Growth and The Conscious Parent

Dr. Shefali Tsabary has written a powerful book called “The Conscious Parent.” I’ve been reading the book on and off over the past couple of years. It reads like the expanded version of the wonderful poem by Kahlil Gibran on parenting that is our aspirational parenting philosophy.

One of the recurring themes in the book is the idea that your kids come into your life to help you grow. In doing so, they stretch you and help you become more aware of the areas where you need help becoming a better version of yourself.

I have written repeatedly about my increasing awareness of my tendency to fight fire with fire when the better approach would be to follow the fire department and use water (or, in this case, tact :-)). And, today’s note is another one of those. I received another reminder this week that impatience and tempers generally only serve to exacerbate problems.

The combination of patience and tact, on the other hand, go a long way.

I expect to keep encountering these lessons until I learn to move beyond reaction into response. It takes time to overcome our natural tendencies – I’m definitely in it for the long haul.

The powerful extension of this theme is when we extend it beyond our kids to everyone we encounter.

What if we treated every person we meet as a messenger from life to help us become the person we want to be?

The reasonable test

A simple question to measure how reasonable we really are – when was the last time we changed a decision when the facts/assumptions changed?

And, a bonus – when was the last time we wished we’d changed a decision when the facts/assumptions changed?

The answers to both those questions tend help us calibrate how reasonable we actually are.

Blaise Pascal on the shorter letter

There’s a powerful Blaise Pascal quote on brevity that translates to – “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

I thought about this recently as I compared two presentations. One of them was a rush job and contained far too many slides. The other was carefully put together and packed more insight and impact despite having a third of the slides.

In both cases, the effort (or lack of it) showed.

Simplicity is often a leading indicator of competence.

Benefits of good decisions compound over time

When Liverpool Football Club appointed Jurgen Klopp as their manager in 2015, I remember telling a good friend I was sad he wasn’t a Manchester United manager. Klopp had spent 7 years with Borussia Dortmund and transformed them into a German powerhouse club. He was exactly the kind of long term thinker we needed.

He was appointed in the early part of the season and while Liverpool had shown some signs of improvement by the end, there was plenty left to be desired. They finished 8th in the league.

The next season was his first full season and there were visible signs of improvement. Liverpool were now 4th in the league and qualified for the European Champions League.

In his third season, Liverpool were beginning to do well and look consistently dangerous. They finished 4th again and had an impressive run to the finals of the Champions League. Thanks to a bit of misfortune, they missed out.

Klopp invested in areas they were weak over the summer and Liverpool came out all guns blazing this season. It looks like they’ll narrowly miss winning the league – thanks to an exceptional season by their direct competitor to the title. But, against all odds, they overturned a 3-0 deficit against Barcelona yesterday to win 4-0 and make their way to the finals of the Champions League again. This time, only a fool would bet against them.

All this context underscores the central point – the benefits of good decisions compound over time. Liverpool have been making positive strides every season and have been looking consistently better than their previous versions. That sort of improvement isn’t made overnight. But, viewed over a period of time, it is easy to realize the power of building strong foundations and making small improvements that compound over time.

Seeing the progress he’s made in the past 4 years is a good reminder to make long term decisions. As long as you have the conviction, stay the course and do it with a great attitude (as he does).

It may not seem to pay off for a while.

Until it does.

Human-size life

I was reminded of a post I’d shared 3 years ago from Dave Winer’s blog (one of the first regular blogs on the internet) called “Your human-size life.

Dave wrote the post to explain why the narrative we have on wealth in society – “Until you’re rich, you’re miserable. Once you’re rich, it’s all great!” – is deeply flawed. And, there is a quote from that post that has stuck with me over the years.

One of the biggest mistakes rich people make is to try to live larger than a single human being can. A mathematical impossibility. You can buy a big house, but you can only sleep in one bedroom at a time. You can own twenty fantastic cars, airplanes and yachts, but you can only be in one at a time. You can own an NBA team and a MLB team, and you get to sit in the nicest seat in the house at games, but you still can only sit in one seat. In other words, your humanity doesn’t increase just because your wealth did.

At the end of the day, we can only sleep in one bedroom, drive in one car, work on one desk, and be in one place. If we’re lucky, we get to do all of this while spending time with people we care about  and spending at least some portion of our day struggling to solve problems that matter.

Or, as Dave puts it –

“I think we all need a struggle, I think that’s where our creativity comes from. We need something that feels unattainable, but actually is not. But the struggle to rise above our humanity, that’s not going to happen for any of us. And the desire to have it robs your very human life of any value. 

Joe had it right. Live a gentle human-size life. Go for a walk in your middle-class neighborhood and run into a friend of a friend and share what you see, and influence their life for the better. That’s the kind of thing a human can do. And it is, imho, where happiness comes from. “

On Bestseller ideas

“Let’s get one thing clear right now, shall we? There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.” | Stephen King, On Writing

“Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.” Applicable in writing and in life.

(Making slow progress through this Stephen King masterpiece. What a great read.)

No one has the right answers on the difficult questions

Life presents us with difficult questions every day.

What’s the right way to balance/integrate work and life?
What do you choose to value?
How should you balance between the short term and the long term?
Should you persist?
What should you prioritize given the information you have?

There are many who claim to have the answer. For example, some will tell you that the secret to managing a workplace is by working in a calm workplace. Others will tell you it is all about your work ethic when you are building your career. And, yet some others will tell you it is all about achieving financial independence to do what you want.

All of these may be the right answers.

But, there is no guarantee they will work for you.

By all means, read the best books/posts on the questions you’re asking and listen to folks who challenge your thinking.

But, once you do the work, find some silence and ask yourself what the answer should be. Only you understand your circumstances and constraints. Only you can find a path that works for you… a path that will inevitably lead to more difficult questions that no one else will have the answers for.

Minimizing contribution

“If your habit is to clear your throat, apologize a few times, minimize the quality of the work you’re about to share and in general, apologize for the assertions you’re about to make…

you probably realize that this is not an effective way to give a talk, lead a class or have a strategic discussion.” – Seth’s post on “The minimizing coin

As I was reminded after a meeting recently that I minimized my/our contribution (and have been known to do this in the past), this post couldn’t have come at a better time.

In all the instances where I’ve learned that I do this, the awareness was brought about by feedback from someone else. So, the first step to solving this is becoming aware of when I do it.

All of this ties back to my new year theme to communicate constructively and with clarity. As the year progresses, I’m coming to realize that all progress on communication comes with more awareness.

And, awareness comes with intention.