Your Child’s Hedgehog | Tomorrow’s World

Your Child’s "Hedgehog"

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Great blessings flow from working according to the crucial principles of God’s commandments.

Seventy years ago, historian Isaiah Berlin published an essay titled “The Hedgehog and the Fox,” expanding on a saying coined by the ancient Greek poet Archilochus, that “the fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” In his 2001 book Good to Great, business analyst Jim Collins used this concept to explain why some businesses are great while others are merely good.

Collins found that truly great companies found one concept around which they organized—what he termed a “hedgehog” concept. A business would know that it had discovered its hedgehog concept when leaders could give the same answer to three questions: What are you deeply passionate about? What can you be best in the world at? What drives your economic engine (makes you money)?

Collins also realized that his three questions could apply to our personal lives—if we personalize these questions, they can give us personal direction. What Collins might not have realized is that his questions are supported by biblical principles. And with two of my sons approaching adulthood, these “hedgehog” questions have helped guide their preparation for the future.

As we help our children consider what paths to take as they leave our care, these three questions can give guidance. This can be especially important when they are graduating from high school and considering the next steps to take in life.

Three Questions to Assess the Future

The first question, personalized, asks us to focus on personal inclinations. What school subjects does your child like or dislike? Scripture exhorts us, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). This is true regardless of the task, but it is made easier when we enjoy the work. When I was in school, math and history were two of my better subjects. However, I never really enjoyed math to the same degree that I did history. I appreciated math because I was decent at it and understood how it worked, but I never found myself wanting to learn more about it than was required. History, on the other hand, was something I found myself endlessly engrossed in—I could take multiple classes and enjoy learning more. When I decided to become a teacher, it was an easy choice to follow my passion. For your child, creating a list of subjects and activities they like can be helpful in answering this first question.

The second question focuses on talent. What have your children proven to be good at? Just as important, what do they struggle with? We read, “Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before unknown men” (Proverbs 22:29). It is rewarding to do a job that we can do well. Academic subjects can again be a good starting point for this question. I struggle with foreign languages and feel my blood pressure rise when I see someone bleed—being a translator or a doctor would not be good choices for me. And beyond academics, there are other areas of talent that should be considered. Does your child have a talent for hands-on work? Those who have talents for the trades can often find well-paying jobs that do not require them to take on student loan debt. Talent can also include artistic and athletic skills. As your children create a list of talents, hopefully some items will be the same as their answers to the first question. These can be very helpful to determine what they both like and are good at.

Finally, what can your children do that will help them earn money? While the Bible warns strongly against developing a love of money, men should be motivated to provide for their own household (1 Timothy 6:10; 5:8). Christian men who fail to do so harm not just their own reputations, but that of Christians in general. This third question helps “the rubber meet the road” in case your child offers some implausible answers to the first two questions. How many teenagers think they have both a passion and a talent for playing video games? Even if this is true, it is very rare to be able to make a living by doing so. Instead, young men should be encouraged to find jobs that provide steady income to support themselves and their families. (For more on how to teach our children to embrace the roles God designed for them, you can read our January 2021 article “Teaching Kids True Masculinity and Femininity,” available at The range of jobs that can provide an income is quite extensive, so it might be best simply to review your child’s first two lists and see if this question eliminates any candidates.

By answering these questions, your children should be able to narrow down a short list of enjoyable occupations at which they could excel and earn a reliable income. Answers to these questions may change over time, so revisiting them can be especially useful as high school graduation approaches. After completing twelfth grade, young people are usually faced with the options of entering the workforce, going to a trade school, or attending a college or university. By reflecting on how they have answered the “hedgehog” questions, they can make a better choice.

Keeping God’s Commandments, No Matter the Job

There certainly are other elements to consider. The workforce continues to change, with more and more jobs becoming automated or obsolete. This can mean that young people should focus on skills that easily transfer from one job to another. These skills can be as simple as being able to get along with others (having good “people skills”), staying focused on tasks, and following instructions. Simply being open to correction is a huge advantage in the workplace. Ideally, young people will also target occupations that will not soon be automated or phased out. This once again reiterates how valuable trade schools can be for young people with those talents!

But the most crucial consideration is that the job should not encourage them to break God’s commandments. They might have found work that they like, they are good at, and will make them money—but will cause them to break a commandment of God. While most jobs are not looking for employees who murder or steal, some employers will demand that their employees break the Fourth Commandment by working on the seventh-day Sabbath. This can be a serious challenge for those who are already employed and want to start keeping the commandments. Young people, however, have the opportunity to aim for careers where they can keep all of God’s commandments—including the command to rest on the Sabbath day. (For more information on the Christian Sabbath, you can request a free copy of Which Day Is the Christian Sabbath?, or read it at

All good parents want their children to be successful as adults. I certainly hope to help my children find careers they find fulfilling that allow them to support themselves while keeping God’s commandments. Collins’ “hedgehog concept” can be a useful tool to help young people focus on careers in which they would find success. Our children may have a variety of passions and talents, but as parents, we can work with them so that their answers to these “hedgehog” questions can help them find success as they mature.


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