Are we overly-assisted?

I had a coaching client once ask me, “What is HR?” It took all of my facial muscles to keep my composure.  This client was a new graduate and struggling to navigate through her first job. In my head I wondered, “I am sure The Simpsons explained this. Friends? The movies?”

The other day walking in the city, I kept bumping into the same tourist.  He kept looking up and down from his smartphone, tuned into Google Maps for directions, stopping and starting every block. This was in mid-town Manhattan where the grid is with numbered streets.

And I cannot tell you how many coaching clients I have had that when asked, “How could you investigate that / learn more / research?” simply stare back at me blankly. Some eventually quietly respond, “I guess I could ask around.”

Are we overly-assisted? Have the benefits of Siri/Alexa/OKGoogle/AI made us dumb? Do young people no longer have critical thinking skills?

Are we teaching helplessness, instead of figure-it-outed-ness? Grit? Gumption? Moxy? Street smarts?

I was a History major in the stone ages when I had to go into the library (you know that place that holds books, the three-dimensional kind) and locate first hand accounts. Expert David Caruso, an early pioneer in emotional intelligence along with Peter Salovey, Yale’s current President, taught me about the term “learned helplessness”. It’s real!

How does one build resilience, savvy and original thinking if you are always bailed out?  Adversity, puzzles, challenging cases are the stuff of intelligence. Survival of the fittest, not the fastest on their keyboard, is what I look for in talent.

How can we reverse the trend and become overly-empowered instead?