Money: False Security?

August 14, 2012 — 1 Comment

goal-setting-in-business

We all love to set goals. There’s just something emotionally satisfying about goals, isn’t there? (More on this one another time) But when it comes to accomplishing those goals, we instantly think about the “stuff” we just have to have to accomplish the goal. Maybe it’s the cool looking clothes to make you feel good about yourself. Or the latest gadget or software you just have to have in order to be productive. The late night workout widget that promises us the abs we want in 6 weeks flat. In other words, we immediately go to figuring out the best way to shortcut the process.

The tendency lives in us all. You could blame it on our society’s obsession with instant success. Perhaps it is how media glorifies the company’s that grow exponentially or stars that go from YouTube to filling stadiums in seemingly no time. But I think maybe it’s just because we’re flat out lazy.

The other day I was talking with someone about a new venture they wanted to take on. It was exciting and new and they had even written down their reasons for doing this to display in their office. Gleaming in the sun of hope it was…a bright, shiny object. Do you know what I mean? It had caught their imagination and overwhelmed their more rational mind which would normally be able to see all the holes in the ship.

Here was the gist: they had found an opportunity to make money online and had fallen in love with the dream. Bam! Website up, profits roll. Here was the major, gaping hole – they could barely handle the features on their cell phone much less understand things like UI design, SEO, PPC, niche selection, keyword selection, analytics, community building, etc. But no matter! They had a company that was going to help them learn all they needed to know…in 4 weeks. Woo-hoo! Now, I’ll admit the educational material seemed to be pretty good. But no matter how good the material, you can’t go from where this person was to Internet entrepreneur in 4 weeks. And here’s the kicker – the training was going to be thousands of dollars. (Which they didn’t really have.)

Maybe I’m crazy, but this just sounded like a great way to throw several thousand dollars down a hole.

I listened as patiently as possible and asked them things like, “You know, a lot of this kind of learning can be done for free from the web and supplemented with deeper knowledge from fairly inexpensive books. Why don’t you start there and try your hand at doing something on the web like building a blog community? That way you can learn the ropes and then apply it to a business.” The response, like ones I’ve heard myself give before, was “I just don’t know where to start! I’m not sure I can learn without someone to talk with and help explain things to me. I just need help.” Now, on the surface this may seem like a fairly reasonable statement. What if you don’t know where to start and need guidance navigating this new world? Isn’t that what universities are for? Didn’t I do this when I went to GA Tech? But here is the issue: this was a 4-week course. If you can’t learn independently, you aren’t gaining a whole new career-level skill in 4 weeks. Not only that, but the world of building a web-based company is changing by the millisecond. You learned SEO? Oops! Google just changed the rules…again. Got your blog building strategy down? Uh-oh! Now there are new “rules.”

Here’s my point – they were missing a basic fundamental. The “stuff” that was going to short-cut the process aren’t going to do any good unless this person develops the fundamentals of discipline, independent learning, creativity, perseverance and personal responsibility.

Why in the world do we think that throwing money at something means a higher chance of success? It’s kind of like when you see people get all excited about going to the gym and getting in shape. They tend to buy a membership at the biggest, best gym and buy all the cool looking clothes and fancy gear. They stock up on the latest pills and potions…before they’ve set foot in the gym or develop a plan of attack. Then, 3 weeks later they’re back at home sitting on the couch eating Cheetos wondering why their plan failed. It was because they should have focused on the basics first. 99 times out of a 100, you should get started on something using the free options. Once you know this is something you want to do (because you’ve been doing it) you’ll have developed the core of discipline and base level knowledge.  Then you can hire someone to help take your game to the next level. Starting with money gives you a false sense of security. You think that since spending money gives a higher chance of success when in reality it lowers your chances. Why? Because it blinds you to what really creates progress. Money doesn’t create value or progress. What creates these things is you. Your discipline. Your creativity. Your perseverance. Nothing else. No coach, course, equipment, pill or formula overcomes the basic fundamentals of winning through personal discipline and will.

