My parenting goal is pretty simple:
Inspire my children to be who they were created to be and go live accordingly.
Of course, there are other goals, but this one seems to rise to the top. In a season of graduations and college planning one needs to get pretty singular.
The irony of my stated goal is found in the opposition each of my children face every day. For example:
- The school system where I live is fixated on testing. It runs from state testing to the ACT. Heaven forbid, they don’t do well on these. The stress and anxiety can be downright sad. Especially since very little meaning in life has ever come from a pass, fail or score
- Our culture has thrown out meaningful self-care (nutrition, stress management, physical exercise, and on) as an important habit to practice
- Distraction is blocking the ability to embrace our 5 senses and the power found within
I could list other things, but I think you feel me here.
In my family, inspiration is the keyword. My children have been watching me for a long time. That reality is daunting. The conclusion is a parent’s influence is greater than the “system,” for the good in this case.
As I get closer to finishing my second book, I wanted to share an excerpt. I’ll save the details around the concept/premise of the book. The working title is;; Stop for a Moment: 60 Seconds to Look Around and Find What Matters Most.
Look for a late summer, early fall release. Enjoy!
Eileen and I had been married for over 7 years before we had our first child. As is it is with life, some of that was planned, and some was not. We weren’t entirely sold on being parents in the beginning, so we decided to wait a few years. As the years passed, we began to feel the longing. We both figured it would be an immediate thing. It was not an immediate thing. We waited 3 ½ years before Lauren arrived. The process of waiting, medical testing and feelings of doubt was tough.
I stopped giving advice on parenting after our first. Especially, since I felt so ill-equipped to be a father. Later on you realize most parents feel this way. It was tough for me. My dad was the only model for human fatherhood and he never said much to me, so I felt alone to figure it out. Fortunately, my relationship with God helped immensely. One thing was clear then, and now, there is no such thing as a perfect parent.
After my son was born in late 2001, I started realizing the power of influence. I came to understand that often your kid’s behavior and view of the world is heavily based on what they see in you. That’s one of the biggest reasons I value forgiveness. You never know how important forgiveness is until you do something that you deeply regret. I’ve had many lessons in this area.
As my kids are now in their teens, I’ve discovered the need to let them know I’m listening. I make sure to verbalize my feelings for them, and to let them know that I pray for them everyday. I may miss the boat on college planning or a homework assignment, but they will know how important they are to me in the areas that matter most.
Questions to Think About:
- Do your children know they are loved? Does your home echo the sound of “I love you?”
- Do you spend too much time trying to teach, versus listen, to discover and encourage?
- Are you modeling behaviors that would produce light or darkness?
I’m thankful for my friends who’ve had the courage to call me on my BS. The was done out of love and a keen sense on their part that something wasn’t right. In the last 10 years I’ve been recovering from the habit. I’m sure my time in corporate America, insecurities and a fear of being the “real” me contributed to all the posing. I see it for what it is now. I hate it!
Two strong conclusions leap out. One, we live in a BS culture. Two, if we don’t do a gut check everyday (yes, everyday), we’ll become that BS culture.
Some people who know me on the surface, might be surprised by the above. They know my acting, not who I really am. Fortunately, BS rears its head less and less these days, so don’t worry, I’m the boy you see now.
So what’s so urgent about the problem? Time, and time is running out for all of us. Some of the most outwardly successful people personify the problem. They act as if tomorrow is an eternity away. Most would never dare call them on it either, let alone walk the other way. A sick form of enablement. Often we close our eyes and pretend to only hear and see certain things. Most are willing to look the other way if it means getting what they came for. In America, that usually means a title, an investment account or who they know. It’s a cold reality we live in.
I only woke up, and learned (still learning) how to live differently, when I lost all my stage props and the interest of the culture. Imagine going to an audition and thinking you had one more good line for the director. Only to find, God was the only in attendance. With me, He only wanted to talk about where the real Eric was. I used to walk out, but then my life unravelled to a point where I had nowhere else I could go.
It was the best place for me, I could breathe.
There’s something to setting proper expectations. Especially, in a world that has changed, but still looks and often feels the same. In our gut, we know it’s important to set proper expectations. It’s just so hard. The war is found in our mind. Are we willing to be laughed at by the herd for seeing things as they truly are? Many walk away.
So, what do you expect?
I’ve had more than a few seasons of looking for the old version of success and accomplishment. I’ve had more than a few seasons where I’ve thought those closest to me had written me off. I was easily seduced by the old static days. The sweet dance and embrace of holding onto something not really there. At least until I had fallen hard. These all were fantasy expectations around ego and hiding grounds.
The unwind is a very difficult business.
Many are looking hard. Looking for answers and direction. This is all happening in a time of mass disruption. Imagine living in between the old and the new. Transition, as my friend Terry would say. Proper expectations as you make your way through is a vital art.
