Archives For Daddy

Insecurity is something we all deal with.  On some level, it is one of the core causes of all our oddities and quirks.  I’d even argue that the most confident, bold person you know still has a bit of insecurity lurking in their heart in some amount.  And unchecked, it can destroy the environments we are a part of.

insecurity

As dads, we see insecurity pop up in our kids as they begin to venture out of the shelter of our homes and into the real world.  When they find some exposure to the world that doesn’t think they’re amazing for being born, they can easily fall prey to attacks of insecurity.

Our jobs as fathers is to help our kids face that world and be able to have a confidence in themselves that is both based on something real and solid enough to weather the storm coming at them.

Honestly, it is a bit sad watching how some people go about this with their kids.  Generic praise like “You’re so amazing” and “You are just the greatest little fella.”  While there isn’t anything wrong with saying these things, there also is much right about it either.  In other words, if you don’t give your kids some concrete feedback on why they are amazing that is based on truth you’re creating a fragile shell that won’t last outside of your home.

Another version of this is what I call overreaching praise.  It’s where parents don’t know what to praise in their kids so they reach for everything.  “Wow, you put your pants on better than anyone I’ve ever seen!”  Of course, this is a over-dramatized example, but you’ve heard it before.

If you work with other humans in any capacity (which we all do), you’ve witnessed insecurity at different levels in most everyone.  Whether it plays out as an overly aggressive person or a reserved, reluctant approach, insecurity not only holds that person back but the whole team suffers.  Insecurity is contagious.  It is frustrating.  It is hard on everyone.

The hardest part of this is that our natural tendency is to attack insecurity with either harshness or cliches.

Get over it!  Just do it!  Quit worrying about what other people think.  You just need to start working and stop over-thinking things.  Ugh!  Why don’t you get it?

You can do it!  You can do anything you set your mind to!  If you believe it you can achieve it!

Natural reactions, of course, are often wrong.  And they push insecurity further into the person by either confirming they are incompetent or creating internal skepticism of your obviously weak and foundation-less “motivation.”

So what to do?

Acceptance.  Acceptance is the real cure for insecurity. This is why people join with groups that are unhealthy. Stay in relationships that drag them down.

Acceptance is: letting people be who they are and loving them anyway.  Being able to appreciate someone as a unique and beautiful creation and that part of their beauty is their cracks.

Acceptance is not: letting people remain in their faults or believe they don’t need to work on them.  Enabling people in their bad habits and issues.

Feeling acceptance from someone gives us a pathway to accept ourselves. Not to think we don’t have weaknesses. Not to think we have it all right or are without gaps in our abilities. But to accept that being the complete package isn’t being perfect or “all together” but instead being in process and joyful in the journey.

Being o.k. with having flaws is one of the most appealing characteristics a person can have.  My wife and I have discussed many times what makes a woman attractive.  I have maintained before and will continue to do so here – hands down it’s confidence.  Not the cocky, look-at-me kind of confidence (which isn’t confidence anyway).  But the quiet, humble confidence that comes from having faced your demons, found the good in yourself and resolutely determined to lean into that discovery.

If we want to build a generation of people that can weather the storms of this world with grace and power, we have to arm them with something real to believe in.  The beginning of that is real acceptance.  Have you learned to accept yourself?  Really?  If so, I’ll bet you’re pretty good at accepting those around you.

Momentum. Our lives naturally develop momentum. The question is, are we creating momentum in the direction we want to move or are we allowing life to push us along? Like a fast moving river, there is momentum that will carry us. Unless we learn how to skillfully use that momentum to get where we want to go it is going to be a dangerous ride that often ends badly.

River's Momentum

In a previous post, we started talking about how to get steam behind our ideas. Big ideas require the help or participation of others.  Ideas run into walls when they aren’t introduced skillfully because we have a tendency to resist others pushing us in a direction we didn’t choose.

Seeing with their eyesToday, we’re going to talk about how to begin the process by Seeing with Their Eyes. I want to admit right up front that this is one I struggle with.  My task oriented, strongly opinionated mind just doesn’t naturally slow down and see how the wake I create affects others.  Habits can change, however, and while I’ll never be as empathetic as my wife I am working on getting better.

Point is, whether you want to help your kids grow into amazing men and women or you have a vision for a project that could help your teams have a banner year, there is a there is one subject we’ve all got to become an expert on – the people we lead. The way you move someone begins with knowing what makes them move. Obvious, I know. But then again, how many times have we begun excitedly pushing forward our agenda only to have it fall flat because we hadn’t think about how others would perceive it?