To be clear, I’m not at all against spending money to take your game up a notch. But it’s like nutritional supplements. 99% of the people taking a performance supplement derive almost no value from it. Why? Because a supplement isn’t a magic pill that melts fat. (Sorry to all the advertisements out there saying otherwise.) Supplements are just that…supplemental. If you haven’t developed the core discipline of working your butt off and eating right, taking that supplement is going to skinny your wallet – not your belly. And you don’t need a fancy gym or a trainer to work your butt off. You can do pull-ups, push ups, sit ups, running, jump rope, kettle bells and many, many other exercises at home for a few bucks.

Goal-Setting-tattooWhen you do master the basics, if you do develop some basic skills, knowledge, discipline and attitude of perseverance and apply that to some initial experimentation in your chosen arena, then adding some paid coaching on top of that can be immensely helpful. When you take the first step on your own, your confidence, base knowledge and discipline will give you the foundation you need to get a return on any money spent furthering yourself. Or…you’ll find that you aren’t going to be able to do this new thing you thought was so great. Either way, you’ll end up knowing you. And that is the most important step.

I know there are a lot more angles to this topic and there is no way to cover them all in a blog post. But I’d love to hear thoughts from anyone else on this. Do you agree that our ability to put money at something up front is actually a bad idea (most of the time)? When would it be better to lead with money? (Other than what is absolutely required to get started.)

UPDATE: I just got this post from Jeff Goins site this morning and loved this guest post: http://goinswriter.com/athletics-of-art/.  Highlight:

Repetition tries our intentions. The thought of creating art is appealing to almost everyone. But the commitment and discipline required to make it is another story. People pay big money to set up a blog or get private lessons, but those same people quit quickly when nothing happens overnight. Why? Because maybe they confused a desire to create with a need for affirmation.

I’ve been talking with my wife about legacy a lot in the last year. As in, A…LOT. What it is, what it means, how we do it right. So when I heard that Reggie Joiner was doing a series at Gwinnett Church about legacy I was obviously interested in tuning in. I would highly suggest checking it out. He has some really great points, even if you aren’t into the whole “God” thing. http://www.northpointministries.org/gwinnett/messages/legacy.  (On a side note, I just read a post at The Smart Bear blog where a guy who would be rated as successful by most people’s terms wrestles with this idea as well.  Always interesting to see how this issue affects all of us the same.)

There were two things he mentioned Cherie and I have talked about before, so they really resonated with me. I’ve been marinating on them for a few days now and thought I’d put my thoughts into text since that usually helps me begin to get clarity. Here are those two points:

  1. You will be forgotten
  2. Look for the bigger picture not the better life

Yep, that’s right.  Even Mr. Jobs will be forgotten eventually.  (To all the Apple fan club, I’m sorry.  But he’ll still be forgotten.)

steve-jobs-in-time-magazine-front-cover

How can a Time cover person be forgotten? Time.

The first time the idea that I’d be forgotten really settled into my heart was almost a cliche moment. I was laying in bed unable to sleep staring at the clock one night. (No, it wasn’t raining.) But I had a thought running through my head. No matter what I do, no matter how “big” I become in this life the likelihood is that when I’m gone and my great grandchildren are adult I will have been reduced to a few stories. A generation or two after that and I’ll be completely forgotten. In other words, nothing I do will be remembered or matter.

Facing this truth isn’t hard. It’s crushing. What do you do with that? If nothing matters and it’s all to be forgotten why not just stop? Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die!

At about the time I was ready to drive to the nearest 24 hour liquor store and start getting my Leaving Las Vegas on, a thought began to form in my mind. What if being forgotten was the best thing I could have happen to me? Knowing I’ll be forgotten forces me to stop thinking about, well, myself. Leaving a legacy isn’t about me creating something but instead jumping into something. It’s about seeing the story that is unfolding around me in the world. Getting deeply passionate about the human race and living to push that drama in a better direction. To put it in Reggie’s words, I could stop focusing on the better life and start focusing on the bigger picture.

The bigger picture. That is the answer to meaning. It isn’t being remembered or powerful. It isn’t even about building something that outlasts me. Because anything I create will eventually die. What I can do that no one else in all history is able to do is make the direct impact on the people around me like I can. I can be a ripple in their lives that drives our small worlds in better directions. They can do the same in theirs and together our little ripples will form a tsunami of change that happens over generations.