- Can your relationships really deliver the movement and growth you need? Do you find yourself asking someone immature to give you encouragement? Maybe you just want them to be what they can’t. Only you know if the relationship is toxic in nature or just one that needs a reset. Watch out for radical movements in this area.
- Are you looking for someone or something to make you happy. Do you jump from person to person expecting them to solve you? There is only one person who can make you happy, go to the mirror and you will find them.
- Do you expect your employer to take care of you? Really big dangers here. Many misconstrue the emotional high found at work for authentic care. Just keep in mind, most publicly traded companies have allegiances to about 5 things (shareholders, Wall Street analysts, profits, customers, and expense control) other than you, the employee. Only you can know if being number 6 is okay. Again, what do you expect in this area of life?
- Do you expect that your life will always be an unending winning streak? More people than you think, are petrified by the thought of loss. They rationalize, they prepare in order to protect themselves from that dreaded day when the score shows one for the loss column. Losing for me is not the thing to be afraid of, not learning is the great risk.
- Are you waiting for someone else to speak up and exhibit leadership? Dr. Andrew Thorn says leadership is a behavior, not a skill. I agree. Go ahead and say something, go ahead and be willing to be a voice for those lacking.
So, what’s your measuring stick for people? Do they need to be a certain color? Do they need to drive a certain vehicle? Do they need to have a certain type of degree?
If the people you meet, or have known for some time, have to meet a vague mental checklist, you’re in trouble. Bigotry, arrogance and stunted mental growth are formed out of this approach.
Insecurity is the culprit for those using a measuring stick that excludes certain types of people. When we deal with our insecurities, we begin to see people from a different set of lenses.
The best measuring stick is the unconditional one. Unconditional allows you to embrace real diversity and not lose your own identity in the process.
The choice is yours.
From quite a few years ago.
Some of my best leaders have been women. Many of them gave me something essential to growth-affirmation. Is this a motherly instinct? I can’t say for sure, but it has made a difference in my career path.
The Juggle has a great post (Is it Better When the Boss is a Mom) on the potential benefits of a woman leading the charge. I think a woman being the leader of a group or organization can be an advantage, but whatever the reason I am a better leader because of the influence of these ladies in my life.
Here are some reasons (in addition to affirmation) why women can be wonderful leaders at work and home:
- They seem to understand that life is wide as it is long.
- They have instinct that, as a man, I only wish I had.
- Many women are comfortable in their own skin.
- They often understand the importance of legacy (maybe the motherly thing).
- They know how to walk away.
Here’s to the women who lead and the difference they make.
I know it may seem strange that my dog, Bob Marley, would be my source of inspiration and reflection. I’m a dog lover and have been for most of my life. This little guy is seven and has been ill the last month or so. It’s the first time we’ve dealt with major sickness in the time we’ve had him. It caught my family by surprise.
The surprise was found in the nature of a first time, but it also caught me taking his constant companionship for granted. I’ll confess that I always thought of him as a constant, constant as the earth I walked on everyday. I know better.
As Bob Marley has been recovering (too soon to say full recovery), he reminds me everyday that now is what is constant. Epic living is found in that statement. There’s a chance you’re thinking that you’ve heard this story before. More flip advice from a world full of lists and how-to formulas. Maybe so, but ask yourself when you last said thank you for the following:
- The breath of life
- Your family (immediate)
- Your luck
- Your work (not your employer in this example)
- People who helped you get to where you’re at
- Friends who stuck with you when things got ugly
- Your health
I’m advocating the now because it breeds a constant state of thankfulness. Discovering thankfulness when it’s too late is painful and ripe of regret. You can start now, right now, if you want to.
Picture yourself going along and things are flowing as you like. You might even feel genuinely successful. And behold, out of nowhere (feels like that) comes the one. The one who wants to point out where you’re off or what you’ve missed.
There’s one in every crowd.
It’s not fair to have someone come in and point out the latest rumor regarding your project, or point out all of the terrible dangers ahead if you proceed. Alas, life is not…
I now look for these folks. Yep, that’s right, I look for them. I see them as a barometer of what I may be onto. Does my idea make anyone feel threatened or uncomfortable., Remember, Martin Luther King, Je. had folks tell him that forming boycotts was too risky. There are numerous examples of people who the status quo felt were dangerous. You might call them an annoyance, which they are, we just need to see the bigger picture. You don’t want your movie dominated by a jealous bit player. These types have often given up and given in. They don’t want to see you rise. The mission is too important to crumble under the weight.
I have a warning for you. The people who take on these roles in your story can be deceptive. Look at them as old hands who know how to upset the cart. They come to you subtly and in a caring manner. Don’t get sucked in. I would even advise you do something daring. In your next encounter, ask a probing question for motive and then embrace silence. Don’t say a word no matter how uncomfortable it feels. Count 10 breaths in your head, stare into space, but do not speak. The uncomfortable silence is designed to bring out motive. Best that you know who and what you’re dealing with.
It’s not a question of if you’ll meet the “one in every crowd,” but when. The encounter after is what makes all the difference.