This is PART 2 of our ‘The 10 Most Valuable Lessons’ series.
My goal was to create a list of the best values and skills I can teach my child (and all others) to prepare them for a world that is changing more rapidly than ever before.
These are lessons built on principles. Tactics may change and renew, but principles last forever. In order to make it as valuable as possible each lesson includes actionable steps or resources.
- You are What You Consume (Food, Drink, Thoughts and Content)
We all know the saying ‘you are what you eat’. There is definitely wisdom within it. But honestly- is it really enough? Does nothing else factor into the equation of creating what we ultimately ‘are’?
The lesson I find more valuable to share is that you are what you consume. This statement still includes your dietary choices. Nutrition remains a vital cog. Diets that are balanced with lean protein, healthy fats and the RIGHT carbohydrates have been shown time and again to reduce irritability, increase energy levels, decrease excess body fat and prevent disease. Those are all qualities we should want in our lives.
But what about all the other inputs we are exposed to day in and day out? What impact do these have? There are literally thousands being absorbed by our subconscious mind daily. The most important of them all are the ones we actively choose to consume. This includes the things we read and watch. What has been your choice as a parent historically? Do you catch up on TMZ or learn from Ted Talks? Do you spend your reading time with Cosmopolitan or a great novel? Your choices say more about you then you realize.
There are literally millions of options in our day and age. What are you absorbing (consciously and unconsciously)? It is important to be aware of this because your choice also impacts what your child is exposed to. A child is unlikely to stumble upon something empowering and stick with it. You have the opportunity to open their minds and hearts to inspiring and important works. That example and standard is set at home. You are the example. Your choices from one moment to the next are important. Over the course of a lifetime it indicates the type of person you become and will be. I remind myself of this daily. You are what you spend your time consuming and applying. Your child should see and know this and be aware of its impact in their own life. They have the time and energy to make the most of it.
Another incredibly important aspect of this lesson involves human interaction and conversations. I am a big proponent that you are the sum of the 5 people you spend the most time with. This goes beyond conversations. Who you spend your time with begins to impact your thought processes and habits. As we learned in Part 1 of this series, our thought patterns and habits can make us or break us.
The people we spend our time with and the things we do and talk about have a profound and lasting impact. Certain people talk about ideas and topics/hobbies worth exploring. This leads to asking questions, learning and thinking big. These are people who acknowledge problems and spend their time and energy on the solutions. Other people choose to discuss gossip, rumours and all the things that are unfair or negative in the world. Over time, what type of person do you think talking about that stuff makes you? Chances are it isn’t someone you would want to hang out with. It shouldn’t be someone your child wants to hang out with either.
Don’t like hearing that? Few do. I don’t. In fact, the less your child (or anyone) likes hearing this ‘rule of thumb’, the higher the likelihood they are spending time with the wrong 5 people and/or watching and consuming the wrong things. We should all be assessing our consumption periodically. It dictates who we are after all.
ACTIONABLE STEP – Schedule Family Time
Once each week set aside time to be spent as a family. This time is to be used to consume something fun and fascinating. Again, your only limitation during this time is your own imagination. Try watching a TED Talk or other YouTube video that explores something new or of interest to you or your child. Better yet, try watching something you normally never would. There is nothing greater than exploring something you know little about and realizing that you enjoyed learning about it. Feel free to go outside or create a science experiment. The idea is to spend time together learning and exploring.
Here is a list of video sources worth exploring:
1. TED Talks
- You (and ONLY You) are Responsible for YOUR Own Happiness
Being a happy person is one of the greatest things you can strive to be. It can and will have a profound impact on everything in your life. The good news is, it is completely up to you to be a happy person. It is critical for our children to understand this. Happiness is a choice. It is a choice you can make moment to moment. Eventually, with enough collective moments you end up being a happy person.