Think about the “great” people of our times. Billy Graham, Mother Theresa, Ghandi. What do they all have in common? Over 99% of the population in the world couldn’t name even one of their parents. But without the family that preceded them would they have been able to be the great men and women they became? Good, bad or indifferent the legacy of their families helped make them who they were. Without those people there would have been no Billy Graham. No Ghandi. No Lincoln or Churchill.

So no, I may not ever be a “great” person and I will likely be forgotten. But the things I set in motion with my life may create a lift in the tide of my heritage that gives someone down the line the foundation to stand on to be recognized as great. I will have helped the human story be richer. Those around me will have a bigger impact because of the ripples I sent out.

And that makes being forgotten an exciting thing.

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.”

Definition of success

Know what will make this life worthwhile…specifically.

Achieving success and fulfillment in life is about right perspective and wisdom. Perspective of what truly matters and wisdom of who you are, what you are designed to do that no one else does quite like you and how to leverage that for the things that truly matter. Above all, success personal, fluid and contextual.

  • Personal. Defining what success looks like is something you have to do in a quiet place. Many things are best done in community, but this isn’t one of them. Only you can answer the question of what success really looks like for you. Don’t give into the clichés. It isn’t necessarily nice cars, world travel, beach homes, expensive jewelry or fame. At the same time, don’t go generic and undefined. Things like “changing the world,” “being happy” or “raising great kids” are undefined and therefore unreachable and uninspiring. You don’t get up in the morning to “change the world,” you get up in the morning to build a company that is revolutionizing the way underprivileged people get access to healthcare – and you change the world with your passion for that attainable, measurable ideal.
  • Fluid. How you define success today isn’t likely the same way you’ll describe it in 20 years. There are a lot of reasons for this, but knowing that up front is critical. Don’t lock yourself into a definition that limits you because you can’t accept new data. Over time you’re going to move in a direction, learn new things, meet new people and form new thought-processes. When that happens it would be good to re-evaluate. How does that affect my definitions in life? From that, how should I adjust my current energy flow? Are there projects I should drop? Relationships? Should I just take the project I’m working on and change its direction? Remember, life is like a powerful river. If you don’t learn to master using its flow to go where you want it will take you where it wants to. (And likely beat the crap out of you on the way there.)
  • Contextual. Success can only be understood within the context of the life in which it was achieved. Two illustrations should help here. We can all agree that Michael Jackson was extremely successful in his career. But when you factor in the sadness of the whole of his life you have to ask the question – how successful was he as a whole? Second example, there is a girl that grew up, got through school and then got married and raised a few kids who were good men and women as they grew up. Then she died. Frankly, I just depressed myself. Until you know the context. She was born blind, physically and sexually abused growing up, lived in poverty in a third world country and had a crippling disease hit her when she was 25 that meant she was in constant pain her whole life. And the lack of education, poverty and abuse was a pattern in her family for at as far back as anyone could remember. Because of her life the pattern changed and a foundation of love, hard work and healthy relationships was laid for many generations after her to rise up from. Now ask yourself if you think she was an amazing person or not.

Before you set out to create a system (or adopt/adapt one), you need to have these things firmly in mind. Know who you are (strengths, talents and personality), what your value is (how you bring who you are to the world in a meaningful way) and what you value (what is it that you believe is bigger than you and that you have to incorporate in your life to be successful). Only then is your system worth squat.

If you can learn to have the wisdom of knowing & controlling what you can control in your life (thoughts, actions & attitudes), then you can constantly move forward on your personal journey that is successful & fulfilling.

What resonates with you about this? What annoys you? But mostly, I want to know what you’re going to do about it…your move.

To do listOne of life’s great questions is, “How do I win?” You may be trying to win a man or woman’s affections, get a good grade, a promotion, build a profitable company or develop deep friendships but at the core of those pursuits is this question. I’ve found that the times in my life that I’ve consistently won is when I’ve had a system of attack on the problem. Sometimes I’m completely unaware that I’m using a system until after the fact. I see other people who swear they have no system at all but I can see the patterns in their life that stem from the systems they use.
Whether you are aware of the systems in your life or not, I hope seeing one that I’ve developed may help you refine the ones you have. Alternatively, you can help me break and redo mine! I call this one “GEAR UP.” It is the system at a high level that I will teach my kids to help them be the best them they can be.
 

