#606 Parenting: 3 Tips

Lessons on How to Be a Great Dad

At the end of my recent talk I keep on talking about 😉, one of the CEOs came up and asked me how to apply the wisdom I shared to his parenting. He had a 5-year-old like me.

Then another guy who was also waiting to chat stepped up and said, “Yah. I’d love to hear your thoughts on that. I have a 10-year-old and a 9-year-old as well.”

I was struck by how cool it was that these super-successful and ambitious guys were so committed to being great dads. (I also remember a coaching session with another successful entrepreneur. When I asked him what he most wanted to get out of our time together, he said that he wanted to be a better father. I actually get tears in my eyes as I think about that.)

So…

First, I briefly told them about the etymology of the word “parent.” As we discussed in this +1, the word literally means “to bring forth.” Our primary job as parents is to simply help bring forth the latent potential (genius!!) that is inherently within our kids.

Then I shared three things that I think are the most powerful ways to help “bring forth” that awesomeness. Here they are.

1. Be an Exemplar. It’s a truism (because it’s true!!), but kids don’t listen to what we tell them to do, they model what we ACTUALLY do. Therefore, by far, the most important thing we can do for our kids is to be a shining, radiant demonstration of what we hope they will aspire to be.

btw: This is, by far, my greatest motivation as a human being, a man and a father. I want to break the cycle of my masculine lineage (my father was an alcoholic and his father was an alcoholic who killed himself) and help my son (and daughter!) actualize his (and her!) potential (without having to work through quite so much 💩. lol)

2. Give Presence. The second thing I shared is also ridiculously obvious: Be present. We ALL (!!!) know that presence is the greatest act of love. Yet… Most of us forget that most of the time.

The solution is astonishingly simple. Put your smartphone in airplane mode in another room when you spend time with your kids (and your spouse and, well, any human). This simple act removes the greatest barrier to our presence and provides the fastest route to both connecting with our kids and modeling the style of connection (see #1 on being an exemplar!) that will be so important for our kids in a more and more hyperconnected (and paradoxically disconnected) world.

3. Embrace Challenges. The third thing we talked about was the importance of embracing what Carol Dweck calls a “Growth Mindset.” I told the guys that her books Mindset and Self-theories are fantastic and recommended my Notes on them for the quick review.

Practically speaking, I’ve been very deliberate in following Dweck’s advice to embrace challenges and always reward EFFORT not “ability.”

For example, on the effort front, I say things like: “Nice trail running!” rather than “You’re a great trail runner!” Or, “I saw how hard you worked to climb up that slide—and that you almost fell then caught yourself and kept on going. Love how hard you tried!” rather than “You’re such a great climber!”

On the challenges front, Dweck tells us to talk about our own challenges and how we’re facing them and to “rub our hands together” with excitement when things are hard. I’m ALL ABOUT this. I literally rub my hands together any time something is challenging (on the most mundane things) and say, “Oh, wow! I love challenges.” Or when I watch Emerson do something hard—whether that’s build a Lego set or do our Spartan wall traverse—I say, “Ohhhhh!! AWESOME!! That one’s challenging! How fun!!”

It’s almost surreal how much he’s embraced this. He once asked his nanny, “Do you love challenges? I DO!!!” (Laughing with some more mistiness thinking about that.)

So…

Back to me and the two dads.

And YOU.

And Today’s +1.

If you’re a parent, how’s that going for you?!

What’s working? What needs work? What can you do a little differently TODAY?

Love and high fives and here’s to working on our LOVE as hard as we work on our Work.

P.S. I know that all of our Optimizers aren’t parents. But get this: Last summer we had a couple of brilliant, passionate Harvard students help us out as interns. I went on a hike with them. One of the things that struck me the most was when they told me how much they LOVED Fatherhood 101 and how much they appreciated the wisdom I shared about being a dad. They told me that they hoped I shared more as it was super-helpful for them as they want to be great dads.

Again, I have tears in my eyes as I think about that. These are 19-year-old guys!!!

Gives me a lot of hope for our future. ❤️

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