Life offers many lessons. While learning from experience is one of, if not the most, effective learning tool, as parents we attempt to forego the potential trials our children will face with intentional lessons.
At best, it will steer them clear of potential danger, frustration, hurt, pain, etc.
If anything, at least we believe it will soften the blow or produce a more beneficial learning outcome once experienced.
Or, it may be for nothing.
Our children may hear us, then wander down the same path all the same.
But the Lord knows I'm going to try.
Here is Part 3 to my attempt.
Part 1: 5 Lessons For My Children
Part 2: 5 More Lessons For My Children
It's not what happened, it's what'd you do about it
From falling off your bike as a kid, taking inventory of the pain and trying to determine if you cry or walk it off to being laid off from your job as an adult, life knocks us down quite often. Most days, it's not even that blunt. It could be something as simple as you dropped your cup and spilt coffee everywhere. How do you react and what do you do about it? Chuck Swindoll put it this way, "Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it". If you fell off your bike you could choose to quit and never ride again; or, you get back on. If you lose your job you could feel sorry for yourself and fall into a pit of self-loathing; or, you dust off your resume and get online to search for open positions. Spilt coffee? Sure you might expend a few curse words, but what is complaining going to do? Grab a towel, clean it up, and make a fresh cup. Each scenario could be a day, week, or more of pain and frustration if you allow it. Simply spilling a cup of coffee could leave you in a state of bitterness that could affect how you interact with people throughout the rest of the day.
Rarely do we get to determine our circumstances or control every moment of our lives. But we do determine how we react to them.
Understand this and build your mental toughness to deal and handle situations as they arise. You can choose to be upset or you can choose to leave that frustration in the past and move on. The choice is continually yours. As the Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus said, "It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters". Or how I remember it from my dad, "It's not what happened, it's what'd you do about it."
Learn to objectively absorb and process information in order to make your own decisions
In every scenario of life there are facts and truth. Unfortunately, too often we see only certain facts, rarely the truth, and are left to decipher the rest. Words like "Fake News", "Misinformation", or "My Truth" have now become common place. Only a tap away there is information supporting either side of any discussion. The same information/data is used on both sides of the argument, presented in a light dependent only on the bias of the author. While, in some cases, this may not be a bad thing, it is something to be aware of and approach with caution. If the topic is one you wish to have an opinion on, consider the sources and the raw information. Do your own homework and objectively formulate your thoughts. Don't take things at face value or pass off other's thoughts as your own.
Don't get entrenched in a discussion where the depth of your knowledge is a headline. Think for yourself and teach your children to do the same. There are multiple sources pointing to multiple origins of this saying, so we will call it unknown for now, but in no way does that diminish its prevalence: "If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it's probably a duck."
Don't let someone convince you it's an elephant.
You can do anything you set your mind to
Mental toughness is arguably more important than physical strength, as one precedes the other.
It wasn't until researching this lesson that I learned Ben Franklin is credited in saying "You can do anything you set your mind to". Until this point, I simply knew it as another cliché on which I was raised! From the youngest age I can remember, my dad, time and again preached these words.
And time and again, he was correct.
No matter the challenge or hurdle, in sports or school, he continually reminded my brother and I that each battle started in the mind. Recently, I have enjoyed reading/listening to books written by former Navy Seals. One common thread in each book is when entering training, you cannot pick out who is going to make it through based on physical appearance.
Each guys tries to size up the ones around him. Making predictions on who will be gone tomorrow vs. who looks like they have what it takes. But at the end of the day, there have been muscular/fitness buffs that don't make it past the first few weeks, while scrawny 5'-5" guys do.
It's not whether or your body can take the beating, it's if your mind can. In David Goggins' book, Can't Hurt Me, he talks about what he calls the 40% rule. That when most people quit and have given all they have, there is really 60% left in the tank. To him, it's all about mental toughness and callousing your mind no matter the pain your body endures.
He prooves it too. He continually dimonstrates that if your mind believes a goal is attainable, your body can be brutally forced into reaching it. It is beyond incredible what this man has put and continually puts his body through and endures. Currently, I'm reading Ryan Michler's new book, The Masculinity Manifesto. Part II of the book is called The Mindsets of Masculine Leadership. The first line of this section says, "Anything you hope to make a reality must first start in the mind." It's not a new thought. Not anything off the wall. But because it's simple to say, doesn't mean it's easy. However, it is the first step to accomplishing anything of importance.
You can do anything you set your mind to.
Get your mind right first. Then, conquer your dreams.
Learn how to problem solve, not only how to solve specific problems
Life is a continual string of challenges, one after the other. Whether physical, mental, or emotional, rarely are two challenges similar enough that the same solution can be applied successfully.
However, the approach to the solution will generally remain the same. James Clear puts it this way "The ultimate form of preparation is not planning for a specific scenario, but a mindset that can handle uncertainty." Imagine a defensive back coving a receiver. Rarely does the receiver run the same route throughout a game. He may run multiple post routes, digs, outs, etc. but, even when the same route is called, it may be run slightly different depending on multiple factors. Down & distance, potential defensive coverage, or laziness of the receiver. All this to say, that if you only learned how to cover a 10 yard out route, you would get burned over 90% of the time. Instead, you learn how to move and adapt your body to the situation. How to backpedal. How to turn your hips and run. How to cut while keeping your eyes on the quarterback and hand on the receiver. You prepare, piece by piece for any given scenario. Then, assemble those pieces on the fly during each play. As an engineer, I have never seen the same failure occur twice once a solution has been put into place. In addition, I've had the opporunity to work on new products in a market that previously didn't exist.
In these scenarios, there is no blanket solution to succesfully accomplish a task. However, there is whats called the Engineering Method. A systematic approach to problem solving. In each scenario, the Engineering Method is followed and tailored to the specific challenge to determine a unique solution. In all, teach your children to not have tunnel vision when hurdling challenges in life. Rather, think about the approach.
What you have previously learned and how does it apply?
What is unique about each scenario while sharing similarities?
Build on your own experiences. Learn how to problem solve, not only how to solve specific problems.
In all things, be confident and kind
Confident, but not arrogant.
Kind, but not a push over.
About once a month I send each of my sons an email. The emails are sent to unique inboxes setup soon after they were born. (see Intentional Moment – Setup Email Account) The emails range from current events/activities, to a specific moment in which I was proud and wanted to share, to a simple "I love you and was thinking about you". Sometimes I attach a few pictures to properly capture the moments, others it's a few simple words. One day when they are older, perhaps after high-school graduation, I will give them the email address and password. This will unlock years of thoughts, love, images, and encouragement for them to peruse at their leisure. I hope it brings them joy as they read through my dated words. If anything, they will know, without a doubt, their father loves them dearly. I say all this, because at the end of each email, I found myself signing off in a similar, unintentional fashion. Something to the extent of: "I cannot wait to see the man you have become. I pray you are confident and kind. Know who you are, but don't be arrogant. Treat everyone you encounter with kindness, but do not be a push over." This has since, simply become: "In all things, be confident and kind." As I was researching and writing this article, I came across a speech by Jim Rohn called "How to Have Your Best Year Ever". In this instance, he was speaking in regards to leadership, however, it is fitting and right in line with this lesson: "The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not a bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly." -Jim Rohn
We will not get it right every time. But if we approach each scenario in life with confidence and kindness, I imagine the odds are in our favor.
Can't tell you the number of times I've heard that saying and now said it to my boys.
It's not just about being tough.
In the words of contributor Jerod Post from his Encouragement Article - Cowboy Up: "Teach them to be tough with honor, teach them to take stress, and respond with positive output."
More to come.
Be Present. Be Intentional.