  1. Goals – Decide what you want and set actionable, measurable goals to get there. Go from big picture practical steps. You may do this as yearly, monthly, weekly and daily goals and action steps or you may just say you know where you want to go and what the very next thing you need is. Either way, know the destination and the path to get there. Don’t set your goals at more than 6-12 months out. Anything beyond that is too uncertain and subject to change with all the variables. Let anything beyond 12 months be a dream that your 6-12 month goals will take you a step closer to. But keep your goals independently worthwhile so that if your long-range dreams change your goals were still worth accomplishing.
  2. Education – If you want to do something you haven’t done before, you most likely don’t know how to do it. (Profound insight, huh?) Find out what resources you need to learn, get them begin educating yourself prior to and during the actionable part of your plan. Don’t allow not knowing everything to paralyze your actions. Remember, the key to all success is action. Many people plan and many people have knowledge, few actually get up and do something with it.
  3. Action & Accountability – Nothing happens until someone takes action. And usually no action is taken consistently unless there is some sort of accountability. Either to yourself with rewards and consequences or with someone you trust to hold you accountable to your plans and goals. Spouses are not usually the ones to do this with, but can be. Remember that most people act to avoid pain, not to achieve pleasure. So make sure you know the dream but also the consequences of not acting.
  4. Reflection & Review – The unexamined life isn’t worth living. Just like a ship with navigation controls, you need to constantly check your course and make adjustments as needed to stay on the right track. Sometimes it may be realizing you set your goals too high (or too far off) at first, sometimes that you set them too low. Maybe you planned as well as you knew how, but unforeseen circumstances require you to take an alternate course or just make adjustments to how you were running your course to the big picture goal you set. Sometimes you just need to reflect on the process so far and see if you’ve been enjoying it and how to make it better. Also if you need encouragement in your pursuits, reflecting on how far you’ve come can be a great refresher on the path to your goals.
  5. Under Pressure – You have to put timeframes on your goals and have rewards and/or consequences that are meaningful to you set based on those timeframes and goals. If you are not under pressure to do the daily & weekly things it takes to accomplish your stated goals, you won’t accomplish them. You’ll do what we all do, the other things you have that do have urgency because of the rewards and/or consequences they have attached to them.

So what do you think? Is this a workable system? What is missing? What is flat out wrong? Break it, add to it, make it yours. Let me know what you think.

Stay tuned next for part 3 where I’ll talk about what you have to do before any system is worth squat.

Systems ThinkingI’ve been thinking a lot lately about systems and patterns. Some of you may think that isn’t relevant to you because you like to take things as they come and be more fluid in your approach to life and projects. But I think these are relevant things for everyone. I mean, even the most artistic and creative people in the world have “ways” of doing things that help them accomplish what they do. If you look back over your life events and situations you’d probably see patterns emerge from below the surface. It’s worth the time to dig a little into your life and see what patterns you could see. Maybe even involve some people close to you to help see things you’re blind to.

We all have patterns in our life and unconsciously or with full awareness, we build systems around our lives for how we “do life.” The question is – how good are our models? The models we use in our lives will ultimately determine if we can effectively utilize all of our talents and abilities. i.e., our models determine if we are the best “me” we can be. Two examples that stand out to me as proof of this are science and advertising.