You must understand that there is no real strength in relying on others to cheer you up or lift your spirits. It is dangerous to borrow this strength from others. There is no denying that from time to time there is nothing more beautiful that being uplifted or cheered up by a loved one. We are social animals. But remember this – you should always be your own head cheerleader. Ultimately, no one else is as deeply invested and reliant on your happiness than you are. You are also the person who is going to benefit most from your happiness. And when you are happy, it serves everyone else around you.
There is no utility in relying on things or purchases to provide happiness. It will eventually dissipate and we will seek happiness from another outside source. Something bigger or better. These are temporary distractions that lead to hollow sentiments. The happiest people in the world focus on the positive and don’t bother stewing in the negative or unfair. There will always be something to complain about.
There is a saying that your attitude determines your altitude. It ultimately determines how high you fly in life. If you are weighing yourself and others down by focusing on the negative in life you are essentially placing a glass ceiling on your potential. It is up to you to break through that ceiling. There is always something positive to focus on, even in the most dire of situations. The ability to do this provides unlimited power and strength. History provides wonderful examples of this. Viktor Frankl’s ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ and Nelson Mandella’s life story are excellent examples.
There is no denying that all of the above is difficult. Ultimately, nothing worth having comes easy. It is consistency and repetition that provides a foundation of happiness. And this happiness will improve every single aspect of your life.
The conversations you have with yourself every day are the most important ones you will ever have. They determine your outlook on life. This is critical because your outlook is how you perceive every single thing that happens to you or within yourself. You cultivate your attitude and focus through your self-talk. Opt to be your own ally rather than your enemy. Anyone who has ever achieved anything worth doing has done so thanks in large part to a deep sense of belief in themselves. That sense of belief makes them happy.
Ultimately, there is no real success without a sense of happiness to accompany it. Happiness represents the type of success that can never be taken from you. It does not lead to more ‘wanting’ in order to get happiness. It allows you to remain successful regardless of what is happening to you at any given moment. Do yourself the favor and strive to be happy. Challenge yourself and your child to find the good in everything.
ACTIONABLE STEP – Practice Gratitude – Create daily lists of 3 Things that you are Grateful for
It is extremely difficult to feel gratitude without feeling happy and vice versa. Taking some time to focus on the things that you are grateful for is a quick and effective way to calibrate your thinking and shift your perspective. Have your child create a list of 3 Things that they are grateful for. This can be a list of things overall or things that may have happened to them today. It does not have to be written. It can be a quick conversation. This is a wonderful way to take stock of all that is good in their life. Try to make the things as small and menial as possible. Clean drinking water and hot showers are something to be happy about. There are people who live on this same planet who do without them daily. This exercise is quick, powerful and free – qualities that should make you happy.
- Compounding is the Most Powerful Force on Earth (Nothing Great Happens Without It)
I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times. – Bruce Lee
All great achievement begins well before any glory, fame or success is achieved. These things are the result of countless hours of effort, training, learning and doing added together over time. Eventually all that effort creates something greater than the sum of the parts. This phenomenon is known as compounding, and it is the most powerful force on Earth. Understanding this is critical to mastering or doing anything worthwhile.
There are many examples to choose from. They come from all areas of life, be it sports, the performing arts or business. Take for example Tom Brady or Stephen Curry. They are two top of the all time great performers in their respective crafts. Each seemingly effortless pinpoint pass or 3 point shot is the result of countless repetitions in the gym. They are moments created by a lifetime of work. The fundamental building blocks of those achievements have been practiced and ingrained in their physiology and psyche until they become automatic. They become second nature. There is no coincidence that the very best in their fields are often the hardest working as well. They love the work because it allows them to achieve the level of mastery and success they seek. We are left in awe wondering how they did it. In reality, it is what they have been consistently doing for a long time that made it happen.
