't matter whether I'm in a car, whether or not I'm walking, or whether or not I'm even just in a restaurant and want to engage with other people, I had a different relationship with my phone-- not because there was some sign that told me not to do it, but because of my own personal experiences.

That's the discovery that people need to have. Why? A simple rule. People don't argue with their own facts. When we let our students discover these things, they own them. And when they own work ethic, it changes behaviors.

So what's the next thing we can do? We need to be the change we want to see. So do me a favor. Can I get everybody, if you could, please, stand as you're able. You're like, oh, my goodness, what are we doing?

We're going to do a little exercise here because most of you guys have been sitting for way too long. So I'd like everyone, if you could, please, to find a partner, somebody nearby you, and just turn and face the other person. If you can't find somebody nearby you, just raise your hands and walk to somebody else who has their hand raised, and the two of you can try and find each other for partners, OK?

All right. So we're going to do a partner exercise where you're going to need to have one leader and one follower. So we're going to do this very simple rather than doing any sort of voting. Very simple. The shorter person out of the two of you will be the leader. That's how it will work. Very easy. Short people, you're the leaders.

Now, leaders, here's what I would like you to do. I need you to turn and face the other person, get a little bend in your knee, and I want you to put your hands out in front of you as if you were going to play Patty Cake, but do not actually play Patty Cake.

And please, do not touch the other person. Just go... we've got plenty of hand sanitizer in the back later. Just don't tempt fate yet, OK? So keep your hands there. Don't touch the other person.

When I say go, leaders, here's what I'm going to ask you to do. I want to ask you to move your arms and your hands anywhere you want to in front of your body. If you are not the leader, as I said before, you are the?

Audience: Follower.

Josh Davies: Follower. Your job is to be the best human mirror you can be and follow everything that they do. So leaders, here we go. On your mark, get set, go. And stop. Shake it out for me real quick. Woo!

Audience: Woo!

Josh Davies: All right. OK, fair is fair. I know some of you were starting to sweat already. So let's do this. Keep your same partner, but let's switch roles. So taller people, you now get to be the leader for this round. Shorter people, shoe is on the other foot. Let's see how well you can do when you have to be the follower. All right, tall people, on your mark, get set, go.

And stop. Awesome. Alright, give your partner a round of applause. Thank you very much. Have a seat. That's awesome.

I love being able to watch a roomful of people do this. So I have had the honor and the privilege of now getting to do training and teaching and workshops for a little over 20 years, and I've had some version of this exercise I've done throughout most of that. You modify it-- different groups, different things.

But I love doing this exercise because it doesn't matter where I am or what I'm doing. I took it one time. We went to the Middle East and worked with a group of 10-year-olds. We translated it into Arabic. I watched them do it. They did the same exact things you did.

Every year, I go to Taiwan. I do training for HR executives in Southeast Asia. It doesn't matter where they're from, which country, which language. They do the same exact thing because this is an example of human behavior, not any particular type of culture or age.

Here's what I see happen. The first leader goes, short people. You can do anything you want to. You've got total free will. You tend to fall into one of two ends of the spectrum, the easy end of the spectrum or the hard end of the spectrum. What does the easy end of the spectrum look like?


I've seen some people give their partner instructions. Right hand out. Stop. Bring it back. Good. That's the easy side of the spectrum. On the other hand, some people are in that hard side of the spectrum. What does that look like?


All right? Interesting, OK? Now, what I find is most interesting, though, is not that. It's when the second leader goes. The taller people now also have their chance to be leader. They also have free will to do anything they want to do. No one's told them anything.

But here's what I think is interesting. If the first leader was in the easy spectrum, almost every single time, the second leader stays in the easy spectrum. Now, they may get a little faster.


They'll bust out their inner Mr. Miyagi, right? Wax on. Wax off. But they rarely get out of control. On the other hand, if the first leader was in the hard side of the spectrum, what does the second leader do?

Audience: Game on.

Josh Davies: Game on, girl, right?


Doing like matrix and stuff, right? Why is that so powerful? Because here's the reality. The second leader, no one told them what to do. But instinctively, subconsciously, they followed the lead of the first person.

We are so influenced by other people we don't even realize when we're doing it. People tell me all the time, ask me this question, what's the best way to teach work ethic? I'll tell you what the best way to teach work ethic is. It's to live work ethic.

If we tell our students that accountability is important, we need to do what we say we're going to do. If we tell our students that appearance is important, we need to make sure that not only what we're wearing but, more importantly, the output we produce, the communication that we have, sends that same message. In essence, as Gandhi said, you have to be the change you want to see in this world.

If we want to change our students' perception around work ethic, it starts with us modeling it. Because like it or not, our students will pick up on that, and especially our adult learners because we know they don't like to be told what to do, but they can't help but hear what you're saying when you do. Very powerful.