 

  1. Evolution. This may be a touchy subject for many, but at its core this is just a model for trying to give us a way to understand how our world became what it is today and maybe understand why things are happening as they are today and where they may go in the future. The relevant questions with this model are, among many others: Is this model fundamentally correct? Is it complete? Does the data support the theory? Is there any data that we have which seem to break the model? If so, do we alter the model in some way to then incorporate that data, study the data to make sure we understand it correctly or completely toss the model? My point is this: science uses models like we all do in our everyday lives – to give us a framework of how to understand and discuss complex topics. Sometimes those models generate controversy and sometimes prove to ultimately be wrong, but it is important to have them so we can continue the dialogue and improve our understanding.
  2. Advertising. I don’t remember where I first read it, but there was a study done on advertisement creation that tested the idea of “open creativity” versus “structured creativity.” Basically two groups of people were asked to create a compelling ad. One group was told to create an ad and were given no limitations. They could create whatever, however they wanted. The other group was asked to do the same, but with the limitation that they had to use one of the “templates” for ads given. These were templates that we still see used today. Things like headers which read “21 best ways to get 6 pack abs…plus one.” The two groups were both randomly selected from the population and not from advertising backgrounds so it was relatively safe to say they were on roughly equal footing of capability. The test was that both ads were actually put out into the market with a number to call and see which one generated the most response. Which one did? The one that followed a known pattern.

Systems, patterns and models are things that can be time consuming and may even be laborious for many. I happen to like them. But what do you think? Do you have systems for how you do things? Are their models you use for how you make it through life? And more importantly, do you know what they are and how they affect you? Do you test them and refine them with time? And I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask, how are you passing them on to others so collectively we all become better?

That’s all I’ve got for now, but in the next post I’ll give one of my systems in hopes that you can help me break it and make it better.

Loser.Sheldon

If you have kids, you know where I’m going with this. Normally, I think we all have kids for a variety of self-serving reasons. No judgment on this, just an observation. It’s because we want those cute little babies in our arms. Or because our friends are all having kids and we want to join in. Or because we feel like it is the next thing we’re supposed to do with life. Maybe even because we’ve always dreamed of that fun family vacations and the picture perfect Christmas. But in the first 48 hours after that sweet baby shows up in your family you’ve made one realization…the seige has begun.

And it doesn’t get any easier when they can walk, talk and think on their own.  That awesome thought you have about the beach trips where you fantasize about white sand, gentle waves and deeply tanned kids running around happily in khakis and white button up shirts or dresses is replaced by a beet red kid screaming at the top of their lungs because they have sand in their eyes and the other kid shoved them into the water and nearly drowned them.  Reality crashes into your vision of getting your family together with other families where you can just talk and let the kids have a good time when you realize that you’ve been at their house for two hours, haven’t spoken 3 complete sentences without being interrupted and the only thing you’ve eaten was the half-finished meal your kids left behind.

Don’t get me wrong, having kids isn’t bad or even always as disappointing as my description here. More times than not, we are so in love with our kids that you couldn’t drag us away from them.  I have moments regularly where I’m having so much fun with my kids that I lose myself in it.  And bed time?  Forget abowd id!  There is nothing I’d rather do than put my kids down at night.  The time with them is beyond joy.  Having my middle son invite me to snuggle with him and play.  Having a wind down talk with my oldest.  To feel the breath of my 5 month old on my neck as I rock him.  You couldn’t pay me to not do those things.  In fact, I can honestly say that I feel sorry for people that don’t have kids.  And not just the ones that can’t have them (of course I feel for them), but for those that are single or married with no kids and no real desire for kids at this point.  They just don’t get it.

Here’s my point: Parenting is for losers.  Maybe more accurately said, parenting really only works for losers.  It works for those that are willing to lose themselves, their egos, their lives for the ones they have chosen to bring into the world.  To remind themselves (and be reminded) daily that this isn’t about them.  In order to get to those amazing things we so naively envisioned before kids, we have to learn to die.  To not do this thing called parenting because it is what was next on the life agenda.  Not because it was what everyone else was doing or because we wanted cool family vacations or something to post on Facebook other than drinking pictures and political or religious “social message spam.”  For whatever reason we ended up as parents, now that we’re here we have to keep doing it because those kids need us.  Heck, the world needs us.

Sound too dramatic?  What makes up a culture?  A nation?  A revolution?  Heroes?  Leaders?  Isn’t it a combination of the character developed by the people that make up those groups, the lessons they’ve learned, the passions they have and the way they think?  And who has the greatest opportunity to impact these things?  We do.  The losers.  Their parents.

If we can do the hard things now we get to have the nice things later.  I’ve heard several people in the financial world use the phrase, “Live like no one is willing to live now so you can live like no one will live later.”  Well that is even more true as a parent.  You can’t over invest in your kids.  (Note: you can smother them.  That is different.)