Cherie and I try to make sure we pay attention to our kids love languages. It’s how someone best receives and gives love. If you don’t know their language, you may be showing them love in a language they don’t “speak” and the relationship suffers. Both of us are heavily physical touch people with each other and our kids. We love to hug, kiss and just generally be close. (That doesn’t translate to people other than my wife and kids, though.  i.e., please don’t give me a lingering hug or rub my back.  Just sayin’.)

Caleb was easy to figure out – he was and is just like us in his love language. When he watches TV, he wants one of us literally at his side. He asks for family hugs and wants me to hold him while we read together. Then there was Logan! For a while, I was having a hard time figuring him out. We worried that he felt left out or disconnected. He’d play alone, leave the rest of us to actually go upstairs and be by himself or literally just lay down in his bed. I tried to engage him by playing with him and he’d seem like he liked it for a while and then just stop interacting with me and play alone. Caleb would come in and I’d try to play with them both and Logan would yet again either leave or just almost ignore us. This really bugged me for a while because I couldn’t tell if it was just a more solitary personality or if he really felt like somehow we weren’t pursuing him the way he wanted to be pursued.

One day I took Logan with me to run a few errands. Because of schedules with naps and how much Caleb likes to come with me whenever I leave the house, I usually either only took Caleb or both of them. But that day it was just me and Logan. An interesting thing happened. He talked. Normally a pretty quiet kid, Logan talked with me all the way to the store…and in the store…and on the way home. And I noticed something else as well. When we did get home he seemed to be more engaged. When we played, he wanted to be a part. He was also more interested in the hugs and kisses we so loved to give out. What happened? I realized we were witnessing the playing out of a different love language…quality time. My Logan just needed to know that he was worth singling out. That I wanted to spend time with him specifically. Now, we try to make sure he gets the quality time he needs and as a family we have more momentum toward becoming the kind of people who know and love being together.

Knowing people at the level where I can see these kinds of things isn’t always easy. In fact, sometimes it’s outright hard:

  • Time. This level of knowledge requires investment and there’s limited time in the day.
  • Emotion. To dig in at this level requires strong emotional strength and maturity. This can get messy at times.  And to be honest, I don’t always handle it well.  My attitude can tend to be a bit like a drill instructor.  This is an area of real growth for me.
  • Chemistry. What if you don’t really want to get to know someone because you just don’t mesh with them? Either you have a lot of baggage in the relationship or you don’t mind working with them but just don’t want anything other than that?  It can be hard to see the benefit of getting to know someone you don’t really love being around anyway.

Andy Stanley said something that helped me begin to better handle issues like this. Not all things are problems to be solved. Sometimes things we see as problems are, in fact, tensions to be lived with. In other words, there are tensions in life that are good to maintain. In this case, the tension lies in balancing the real constraints of our time, energy and connections with others with the equally real need for our leadership to be guided by a deeper knowledge of those on our teams. I think of it like an equation. This may be overly simplistic, but let’s say we have 2 variables – Constraints (time, emotion, chemistry) and Investments (in more deeply knowing others). Here’s how they may play out:

  • Constraints – Investments = Lost potential
  • Investments – Constraints = Burnout
  • Investments / Constraints = Enduring Impact

Choosing to invest within the constraints we have on our lives will give us an edge on becoming the best dads and leaders we can be. I’m still figuring all this out myself, but here’s a few things I’ve learned so far. First, don’t mistake the level of depth you have to have with each person. In the context of the story above all I had to do was:

  • Be aware enough to know there was a disconnect
  • Be intentional enough to try something different (make sure my trip was done when I could take him alone)
  • Observe his reactions
  • Adjust or Replicate based on my observations

In the context of work, as you interact with your family and teams, be observant. Try different words, activities and approaches. Experiment and see what works. For me, simply being aware of these people has altered the dynamic and provided the effects of deeper relationship. And like all things you learn in life, failure is not only inevitable, it’s may even be good. Sometimes failing can be the opportunity to go to someone and apologize. When they see you’re willingness to be humble and admit wrong or failure, you become more human to them.  (Done this more than once and recently…)

A few words of caution here. If you decide to undertake this because you hope to learn enough about people so you can change them for your goals or so they’ll be more likely to do what you want them to – please DON’T. You learn about people because you care and want to lead them well. If you get that out of whack the only thing you’ll leave behind is a mess.