The same principle applies for Stephen King and his brilliance in writing books. His ability and dedication to his craft has created a cannon of work that is almost unfathomable. How else does one produce 55 published books and 200 short stories? That is the definition of consistency and compounded effort. His words have terrified and inspired millions of all ages. They have even been turned into iconic films such as The Shining and The Shawshank Redemption. Note – please don’t watch these with your kids until they are old enough. All of King’s accomplishments have been the result of a gradual process over time. He would be the first to tell you that he wasn’t a very good writer when he decided to start writing. But he kept at it. He dedicated himself to it daily. He was and continues to be deliberate about it. The eventual results speak for themselves.
The above are wonderful examples. We need to understand them to share them with our children. The challenge is that a child may be unable to truly relate? Frame it around something they enjoy doing, be it riding a bicycle or speaking a language. At one point in time they were complete amateurs. They literally had zero idea or experience about how to proceed. Eventually, with more time spent and repetitions done, their abilities became almost effortless. Our brains and physiology adapt and become more efficient. It is truly a natural gift. Eventually with time and focused effort our abilities and proficiency increase. This power is applicable to anything. Look no further than the greatest in any field. They are walking examples of compounded effort.
Compounding also applies to another critical area of life – personal finances. Our children have the most valuable amplifier of compounding that exists – time. As mentioned before, time is the most valuable asset in the world. When combined with earnings, it can create immense and effortless wealth. The true impact of that combination is almost unfathomable. All it takes is a simple example that any child can understand.
Lets start with the most basic unit of financial measure, the humble penny. Play a guessing game with your child. Ask them what would happen if they took that single shiny penny and were able to place it in a magic bucket. This magic bucket would allow that penny to double every day. Given this magic, they would end up with two pennies in their bucket after the first day. If both those pennies was kept in the same bucket they would have four pennies by the end of the second day and eight by the end of the third day. One becomes two by the end of each day. Feel free to use paper and pen to illustrate this doubling for younger children. Once they have grasped the concept, ask them to hazard a guess at what they would have in their bucket if they simply left all those pennies there and allowed them to double every single day for another 28 days (31 days total). What do you think their recipe of earnings and time would be worth?
Could you imagine that it could be worth more than $100,000? How about a million ($1,000,000)? The truth is, the total you would end up with is $10,737,418.24.
That is remarkable. Even more stunning is the fact that on the tenth day, your child’s bucket would only have $5.12 in pennies. The real traction comes when one million becomes two and two becomes four. So on and so forth. Although a daily rate of return of 100% is unrealistic (sadly), it serves as a powerful example of the magic compounding can do to a single penny. Here is an excellent and easy to use compound interest calculator I plan on using with my child.
It is critical for children to understand the power of compounding in terms of effort and the things they choose to do in their lives. It is the most powerful force on Earth. It is also vital to note that it is a principle for good as well as bad. Practicing bad habits over time also creates a sort of compounding that is not desirable. It can be harmful and debilitating. In the case of borrowing at high interest rates, the same math that will make you wealthy as an investor will rob you of thousands more than you borrowed. In the case of work and health related habits it can rob you of the life you want to live.
ACTION STEP – Be Consistent for 2 Weeks
Although two weeks is a small sample size, it is ideal for a number of reasons. It allows the effects of compounded effort to be observed while not giving the impression that something long-term or difficult is being committed to. That’s great for our motivation and execution. Most of us can try something for two weeks. Nothing major has to happen or be sacrificed. The goal should simply be to do something every single day for the 2 weeks. A great example would be taking the stairs rather than an elevator or escalator. Another easy to implement idea is reading for ten minutes a day or taking time in the morning (five minutes is more than enough) to plan and prioritize the day ahead. Observe your results and how you feel about them. One sentence in your phone notes is fine. If you keep at it, there is little doubt it will be a positive (and easy) experience. Once you experience it, it will be easier to share what it is with your child.
- Successful People Fail WAY MORE Often than Regular People Do (They Just DO IT Better)
The fear of failure is quite possibly the most debilitating of all fears. Over a life time there is no telling how much it can hold you back from reaching your full potential. You may never realize your true destiny or the gifts that lie within you because of it.
