“The wealthiest places on earth are not the banks, they are our graveyards.”
I once heard my great mentor, Mr. Les Brown ask, “If you die today, what ideas, what dreams, what abilities, what talents, what gifts will die with you?”
That perspective had a major impact on how I have tried to guide my children as they transition into adulthood. Conventional parenting has us teach our children to follow their dreams, but to have a “back-up” plan. On the surface, that sounds perfectly reasonable. What we’re not mentioning is that no fantastically successful person ever got that way by being “reasonable.” Revelations regarding my prior convictions on the matter were sobering. I realized that mindset was founded in fear. I figured that by encouraging my children to pursue the safe, cookie-cutter route… one foot in the race, no energy, no passion, no challenge, no struggle… there was a greater likelihood that they would become professionally and financially self-sufficient.
While self-sufficiency is an important skill to impart unto one’s children, it isn’t the first word I see written in descriptions of amazing lives.
It was so very subtle, that instinct to attempt to control. That’s what it was all about, and its basis was in my fear that my children might struggle, or fail. That fear blinded me to how much I value the struggles I’ve faced and the failures I have endured in my own life; how important and substantive those experiences have been in my own development and journey. I had to admit to my eldest son that, had I formed a similar outlook at the onset of my adulthood, I’d probably be a starving artist, going from small venue to small venue, playing and singing, but barely scraping enough to rub a few nickels together. He laughed with me, but I caught his eye and added, “but I’d have been doing what I loved, and pursuing my passion.” His acknowledgment was telling. Fortunately, he has done a great job of not just learning from others’ mistakes, but applying those lessons when similar situations occur in his own life.
*** Quick caveat: my children know I wouldn’t change anything, and that they are what I am most thankful for, and most proud of in life. They know I tell them these things to help expand their own perspectives as they start carving out their own lives.
When my eldest was about 12, I started telling each of my kids that I didn’t care if they became an astronaut or a school custodian; all I really wanted was for them to strive to achieve their fullest potential, to do their very best, and to create lives for themselves they fall head-over-heels in love with. As long as they do that without harming or stealing from others, what more could a parent hope for? I thought empowering them with a truer scope of the power they have in the choices they make would be my best bet of helping them achieve that. Time will tell if I am correct.
How do you balance your concerns about your child’s or children’s futures with your hopes that they chase and achieve their wildest of dreams?