All right, next strategy is what we call the 1% approach. Anybody in here a runner? Any stupid runners like me? A few of us are stupid runners, OK.

I say stupid. Why? Because this morning, I got up early so I could get on the elliptical and bust out three miles, right? How awesome is that? What a great way to start-- no, nobody else thinks that, OK?

I have gotten the opportunity. In my lifetime, I have gotten a chance to run two marathons. I made it and I finished. Boston is one of the ones that I did. It was an amazing experience.


Thank you. I didn't qualify. Just, I've want to make-- before anyone else is, like, oh, my god, where did you run? How fast? No, I got a sponsor's exemption. We raised money for charity, OK? I just want you to know that. You don't have to run super fast to run Boston.

But my brother, not a marathon runner, not a runner in general, wanted to run a marathon as one of his bucket list items. So we're like, OK, cool. So he went online. We found a 16-week training program where you would train every single day for 16 straight weeks, and it would take any person who wasn't a runner and could get them to finish a marathon. And sure enough, after 16 weeks, he ran and finished the Kansas City Marathon.


Indeed. He was super excited about it. He looked at me in the eye and he's like, I'm so glad I did this. I will never do this again.


But it was a checklist. It was his bucket list. He got it done. So knowing how powerful that can be, I ask you, friends, how many of you would like to train for the next 16 straight weeks and finish a marathon? Six or seven of you. That's not quite-- this was supposed to be more of an inspirational story. I was really hoping more of you would be like, yes, I can. Yes, I can.

OK, so let's switch this around, then. All right, how about this? How many of you would do a four-week training program where you ran twice a week to finish a one-mile race in four weeks? How many of you would do that?

Wow, a lot more of you are inspired by that. What's the difference between the two? They're still training programs. One of you is like, about 25 miles, Josh. That's about the difference. One seems realistic. One seems completely unachievable.

Here's the reality. When people are presented with choices, if it seems difficult, if it seems harsh, I'm not even going to get started.

When do most students stop coming to adult ed classes? After the first two weeks when they realize, this class is a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. And all of a sudden, they ghost on us.

When do students drop out of four-credit classes? Typically after the first exam. Why? Because they realize it's not as easy as they thought it was going to be. The harder it is, the less likely people are to even get started.

So here's what we tell people. Instead of saying you have to be perfect at work ethic, perfect at these soft skills, we say this. Could you be 1% better tomorrow than you are today? Could you maybe not be 20 minutes late tomorrow, but only 19? And then 18 and 17?

Here's the thing. If you're just 1% better every single day for 40 straight days, how much better are you? This is where I'm like, this one's pretty easy, right? It's 40%.

And that's what I thought too. But then I did a class, and I had somebody there who was teaching math for the GED program. And they're like, actually, Josh, with the power of compound interest, you're 120% better after 40 days. And that's actually true. You really are, OK? It doesn't matter what skill it is. If you're just 1% better every day, the power of compound interest makes it 120% better after 40 days.

Small, incremental changes make huge impacts over time. And sometimes, small, incremental changes in and of themselves can make a difference. I got to talk about the advantages of my math teachers before. English teachers, ELL teachers, we know how true this is, right? Small changes can make huge impacts.


This person loves to cook. They love their kids. They love animals. What a wonderful person this is. What's a 1% change in this sentence? Get rid of the commas, and now what happens?


Let's just say it involves prison time, OK? That's the difference. Small changes can make huge impacts. Small, incremental changes, that 1%, can make a big difference.

The next challenge that we have is this. We oftentimes aren't explicit about what we want, and that's a problem with soft skills in general. Part of the reason why I think they're called soft skills is we don't define them well.

We'll tell people things like, hey, I need you to have a better attitude tomorrow. What's a better attitude? What is that? How do you know I don't have a good attitude today? What do we mean? We don't clearly define what it is that we're looking for.

What I tell you is this. We have to be as intentional about defining success in soft skills as we are the technical skills and the academic skills that we teach today. When we say "attitude," we can't just say, have a better attitude. We have to say this. What's the definition? Our definition is simple. It's to stay positive in every situation. Take control of the way you react.

How do I know you don't have a good attitude today? Because you got cut off in traffic eight hours ago and you're still angry about it. You're not taking control. You're letting it control you. That's how I know.

Why? Because when you clearly define things, you can make sure that they're observable. Then you can measure them, and then you can coach and develop them just like every other skill. But you have to be explicit about it, and you have to be intentional about defining those.

We have definitions for each one of our seven skills that we consider the As of work ethic. No matter what you're teaching, make sure that you clearly define what those look like and what the outcomes are so that you can help people observe, measure, and then coach them.

Here's the last strategy I want to give you. And in order to do this, I need everybody to stand up again because it's been almost five minutes. I need everyone to face the front of the screen here.