Take Action:

To do this you’re going to have to create a plan. If you were going to do this without one you would have already. Having a plan provides structure to your activities. It gives you something to measure against. Something to optimize. If you have no structure and you win or lose it is very difficult to know what caused the result and how to adjust or replicate in the next interaction.

Here’s some ideas to get you started:

  • Intentional touch points with those you lead and an agenda in those touch points.
    • Kids: dates, spontaneous donut runs, dinner time, bedtime routine, etc.
    • Teams: “walking the halls,” daily/weekly meetings, team huddles (spontaneous or planned), taking different people to lunch, outside events, etc.
  • Have accountability. If you were one of the 2% that had the internal discipline and force of will to accomplish the goal, you would have already. Share your desire, plan and concerns with some one. And then be accountable.
  • Ask questions. Always look for opportunities to take questions one level deeper to know the person. Learn not just what they are doing or thinking, but why? How did the get where they are? What do they want and why?

I heard it once said that if you want to like something more, learn more about it. Knowledge creates interest. The more you learn about the people you lead, the more interest you will have in them. And when you know more and are more interested in those you lead, the more momentum you’ll gain with them when it comes time to take them somewhere. A side benefit of this is having a greater perspective and appreciation for what is really important. If we kept in mind the real ultimate goal of legacy (adding value to those we lead) how many of our arguments would we let go? Or “chances to teach” would we see as just nagging? How much more effective could we be by seeing with the eyes of those we lead?

True Fans

December 6, 2012 — 2 Comments

A while back I was reading a blog post by someone I follow and the post asked this question: How would you define a true fan?

True Fans

The question really hit me and I spent some time thinking about it.  This was my response:

I’m not sure how I’d define true fan. It’ll probably change over time. But I think the answer lies somewhere around people that see the masterpiece in me. Kind of like what Michelangelo meant when he said “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” He saw the masterpiece even before it was sculpted. And really, don’t our fans in a way help “sculpt” us? True fans are those that “see” you and stick around because they love watching you become who you were designed to be.

That answer has really stuck with me.  Especially lately with my family and teams at work.  I’ve had several experiences in both lately that have reminded me how important it is to have true fans and to be a true fan of others.  (Sometimes those experiences have been very humbling…something I need from time to time.)

There is an idea about having 1,000 true fans for your product/company and how achieving that can launch your company into very profitable territory.  But when you change the context a bit – from building a company’s revenues to building a person – I believe the number of true fans it requires to be transformative dwindles significantly.  All the way to just one.

At Home

There is nothing revolutionary or new about saying a child’s parents should be their truest fans. More at stake is the gut check I have to ask myself – is there anyone that believes in and cheers on my kids more consistently and energetically than me?  More importantly…

How about when they have an “off” day?  

When my kids look back on their years under my roof, will the thing they remember be how I made them feel special, capable, safe and encouraged?  Will they tell their wives and friends that looking back they always got a sense that no matter how bad things got I was always in their corner with love, acceptance, discipline, coaching, encouragement and time? And what about my wife?  Does she know that when all else fails and even she doesn’t believe in herself anymore that she’s got a rock solid fan in me?  When she is going through one of the hard times that this phase of life brings, does thinking of me and our relationship help give her the strength to carry on?  Do my kids see that dynamic in our relationship?

Being a true fan of my wife and my boys can seem like a natural thing because it resonates with me emotionally.  I think all moms and dads would answer that question with something like, “Of course!” Beyond feelings, however, I have to ask myself if I behave like a true fan to them.  When I look at them, do I see what they could be at their best?  Reacting to them at their worst, do I react out of a place that says, “Whoa!  This isn’t you!  You are an amazing, loving, fun, (fill in the blank with appropriate descriptions) person!  What happened that sidetracked you like this?  Please let me help you get back to who you really are.”

At Work

In thinking about teams and how to build, motivate, streamline, improve, retain and accelerate them, I think it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that teams are just people.  We all know that in dealing with people, there is a simple truth that the first and most basic need a person has is to be accepted and believed in by another person.

But knowledge doesn’t equal execution.  When we’re planning out strategies for how to get our teams to move faster, do better quality work, be more committed or work more efficiently – do we start with asking ourselves if we are fans of the people on those teams?  I’m not talking about being buddies with them.  They don’t have to have warm fuzzies with us or have been to our home and know our kids’ names.