I for one am enjoying the occasional pains of humility knowing that one day my dreams will come true because I’ve leveraged the greatest power I have…sacrificial love.

footloose1

“I want to dance in Logi’s room!” (That’s Caleb’s pet name for his kid brother Logan.)

It’s T-minus 20 minutes and counting until bed time. With bellies full of Chic Fil A and more energy than can be spent in any day, mom was ready for some down time and the boys were ready to move to the beat. Next thing I know Kanye West is in the room and I’m dancing in rhythmic circles with my 3 year old to the sound of Love Lockdown. Boom boom BOOM boom. Boom boom BOOM boom. Boom boom BOOM boom. “I’m not lovin’ you. Way I wanted to. What I had to do. Had to run from you-u. I’m in love with you.”

Squatted down, hands smackin’ the horse as we jump forward in circles and laughing uproarously – it’s the toddler dance off. Showing off all the moves. From the horse rider to the swim to the 80’s hip hop retro moves we break it down for none to see. Logan, who’s been playing with train’s in the play room decides it’s time this thing got started for real. Toddling in, he tosses his best moves down like 4 aces in a backroom poker match. Jumping up and down and pumping the arms like he means it, now this party is moving.

I scoop both the boys up, one in each arm, and we’re jumping and dancing together to the magical sounds of Counting Crows singing the theme song from Shrek. They’re looking at each other and laugh/screaming. I’m pouring sweat and loving every second of it. The song ends and we’ve hit bedtime. Climbing into bed, I talk with each of them for a few minutes and treasure the moment.

This is every day life the way it was meant to be. Small memories that only take minutes to create but last a lifetime. Joy arising from simple opportunities taken to enjoy each other. Legacy built in my life and theirs. It’s moments like this that remind me that it isn’t just me building value into my boys but just how much value they add to my life. They help me remember that the “important” stuff I did at the office really doesn’t matter that much. They help me let go of all the good and the bad that fighting to make my mark in the world brings with it and just simply…love. By the time we’re done my joy is unshakable and I walk downstairs to hang with the woman of my dreams and write this post. Speaking of which, I’ve gotta go!

Have you ever been there? You’re going through your day happily enough and then you come home and encounter the little creatures that normally engender your warmest affections. But tonight they’re not the cute little Gizmo. Someone has fed them after midnight and they’ve morphed into gremlins. Into everything. Whining incessantly about everything. Daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy, DAAAAAAAAAADYYYYYYYYYYYY!

Gremlins

And I snapped.

Not in the crazy, violent, go straight to jail do not pass go sort of way. Just in my patience. I was harsher than reasonable. My tone was intense. My 2 year old hit me in the eye with a dinosaur that he threw (after we’ve told him a million times not to throw things). I slapped his hand. Again, nothing criminal. But I did it because I was angry, not because I was trying to help my son learn it isn’t o.k. to throw.

So I apologized – to both of them.

We talked and I admitted that I was wrong. I told them I was very sorry and asked their forgiveness. Logan seemed especially appreciative of the apology. He smiled and gave me a big hug…then blew on me. (It’s a bedtime game we play. He blows on me and I act like it knocks me down. Lots of fun!) Caleb just said while rubbing his eyes, “Yes, daddy. I love you.” Ugh. My heart melts and my soul is convicted again.

Parenting isn’t about having all the answers or doing it all right. In fact, I’m not sure I have the “right” answer for what parenting is all about. But what I do know is that my kids keep reminding me that I’m not perfect and that grace is there to cover my sins. They remind me of the purity of a child’s love and why it’s so, SO important for me to have love like that for the people in my life. They just accept that I love them and that I want what’s best for them. Even when I make mistakes, they brush it off like sand from playing outside.

So here I am – thankful for my children. Amazed at the blessing and the struggle of being a dad. And feeling the weight of the responsibility they represent. But knowing that there’s nothing I want more than to step up to that challenge and own it. And, when I fall down on the job, my kids will be there to pick me up, give me the grace I need to get back up and do it right the next time.