I was recently chatting with one of my three kids, my oldest daughter, and she was giving me some great advice. Who knows your life experiences, the good and bad, pretty and ugly, better than your kids? So I love to get their perspective. My 22-year-old daughter, Clare, was being wise beyond her years. I asked her, “how’d you get so smart?” She said, “I know a good coach.” With a smug and proud smile on my face, I was reminded of the many great memories I have of raising my three kids, most of the time as a single Dad, in our antique home in rural Connecticut. It reminded me that the learning was always going both ways. Sure, I was always ready and eager to offer good fatherly advice. But I was learning from them all the time as well. Often I was learning how to laugh, let go, and not to take life too serious. My kids were great at “straightening me out” when I would get too intense about my responsibilities as a parent. My son, Connor, would stop me and say, “don’t be a coach. Just listen.” My youngest daughter, Lily, she’s the sentimental one. I think she’s mostly likely to treasure my words of wisdom later in life.
Years later, I realized that several of words of wisdom that I bestowed on my kids proved to be very valuable lessons for me in business. And now, as a business coach, I hear myself offering the same insights to my coaching clients that I once offered to these bewildered kids wondering what the hell Dad was talking about.
So here’s some of the advice I gave to my kids while growing up that you can apply in your business and life.
Living in a small rural Connecticut town at the time, in a home built in 1790, complete with stone walls adjacent to the perfect romantic open field, I was an avid gardener. My kids were accustomed to finding me digging in the dirt up to my elbows. The garden was the location of many of our conversations. You know, those wonderful chats you have when you’re not fully making eye contact and they feel free to share what’s on their troubled little minds. Using the garden as a metaphor, I used to tell my kids, “you can’t plant a weed and expect it to become a flower. If you want a flower, you have to plant a flower.” What this offers is an understanding that life is reciprocal. You get back what you put out. What you plant is what grows. And not just in the karma sense. While it’s true, that you want to treat people nicely to get treated nicely in return; it’s also a bigger picture than that. The success you will see in your life will depend on the effort you are willing to put into it. You can’t expect a big return unless you’re willing to make a big impact. If you’re too quiet in the way you market your business, you won’t get the clients you want. If you’re too passive in offering what you do, you won’t make the sales you need. Really, this advice, to expect back only what you’re willing to plant, is about personal accountability. You are accountable for the results you get by the action you take. You can’t plant a weed and yell at it to become a flower.
Next, as a parent, I battled with the idea that I wanted my kids to be optimistic and know they were fortunate for what they had. While at the same time, I didn’t want them to be spoiled or act entitled. I didn’t want pointing out how fortunate they were to take away their drive to be successful in their own right. The bottom line was, I didn’t want entitled acting kids. So I told them that they had to meet the sun half-way. That’s just the way it works. Life is awesome. Your life will be filled with great things and terrific opportunities. The sun will shine on you. But it’s not going to just land in your lap. You have to meet the sun half-way. Field of Dreams was a great movie. But terrible advice. Build it and they will come is just not how it works. To think any of us are so good at what we do, people are just going to come running to our door is crazy. That’s acting entitled. I had some online troll once tell me he thought I was too pushy and must have a huge ego. I said, “Actually, it’s quite the opposite. I never believe I’m so good that I can stop letting people know what I’m good at. I never believe I’m so good that the sun is just going to shine on me.” Instead, I hustle and meet the sun half-way. In fact, my challenge is learning to trust that the sun will meet me half-way. That I don’t have to do all the work. Maybe that’s a struggle for you too. The result of teaching my kids that they have to meet the sun half-way is I have 3 wildly ambitious kids. I’m so proud of them. They learned an important lesson that is important for you too. Don’t sit back and wait for what you want to come to you. Meet the sun half-way and trust that you’ll be met in return.
The following advice, my kids didn’t love! But they did abide by it and so should we. I believe in resistance. That might sound that a strange thing to say. What I mean by that is I believe there’s an energetic field between all things. Like an invisible balloon. When we push, what we push against is pushed backward. You know how when someone is pushy selling to you, you back up? Or it seems the harder you try sometimes the harder things get? That when you chase after something too hard, it feels like it gets further away? Like a mirage on the horizon? There’s a very delicate balance in life in dealing with this resistance when going after what you want without pushing. So we had a rule in our house. Especially around the holidays when kids are subjected to never-ending ads on tv, pushing the latest toys and gadgets. The rule was they could never say, “I want.” When they saw something they wanted, which was often, and wanted to request it as a gift, if they said “I want”, they wouldn’t get it. Instead, they had to explain what was appealing to them about that toy. What fun they would have with it or what they would gain by having it. It also created conversation and forced them to think about what it was instead of this driving desire of want. As a parent, it’s much easier to listen to what they want when it is expressed in a meaningful way. Rather than an onslaught of “I want this, I want that.” And that’s the point. That’s the lesson for all of us. Work hard towards your goals and what you want in life. Be a go-getter. Go after your goals in a meaningful way, easier for others to receive, and not pushy, so that you don’t create resistance keeping you further from what you want.
This next childhood lesson is a fun little story. Many years ago I bought a Land Rover. I was a single dad and needed to haul all these kids around with sporting gear. One day while driving down the road, my daughter who was about 10 at the time, said, “Daddy, before you bought this Land Rover, I never heard of Land Rover. Now it seems like every other car on the road is a Land Rover.” I jumped at the opportunity to explain to her the power in noticing this. “What if you only knew happiness? That would be the only thing you would see. What if you only knew peace? Well, honey, that’s why I don’t let you see violence on tv and in movies.” I wanted her to know that we all have the power to see what we want to see in our lives. The truth is we can only recognize what we already know. Before she knew what Land Rover was she never saw them before. Now she sees them everywhere. Haven’t you had that experience? You never heard of something, you hear about it, and then you see it everywhere. The power in this is unimaginable. You truly can have in your life what you choose to recognize. You can “see” more of the clients that are right for you by knowing exactly who your “right” client is. Know every detail about the way they think, how they see the world, what they value, and what emotions trigger a response from them. You decide who your RIGHT client is, get to know them thoroughly in order to attract them, and you’ll recognize your ‘right’ clients instantly when they come along.
My last bit of childhood wisdom is about waffles. Yes, waffles. Anyone that knows me well, knows that I make the best waffles, from scratch. When I lived in Connecticut, we had an open door on Sunday mornings. Whoever was around could stop by for homemade waffles. Two or three waffle irons were going at all times. Around the holidays, I would make eggnog waffles. Although now the only time I am together with all three of my kids tends to be around the holidays, they always insist I make waffles. I’m convinced that when I’m gone, my kids will remember me most for my waffles. Not my success. Not for the lessons I taught, the driving all over that I did or even the family vacations. Just the waffles. And that’s ok with me. As a parent, it’s what I chose to stand for. To our family, waffles represent tradition, love, family gatherings, and fun. As a Dad, that’s what I stand for. The lesson here is to choose what you want to stand for in your life and in your business. What do you want to be known for What is it that you most want to be remembered for? This does not have to seem like a morbid thought. It’s like reverse engineering. You want to know what you most want to be remembered for so that you live your life today aligned with how you want to be remembered. Make what you want to be remembered for in your life and what you stand for in business shine so bright that there’s no way people could not remember you for that.
P.S. I shared this article with my now adult kids before posting. They got a chuckle out of remembering these things. They all agreed, the waffles story was the best.
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