Instead, do we at our core see the greatness inside those we work with and want to see that greatness come out to the light of day? That is the heart and soul of great execution on strategy. You may be able to plan great strategy for teams but if you aren’t true fans of those on the teams the strategy will fall short.

What to do next

Discussing the idea is great, but the only thing that matters in the end is what we do with it.  Here’s what I’m doing.  I’m going to make being a true fan an intentional activity in my schedule.  This won’t be the right thing for many of you, but I like routines.  I use a tool called RoutineTap.  It is simply a web app that allows you to define the things you’d like to develop into habits and track your action on those activities over time.  The idea is simply that if you define a goal habit and begin actually tracking it you’ll tend to do more of it.  Here’s what got added to my personal reporting: “Who was I a true fan of today and how?”

I figure if I’m constantly asking myself that question it will help me keep that at the forefront of my mind as I interact with the people around me.  And that can’t be a bad thing.

How about you?  Have you ever experienced having a true fan?  Have you ever been a true fan to others?  What were those experiences like and how did they help “sculpt” you?  What are you going to do differently to make being a true fan something more intentional?

Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.

Shannon L. Alder

Rain Boots = Joy?

September 1, 2012 — 5 Comments

Dad and Son - JoyComing home as we drive around the corner to our cul-de-sac, my oldest son hears the splash of the tires going through a large puddle. “What was that, daddy?” I hear from the backseat.

“Just a puddle, buddy.”

“I want to splash too!”

“Hmm, o.k. pal. Let me get your brother in bed for a nap and we’ll go out.”

Almost two hours later and we’re both soaked, caked in mud (because the neighborhood is still being built and he of course wanted to play in the mud) and laughing uproariously. We go into the garage, strip down and go upstairs to take a well-deserved nap.

The next day Cherie, my wife, tells me all day Caleb had been telling her with great enthusiasm, “My daddy loves spending time with me. My daddy loves to play with me.”

Who knew? Rain boots = the greatest joy I’ve ever known…

2012-01-07 12.33.32-1

Fresh air, good friends and cool bikes.  Some loves just last throughout generations.

For a while I’ve had a bit of a passing interest in following some of the “startup world” as it’s called. Primarily the technology companies that dream of one day growing to scale and being bought for billions of dollars. Some of the dream team in this arena would be companies like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and even Google just to name some of them. I’ve followed blogs, listened to podcasts and even read some books by and about the famous entrepreneurs. At first it was all really fascinating and sometimes energizing to hear these fiery entrepreneurs talk about the rigors of building a growth company. Even though I’m not in the startup world I found a lot of inspiration to work hard, believe in myself and to be creative in my work.

Also, since I’m in a small company that is working hard to evolve and grow I read a good number of business books. One of the topics I like to read on is building a culture in a company and how important it is. The fierce determination and energy of the start-up world and the study of building culture is both exciting and applicable in your daily work life. (Which I find is fairly rare.)

Not only can I apply the knowledge and approaches in the office but I can often find nuggets of wisdom in being a better dad. After all, isn’t being a dad really similar being the entrepreneur/CEO of a startup?

World-Is-ChangingBut lately I’ve started to have a creeping feeling that this once scrappy and exciting arena of start-ups is starting to get, well, self-obsessed. It seems like every other blog post I read or discussion I get into the idea of doing work that “matters” comes up. If you’re going to build a company that lasts you’ve got to focus on “changing the world,” scream the new experts in startups and business literature. Go big or go home! Build a culture that helps people transcend the basic needs and find self-actualization and purpose!

“Wait,” you may think. “Isn’t that good advice? Don’t you want people trying to change the world? Daring to do bold things?”