People who are successful have two things going for them;
- They have changed their definition of failure so that it empowers them rather than cripples them. In their eyes failure can only happen when nothing is tried or when they give up on trying. Everything else is just a temporary set back.
- They use each and every failure as a learning experience and a stepping stone. If they learn something from it then they got something out of it. That something could be an education, an experience or an example of what doesn’t work. Those are closer to successes than they are failures.
If you can help yourself and your child adopt the above two stances, you will never fail the wrong way again.
Successful people spend their entire lives failing. The math is simple. These people take action more than unsuccessful people do. Nothing happens without action. The more action you take the more likely you are to experience setbacks. Especially when attempting something outside the comfort zones of the familiar and the mundane. It’s basic probability. Failure is a byproduct of action. How on Earth could it be bad?
If you plan on succeeding at anything or achieving anything worthwhile you must re-frame the way you look at failure. What if each failure could be seen as a lesson? Am education? An example of what not to do? An opportunity to look at something from a new or different angle? In sports or all other areas of life failing can create a deeper understanding of what is needed to succeed or how close one really is to achieving their ultimate goal.
The most important way to look at any temporary failure is that it is an opportunity to get better. Use this model and you will forever be unstoppable. You will never stop acting, and your continued efforts will get better over time. You will get better over time.
If things always go as planned you will never get to see what you are really made of. And really, beyond a penned Hollywood script, what are the odds that things always go as planned all the time? Have you only ever gotten green traffic lights in your life? We have all had to sit at a red light or two on our journey. Understanding this changes the relationship between us and failure.
If everything up to this point hasn’t convinced you that failure can be used as a stepping stone to success, perhaps the next two words will – Thomas Edison. Edison is undoubtedly one of history’s greatest men and inventors. He invented the incandescent light bulb and subsequently brought light to the the masses. During his path to that success, he tried over 10,000 filament materials before he finally found the one that worked. 10,000. How many of us would have gotten to 10,000? Only the ones who know how to perceive and treat failure.
Almost everyone knows the example above, so let me provide another one. Abraham Lincoln. One of history’s greatest men may never have been remembered had he decided to give up. Here is a chronology of the stepping stones (failures) that birthed a legend. In 1832 he lost his job and was defeated for state legislature. In 1833 he failed in business. In 1836 he experienced a nervous breakdown. In 1838 he was defeated for Speak of the House. In 1843 he was defeated for a nomination to Congress. In 1854 he was defeated for U.S. Senate. In 1856 he was defeated for nomination for Vice President. In 1858 he was again defeated for U.S. Senate. In 1860 he was elected President and to this day is remembered and admired.
One of the most important (if not THE most important) gift you can give your child is to express that you will always value and take pride in their ability to try, fail, get better and repeat that cycle. Once they understand and embrace that you have given them permission to be unstoppable. One day they will have failed their way to their goals.
ACTION STEP – Ask your child about their ‘failure of the week’ and celebrate it
We get it. This action step sounds completely counter-intuitive. Am I really asking you to not only have your child fail, but celebrate the failure with them? Absolutely! Remember – failure is a byproduct of trying something. Something new. Something bold. Something uncomfortable. Something that could lead to THE something.
You may not know the name Sara Blakely, but you definitely know her company. Sara founded and remains the 100% owner of Spanx. Growing up her father would ask her and her sibling what failure she had the previous week. If she was unable to come up with an answer, she would get in trouble. The failure she did bring up would be discussed and celebrated. This is an incredibly powerful way to re-frame failure and encourage effort in a child. It allowed Sara to be courageous and follow her passions. She was never afraid of failing. It is also an easy and powerful way to bond and connect with your child.
Sara eventually ‘failed’ her way to billionaire status. More importantly, she learned how to use failure and setbacks to get there.
To Be Continued…