My father always believed that the best way to learn something was by actually doing it rather than by just reading about it in a book... so when my brother was real young, my father threw him into the deep end of the swimming pool... and that’s how my father learned CPR...
As I listened to the speaker conclude his talk to approximately 80 entrepreneurs in the room with me, I couldn’t help but think to myself that the guy knew nothing about parenting.
I had just listened to him expound on the notion that parents, especially those parents with means and connections, should use those mean to "feather the nest" of their children whenever possible.
"If you had the opportunity to move up the starting blocks to give your kids a head-start in the race, why the heck wouldn’t you", he essentially told those of us in the room.
"I want to give my children the best probability for success, even if that means I need to do the work for them to get them started or allow them to resolve a difficult problem", he went on.
As I sat there and listened, my head was swimming with thoughts to the contrary, but as I surveyed the room, there I saw a great majority of the heads nodding up and down with every word of the speaker’s presentation.
At the end of his talk, the speaker received a standing ovation from the crowd as many of the attendees rush to the front of the room to offer the speaker their personal congratulations for a job well done.
As I walked by myself, from the conference center to the lunch that followed, I couldn’t help but ponder the ideas set forth by the speaker.
I thought that it was my responsibility as a parent to provide my kids with a strong foundation of education, ethics, and a thorough understanding of the principals of "cause and effect".
In addition to many of the basics, I felt I needed to encourage them to express creativity, love, gratitude, communication, and a system of values that serve a higher purpose other than one’s self.
As any parent, I of course want my children to enjoy a great amount of success and happiness in their lives. However, I am adamant that they forge their own path toward success not necessarily follow in my footsteps.
One of the hardest things I have ever had to do as a parent is to sit back and watch my kids fail... and fail... and fail some more...
I’m sure I could have helped them to write an "A" paper in English class... compelled them to earn enough merit badges in order to achieve a rank of Eagle Scout... and/or forcefully encouraged them to create an entrepreneurial venture while in junior high school.
Without any doubt, I could have over-programmed my kids so that they would have experienced music lessons, computers, dance, sports, scouting, art, community volunteering, junior theater, or any variety of activities available to kids (with means) today.
I could have poured time, money and other resources into private lessons, tutors, coaches and/or prep classes to allow my children to get a leg-up on their peers.
Instead... my son built his own pine-wood derby car in Cub Scouts... managing to finish first overall one year... while finishing dead-last the next... but it didn’t matter because he did the work all by himself... and I cheered him on both years because it was his work... not mine.
My daughter most-likely had the grades and aptitude to go to a well-known university to become a medical doctor... but decided instead to attend a small and relatively unknown college to study philosophy (as she told me... "Daddy, I want to go to college to learn how to learn... and if I am able to do that... I can always acquire job skills later on").
Maybe she made a giant career mistake by taking this route... I really don’t know... but I do know that if she did feel this way... she understands it’s her mistake... she made the choice and she owns it...
I hear all the time that this millennial generation isn’t motivated to do much of anything... they’re not necessarily interested in working long and hard like their boomer generation parents did... that they are far more interested in creating experiences rather than more money in their bank account...
I believe that this is mostly a true statement...
The reason to me is abundantly clear... growing up; these kids always had money and other resources... what they didn’t have is their own experiences... they had their parents experiences (and expectations). They were directed into what their parents wanted them to do... and their parents made sure that their kids were successful, even if this means that all participants get a trophy at the end or the parents did the actual work.
At the lunch following the speaker, I polled several people sitting at my table about the lecture we had just heard.
It seemed that almost everyone at my table was in agreement with the thoughts and ideas of the speaker.
My table mates essentially told me, "What good is working hard to acquire wealth, resources and contacts if you can’t share those with your children"?
One woman at the table confessed that her daughter was a writer who had written a book and that she actually went behind her daughter’s back to secretly arrange for a well-known publisher to pick up the book by guaranteeing the publisher a certain amount of revenue from the book (essentially bribing the publisher).
She somehow believed that this act would actually help her daughter to become a better writer... as though good writing somehow was perversely correlated to book sales.
The truly amazing thing to me was that many of the other people at the table saw absolutely nothing wrong with this behavior... as though it was truly an act of love to literally buy their child’s success.
I can only wonder what will happen to these kids if one day they need to survive on their own merit rather than that of their parents...
...but perhaps I’m wrong... maybe a commercially successful first book is all that this young writer will need to propel her to become even a better writer on her next book...
Who knows... it might be a good thing for kids to get better grades than they deserve... win awards that they didn’t earn... or be the surrogate to their parents’ alter-ego...
Perhaps I owe my own children a big apology for forcing them to do their own work...
...my only consolation is that I know in my heart that when they do find success... they own it... it wasn’t because of me... but rather because of them...
Thank you for your support of OptiFuse... where we believe in the merits of hard work and the understanding that failure can bring us great insights and help to foster improvement.
Jim Kalb President
Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Website - www.optifuse.com
Twitter - @OptiFuse