My answer would be, “It depends.” The issue I take isn’t with the idea as much as it is the broad and exclusive application of and the assumptions these statements make. Let me state my points:

  • It seems very self-congratulatory. So often when I hear people talk of how their company is going to change the world, it comes across to me more as a marketing ploy or ego boost than an earnest passion. As if they are trying really hard to be bigger than they really are so people will buy their widget or come work for them. Are they trying to convince me or themselves? Or perhaps they just needed more hugs from daddy. 
  • “Changing the world” is almost meaningless. By definition, when I wake up every day I change the world. Every decision I make, person I interact with, circumstance I’m in, things I create/destroy, etc. is a change to the world we’re in. So what does it mean to “change the world” anyway? Personally I believe saying you’re trying to change the world is just lazy. Lazy because it’s easier to say that than it is to solve a specific problem and be o.k. that solving this problem alone isn’t giving the world an overhaul but it is no less worth doing anyway. 
  • Not all businesses need to be built to change the world to be successful. There are countless companies begun by motivated, smart people that weren’t out to do anything to the world other than make their way in it. There was an idea, a desire and a willingness to work for the dream of accomplishment on its own merit. And what do you know? Some of them actually did change the world. 
  • It assumes that people find self-actualization or purpose because of work. Now, I get that we spend most of our lives at work so we should try to do what we love. But when I hear people almost piously talking about building companies and cultures that help people feel like they have purpose, I have to wonder if they’re deluded or just plain arrogant. Sure, maybe there are organizations that are doing work that by its nature is derived from deep purpose. But most organizations are doing things that aren’t like that. I’m not saying people’s work is without purpose. I’m questioning if they find purpose because of work vs. finding purpose and then applying it to their work. And if someone did base their purpose on their work I think they are standing on a very shaky foundation. (Which, ironically, would be bad for the team they’re a part of.) 
  • It completely deludes most people. All the zealous screams for doing work that really, really matters and changes the world is closely akin to the ridiculous statement we’ve all heard people tell their kids. “You can do anything you set your mind to, honey.” The problem is that it isn’t true. You can’t do anything you set your mind to. If so, someone would be Superman by now. I really want laser vision and steel skin. Not gonna happen. Similarly, when you elevate the definition of work that “matters” to meaning it must have some legacy leaving impact that will be remembered in the books of history, you have at the same time just told 99.9% of the people listening to you that they can’t do work that matters. And make no mistake, that is the message that is coming through. Which brings me to my final point…
  • It totally demeans most of humanity. There was a time not long ago when we honored anyone who supported their family by dependably working at something that added any value to society. It didn’t matter if they were the CEO of a large company, an entrepreneur, a missionary or a janitor at the local elementary school. There was honor and dignity in diligent work. (Notice I didn’t say that all were equally rewarded or admired.) So along with my previous point, raising the definition of meaningful work to be history book worthy insults the mass majority of people who will never achieve that level of results. Not to mention it ironically dooms many of the very people pitching this idea to never achieving anything “meaningful.”

And this didn’t make the list because frankly I have no idea how to expound on it yet or if it makes sense. But a phrase came to me as I thought about this issue the other day and I haven’t been able to shake it. “If everyone is out to change the world, how can we know what the change should be since there is no one living in the world that exists now?”

Many people will likely say I’m misinterpreting or twisting what is being taught, and it may not be the well-intentioned aim of those giving this advice. But results, not intent, is the measure of value. And the results I see are people that get so caught up in trying to achieve some level of transcendence in their work that they are never able to really just be happy. I see companies that are building relatively mundane products and services burn out (or at least look ridiculous) because they stretch so hard to make their business seem like it is fundamental to the human story. Why not just build your relatively mundane company on great values, make a great living (or sell for a large amount) and let your impact not be on the world at large but on the people you get a chance to interact with? Make the lives of others richer and help them reach their goals while you build a financially prosperous company. That may not be remembered by the world but it will certainly have a long range impact.

Or what about being a dad? If I raise kids that are strong, productive and valiant men and women…have I not changed the world for the better?

Instead of telling people to change the world why don’t we talk about playing a positive, inspiring role in our communities? That may have nothing or everything to do with what they do in their work. It may not be something your company’s culture affects directly. What our company’s cultures and purposes should do is create environments where people find the camaraderie, expression and development they need to be energized from their experiences with us instead of drained. When we have a society of people that are constantly energized and are progressively finding their life’s purpose, collectively we will achieve something worthy of the history books.

I’d love to hear from any of you on this. Where am I off base? Why do we need more of the message about changing the world? What points am I missing?

Like nothing else, kids can make us feel emotionally schizophrenic. But if you stop long enough to think, their is a lot of wisdom you catch while raising the next generation. This happened to me the other day. My wife called me with a story that made me laugh and at the same time provoked some really deep thinking.

She and the kids had been outside playing in mud puddles created by a rain storm that just blew through.

