The thing I liked about triathlon was, if you were decent at everything, you could be world class at something.– Scott Molina, World Champion Triathlete
Paul reminded me about this topic when he asked, “What do I want for my kids?” Paul is worth a follow.
Many, many parents’ actions indicate, “I want my kids to bring ME glory” or, with an Eastern twist, “I want my descendants to bring honor to the family.”
As parents, when we answer this question, we get an insight into our personal definition of honor and a clue to our value system.
We often reach for things we wish we’d been able to get for ourselves.
Something I found in my athletic career, when I set my mind to external results, I was sowing the seeds for dissatisfaction.
Applying a specific lesson from sport to the arena of life…
If I pass a habit (of external striving) to my spouse, or kids, then I am putting unnecessary emotional baggage into my most important relationships.
Going further, even if I’m successful, the kids are going to attribute their successes to their own efforts, certainly in my lifetime.
As an aside, I’ll leave it to Fooled By Randomness to offer cognitive dissonance on the source of external success. Time shows me many near misses with severe failure and ruin. I’m hardwired to own success and disown failures. This is an area where getting older helps.
Thinking about my far future self, am I really going to care about how anyone did?
I am going to care about how they make me feel.
I’ll start by asking you a question. You don’t need to tell anyone the answer but you should be honest with yourself.
What would be more important to carry forward into the world?
- Striving to outperform your parents?
- Knowing you have outperformed your parents’ expectation of you?
If you’re unsure then ask someone close to you, “what do I talk about when I talk about my parents?”
Much of my approach is governed by listening to friends talk about their parents.
One our key family values is “We’ve already won.”
This frees us to slow down, favor the relationship over the mission and reduces our fear of missing out.
This mindset keeps us away from ruin and reduces our unforced errors. So we are more likely to reap the benefit of our own efforts.
Some lessons from coaching high-performers:
- The coach is there to take the blame.
- Success accrues to the athlete.
- The plan is often the difference between success and failure.
Owning the above, helps the coach focus on the areas where they can have an impact AND frees the coach from taking ownership of outcome.
Ownership of another person’s outcome will make you miserable. I can generate a lot of “fatherhood fatigue” when I own every word, choice and action of my children.
To design a simple plan we can all execute, I need to avoid getting wrapped up in the endless micro-battles (real and imagined).
I also need the confidence to roll-the-plan and avoid sowing confusion by constantly tinkering for “fun” or “variety.”
Taking it together, where can I have the most impact:
- My example via my actions
- How I schedule our plan
- The family incentive structure
Another lesson from watching families over long time horizons. The people who live up to “high expectations” are those who need them the least.
Put another way, expecting doesn’t work => action does.
Even stronger => mutually agreed collective action => the social pressure of working towards a collective “good example.”
Make it clear to yourself, and your kids, exactly what’s required to get your approval => your time & attention being a valuable form of currency in the eyes of your kids. We try to keep it really simple:
- Exercise daily
- Stay on grade level
- Be kind to those without recourse
- Learn how to teach yourself
Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking you are helping by expressing constant dissatisfaction.
Similarly, in your own life, if you are never quite get “there” then ask yourself where was I trying to go?