What I'd like you to do this time is I like everybody, if you could, please, to get your feet shoulder width apart, a little bend in your knee. I don't want anyone passing out. And I want everybody to put their hands out in front of them as if you're like a pointer.

Now, does everyone know your left from your right? OK, good. We're going to go to the left. So that's going to be this direction for you, all right?

So when I say go, here's what you going to do. Keeping your feet on the ground, I'm going to ask you to twist to the left, and I want you to go and twist your body, keeping your arms straight, as far to the left as you can go, and then we're going to come back to center.

Now, I just told you before we're supposed to be as explicit as possible. So let me repeat this. You're going to keep your feet on the ground, hands straight. You're going to twist the left, and you're going to go as far as you can go. So repeat after me. How far are you going to go? You're going to go as far as you can go.

OK, here we go. On your mark, get set. Let's go to the left as far as we can go, and back. Woo! All right, shake it out for me. How'd we do? Pretty good?

Audience: Yeah.

Josh Davies: Yeah, I liked where we were going. I felt really good about that. But we also know this. Small, incremental improvement gets us ahead. So we're going to follow that 1% rule.

Here's what I'm going to ask you to do. I'm going to ask you to keep your feet in the same exact place, your arms straight exactly where you did. And this time, I'm going to ask you-- when I say go, I want you to go one inch further than you went that last time.

OK, let's do that 1% improvement. Here we go. On your mark, get set, let's go. Let's see if we can get one inch further. And back. All right, how many of you were able to go that one inch further? All right, sit down.

I thought we'd really made progress, some trust. Here we are. How far did you all promise me you were going to go the first time?

Audience: As far as we could.

Josh Davies: As far as you could go. And then magically, 30 seconds later, you've gone further than the furthest you could go. So you all just straight up lied to my face, or maybe not. Did you really go as far as you could go the first time?

Audience: Yes.

Josh Davies: No. Here's what I will tell you. You went until you got uncomfortable. And then what did you do? Stopped, right? We went back to center. Because what we do is when we get discomfort, that's when we stop.

Here's the thing. Growth and development happen when we get out of our comfort zone. When we get uncomfortable is when we can start to grow. We have to get our learners comfortable being uncomfortable.

Why? Because developing these soft skills oftentimes is going to require them to do things they don't want or like to do. Look, if you're going to be on time to work, you can't stay and play Overwatch until 3:00 AM. It just can't happen.

If you're going to do well at work, you're going to have to get along with that boss even though you hate her. You might have to wear a stupid uniform. Everyone does. Things that make them uncomfortable probably will force them to grow, will force them to learn, will force them to become better, but they have to get comfortable getting uncomfortable.

These are just six strategies. There's lots of different things that you can do. And what I want to remind you is that soft skills aren't everything, but they're a critical part of the development that we need to take.

If we're going to truly prepare our adult learners for success, part of that is high school equivalency. Part of that is English language learning. Part of that oftentimes is a certificate, some sort of career pathway. And part of that whole formula is the importance of these soft skills.

If you want to know more or find some more resources, if you go to www.workethic.org, you can find there free tips. If you want to sign up for them, we'll send you, every Monday, some work ethic tips. You can post them online. You can keep them yourself, however you want to deal with them.

You can find the definitions for all of our seven different As. Also, if you want to, you can find out about our Bring Your A Game curriculum if that's something you're interested in learning more about. All sorts of free and other resources available on that website.

No matter what you do, what you need to remember is that as we're preparing our adult learners for the future, an uncertain future of the 21st century, we know that it's going to take a lot of different things, but unknown is going to be a driving force. To conquer unknown given the only thing we know will be valuable, and that's work ethic. Because it doesn't matter which career pathway. It doesn't matter where in the state, the country, or the world. Those are the skills that will help make them successful.

So do me a favor. Can I get you all to do one final thing for me? Raise your right hand here above your head. Do me a favor. Wiggle your fingers for me. All right, now take your fingers, your hand. Move it forward, and backward, forward, backward. I just wanted to see you do that for a while.

OK, now do me a favor. Take your fingers. Make a little O with your fingers. All right, show that off to everybody else around you because you're oh-so awesome. And then take that O for me and do me a favor. Just put it right here on your chin.

Next, take a look to your left and your right and see how many people have their hand on their cheek and not on their chin.


Well, what I love is I love that it's a whole subset of you in the room that did this move--


--like I wasn't going to notice or something, right? What does this prove to me? It proves to me two things. Number one, if we are talking and talking and talking and talking but we don't change our actions, it doesn't matter because people will follow what you do, not what you say. The same is true with work ethic.

And what is the second and probably the more important thing it tells me is that obviously, after a little bit over an hour, y'all aren't listening to anything else that I say, so I need to be done. Thank you for letting me kick off your day. Have a fantastic rest of the conference.


Narrator: www.otan.us.