Learning from our kids

Naturally, the boys had worked up a man sized appetite. Like any good mom Cherie loaded them up in the car for a fun trip to ChicFilA. After some food, the playground and WAY too many screaming kids, she was ready to head home for some much deserved down time. Caleb, our 3 year old, left the playground while Cherie rounded up the other two. She assumed he was just waiting near the door of the restaurant as he normally did. But this time she went out and he wasn’t there. Looking outside she sees his blonde head standing next to the truck (where he’d had to cross the parking lot to get to – a big no-no). Reminding herself to be calm, she went out. And the following conversation took place:

Cherie: (Kneeling down to get on his level.) “Caleb, buddy. You can NOT just walk out of a store and cross the street without me. You could have been hurt. I was so scared!”

Caleb: “Don’t worry, mommy. I looked both ways and didn’t see ANY cars! So I just came to the truck and waited patiently for you.” (Flashing a proud smile)

Cherie: (With a mixture of tears from being scared and a laugh from such a grown up attitude from a 3 year old) “I get that buddy and you did do a great job. But you still need to wait on me to be with you. You’re not old enough to do that by yourself. You could just miss something and get hurt.”

Caleb: (Putting his hand on mommy’s shoulder and cocking his head to the side) “Don’t be frustrated mommy…I’m capable!”

At this point the conversation ended because Cherie was having to work so hard to stifle the laughter.

When we got off the phone from her telling me this story, I sat back in my chair and just smiled. I love my kids! But then as I thought about it more I realized there was a wealth of application for my work as a leader. Here’s some of the ones I wrote down:

  • Communicate the Goal…And the dangers that could keep us from them. Caleb made the choice he made because he only understood one part of the goal – get to the truck. What he didn’t understand was that there were other dangers that could keep that from happening safely. If all we do is cast the vision without discussing the obstacles we face in getting there we may be setting our teams up for a fall.
  • We Replicate What We Repeat. We constantly tell Caleb he is a very capable boy, to be patient and to look both ways before crossing the street! Whatever you want your culture to be, you’ll have to find ways to say it all the time in various ways.
  • People are more capable than we realize. I would have NEVER guessed Caleb could carry on that complex of an interaction with Cherie. Reading her, intuiting how she felt and why she was concerned and dialogging in such precise words and phrases. We need to pause from time to time to reassess those around us. Chances are they’ve grown since the last time you did that. (If they haven’t, we have a different leadership challenge.)
  • Genuine Care Changes the Interaction. Caleb could take his mom’s admonishment without feeling attacked because he knows without question her love. If we really care about the people we work with the moments of confrontation that inevitably happen can be received with appreciation because they know the source of the confrontation is a heart that is for them.
  • Rules become outdated. At different phases of an organization’s growth different rules are needed. But at some point, the rules need changing not stall out the momentum because the people’s and the organization’s capacities have changed. It may take wisdom and/or outside input to know when that time has come. (We’ve not reached the threshold of letting our 3 year old cross the road alone!)
  • Celebrate Direction, Not just Results. I was so proud of Caleb for the way he handled himself and for his attitude and independence. Even when people are dead wrong, if their intentions are pure and their attitudes are good we should try to rejoice with them where we can and then constructively offer advice on how to improve the next time. Fast moving people will get off course from time to time. But it’s easier to steer someone back on course than it is to get them moving in the first place. Don’t kill momentum!

I really believe if we treat our work like we treat our families (or whatever relationships you cherish), work would be a lot better and home would be a lot more engaging. We’d learn lessons from both that we’d apply to the other. We’d feel a lot more like we’re living integrated lives and have a sense of unity few ever experience. And hey, in building the story of our lives, having a unified life makes for a much richer story.

So from one man to a little bit smaller man, thanks Caleb. You’re a great teacher.

handoff

Legacy. A word that can inspire people to greatness, crush them in despair or ignite generational wars. What is it? What does it mean? Why does it have such power…even for those of us that don’t think about it at all?

I intend on exploring this issue for the rest of my life. That’s because for the rest of my life I’ll be creating my legacy, reacting to other people’s legacy and trying to tear down some legacies. Heck, it’s like air. You have to breath and so you have to interact with it. It isn’t a question of importance. It’s a question of quality. If you live in a world with low quality air your life suffers. But if the air is clean and rich in good qualities, then you have more energy, health, better sleep, etc.

