The fourth and final Lessons for my Children article.
These lessons have been an aggregation of thoughts and knowledge learned through listening, watching, or doing throughout my life. As I continue to learn and grow as a father, but also a person, I too will continually refine and hone skills, thoughts, and actions.
Perhaps once I fail a few more times and get more life experience as a father of 3, then a Part 5 will be appropriate.
For now, this is what I have to offer. To my children, I hope these lessons will guide, or at least partially influence, future behavior and decisions.
First three parts of this series:
Information is abundant. One can get lost in the abyss of data, knowledge, articles, podcasts, or how to videos.
What should be simple searches or light research can turn into hours of second guessing due to slightly differing online opinions.
It's easy to tell ourselves we are still making headway by gaining knowledge, but the truth is, no headway is made until a step is taken.
Research should not develop your entire path but point you in the direction of your first step. The experiences, failures, successes, and hardships will dig the dirt, roll it flat, and lay the stones on which to walk.
The challenge is not to become excellent in research, but in the iteration of our efforts. "Fail fast" is the most common expression, but in the words of Adam Savage (former host of Mythbusters): "what is really meant is for us to iterate fast".
Basically, quickly learn from your failures. Make changes and try again. Learn again. Repeat.
Learn how to adapt after you stub your toe. Learn how to pick yourself back up after you fall flat on your face. The truth is, you are going to fail in life. A lot. You're lying to yourself if you believe exhaustive research will prevent you from failing.
In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear writes: "We are so focused on figuring out the best approach that we never get around to taking action...I refer to this as the difference between being in motion and taking action...We do it because motion allows us to feel like we're making progress without running the risk of failure." (p.142).
Don't be stagnant in motion. Research enough to take your first step, then step, iterating as you go.
You will learn infinitely more by doing.
Don't be afraid to ask the "dumb questions", but to not ask the same question twice
Whether learning something new or completing an assigned task there is no such thing as a dumb question.
Chances are, if you are unsure and left to make assumptions that were supposedly understood, others are as well. Don't let uncertainty lead to poor decisions because the proper information was not first gathered.
Clear requirements, clear understanding, clear objectives, lead to clear learning, work, and progress.
Too often we are consumed with how our actions will be seen and others perception of us. We make the assumption everyone else understood and don't want to look like the idiot in the room. But what if everyone had the same thought?
This compliments Lesson #7: "Be confident in what you know, but know what you don't know."
If we are confident in ourselves and our own understanding, then why not ask the question if only to ensure your assumptions are correct? If anything it will build trust for you in others. It will show that you aren't trying to be something you're not and with that comes respect.
Ask questions. Ensure you have a clear understanding of your objective even if it means asking a question that can be perceived as "dumb". However, make sure you do not ask the same question twice.
Everyone knows more about something than you
I love having conversations with people of different backgrounds, professions, or interests and hearing what brings them joy, fulfillment, or their opinions.
One thing I have come to realize is that everyone knows something I don't.
Whether its in regards to sports, current events, music, the weather, you name it, I normally walk away from conversations having learned something.
In general, we tend to steer conversations towards topics in which we are knowledgeable. Mostly unintentionally, it's natural for us to gravitate towards ideas we are familiar with so we can carry the conversation.
But what if instead we became more accustom to inferring about others opinions and interests?
Not only would this make the other person in the conversation feel wanted and appreciated, but we would expand our own knowledge and understanding.
Be humble. Don't underestimate others. Every person around you knows something you don't. Understand this and use it as an advantage to learn and connect on a deeper level.
If you have wronged someone, apologize and ask for forgiveness
There is a difference between apologizing and asking for forgiveness.
An apology is acknowledging the wrong doing and expressing you feel bad about the situation. There is nothing wrong with this, in fact it's the correct first step.
However, it's easy to slip out the words "I'm sorry" and continue on. Whether genuinely meant or not, it doesn't carry the weight we most likely intend.
Especially in regards to relationships we value, only saying I'm sorry can still leave an open wound. Tension grows, resentment breeds, and while the situation has passed, the feelings have not.
Forgiveness, on the other hand, closes the book on the matter. It involves letting go of the hurt, anger, or resentment.
Dr. Josh Misner from a Time.com article The One Thing Everyone Should Do After an Apology says it this way: "If saying sorry is akin to admitting fault, then doing so is not enough to restore a relationship. Taking the extra step to ask for forgiveness involves a dramatic shift in power, which requires humility on the part of the asker and subsequently places power into the hands of the person wronged."
In this scenario, time is also in the hands of the person wronged. Even though forgiveness is asked for, it does not and will not always be given right away.
If it was a physical pain, it could take time for the pain to reside.
If you lied, it could take a while to restore trust.
If it was emotional pain, time and space may be required.
At the end of the day, a heart felt apology and true forgiveness are both required to heal, restore, and move forward any relationship.
Get comfortable being uncomfortable
There are two main areas of focus for this lesson, though it applies to many aspects of life.
1. Learning to be assertive without being rude.
2. Learning to learn and push beyond your current depths of knowledge.
Learning to be assertive without being rude:
As mentioned in Lesson #15, In all things, be confident and kind, we talked about being kind without being a pushover. What is important to note, is that being kind doesn't mean that you must always be the "nice guy". You must find the assertive line between nice and rude.
In his book The Masculinity Manifesto, @ryanmichler talks about this: "It's hard for nice guys to know the line, especially if they've never experimented with what is acceptable and what isn't."
He suggests to experiment in regards to being more assertive in certain scenarios. Intentionally make yourself uncomfortable in order to find the line. Or in his words, "The point is to make yourself uncomfortable and get you familiar with asserting yourself in a situation where you ordinarily would just want to slink away and hide."
Find the line. Toe across it. Get comfortable. Then, dial it back to assertive without being rude.
Learning to learn and push beyond your current depth of knowledge:
When learning a new skill or subject matter, it's the process of learning you must get comfortable with.
Through the process, we push ourselves beyond what we currently know and understand. This is intimidating, but also uncomfortable. We risk being the newbie or the dumbest one in the room. It's humbling. However, if you are able to get comfortable in the uncomfortable and embrace the process, there is no telling what you will be able to learn and accomplish.
This lesson does not stop with these two examples.
It can be applied to fitness or to social settings. It can build confidence.
Get comfortable being uncomfortable. It will do you wonders.
If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right.
There are many similar ways this saying has been quoted, but this is how I remember hearing it growing up.
In short, if your name is going to be attached, make sure your work represents all that you are or aim to be.
Be Present. Be Intentional.