Think about it. The best things in your life are related in some way to it. Your wife? She is partially the result of the legacy of the family she comes from. Your kids? They are partially the result of the legacy of your family and the legacy you are creating as they grow up. Your job? It is the legacy of someone that started that company and the legacy created by those that have run it until now. We are all part of the legacy we were born into with the human race.

But go a level deeper. We are all part of a much, much bigger story that’s unfolding. Since I love trying to model things visually to help me get a better mental construct I just began playing with it and came up with the concentric circles approach.  (Sorry for the image quality.  Still learning the ropes with some of my programs.)

Legacy Circles

When I first began putting this together I naturally started with “You” in the middle and went out from there. But that just didn’t sit well with me. I think this is a much better way of looking at things. But my point is that when you think about legacy, it isn’t just yours that needs to be dealt with. You have to deal with the legacy you’re creating and how it interacts with all the broader legacy of the other circles. Where do you have barriers to overcome? How will your legacy fit into the bigger picture? What things can you benefit from in the legacy of others? For example, if you want to leave a strong legacy for your kids and ignore the impact on your community or from your community, your impact will be diminished or possibly have the reverse effect. Likewise, if you ignore the story that has been unfolding in your family line you will miss opportunities to improve the legacy you leave in your part of the family line.

Side note: Some of you will note that I’m missing a circle…the God one. That was intentional for a few reasons. First, I wasn’t sure where to put it. The instinctive place is the middle. After all, he would be the central point of the story. But isn’t he also involved in the lives of individuals directly? So his impact isn’t just something that ripples to us from a larger picture but, in fact, starts ripples within our lives. But putting him at any point other than the center would feel wrong too. Secondly, I didn’t put it in there because I think there are many people interested in the issue of legacy that aren’t thinking in terms of God. And a good discussion brings in many perspectives.

So here we are. A beginning point to a discussion about how to live not just a successful life, but a significant life. What makes up a significant life? How do you plan to get there? Is there even a difference between successful and significant? When is your life deemed significant? Let me know what you think and let’s do some exploring together.

Reflections

I remember so well when I first became a dad thinking to myself, “OK, so now I’ve got to keep from screwing up.” All dads trying to do this right have that thought from time to time, right?

Well, tonight I think I screwed up. I came home and just went into a fog. TV, a little dinner, a dose of impatience with my wife and kids and then an abbreviated bedtime routine that I feel like cut my kids short on what I consider to be particularly precious time.

Now I’m sitting here vegging out again and thinking to myself, “Did I just mess up my kids in some little way that over time will accumulate with all my other failures and land them in a large leather chair talking to a guy with a pipe?” Yes, I know that’s ridiculous. But it’s gotten me thinking about the role of failure in being a dad.

Maybe it would help to define how I think of my role as a dad. Simply put, I think my role as a dad is to teach my boys how to be men and to give them a great example of what one looks like. It may seem simple, but well, I’m a pretty simple person. Much more complex than that and I’ll start getting confused. Besides, I’m pretty sure that basically covers it.

With that in mind, how does failure play into the plan? Funny enough, today I also received an email that had a link to a YouTube version of one of my favorite commercials of all time.

It is because Michael Jordan didn’t allow failure to stop him that he was able to achieve the level of success he did. You may say that it was his amazing level of talent that got him there…and you’d be right. But I think the real point is that whatever our potential is we have to learn the lesson of failure for our potential to be realized. (You know that at some point “having potential” is actually an insult, right? You have to actually realize that potential sometime.) Failure isn’t the thing that stops us from achieving. It’s the rite of passage to our achievement. The minute you stop experiencing failure is the minute you have stopped trying to achieve anything new.

As a dad, the way I handle failure is going to be absorbed by my boys. Do they see me fail? Do they see me admit it? Do I apologize when I’ve failed them or someone else? Do I try again? Do I keep at it until I win? Whatever I do, they see and in large part, they become.

I think it’s my responsibility to fail in front of my kids. So tonight, yes I failed. But that means tomorrow I have a chance to become a better man and help my boys better know what manhood is. I can tell them I know I wasn’t the dad they needed and that I’m sorry. Then I can get better.

Failure. Maybe one of the greatest arrows I have in my arsenal in driving a lesson into the hearts of the future men I’m raising. Never to be used as an excuse or as a cop-out.

Why-Do-We-Fall-Mr.-WayneAs one of my favorite movie dads asked his son at one point, “Why do we fall down, Bruce? To learn to pick ourselves up again.”