Zen of Fatherhood

Aside

Me holding Jake and Colin when Jake was littleHelen Keller said, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.” As I sit waiting to meet my third child, I reflect on  the beauty of unseen things. The Zen of Fatherhood.

Enlightenment through deep thought.  Reaching higher levels of understanding through a natural progression of experience.  Fatherhood allows me to reach higher levels of understanding about things I thought I already knew.

 

LEARNING – My first son changed my life forever. Not that I wasn’t prepared for that, but I did not know to what extent. I learned to love their learning process.  Watching the wonderment in their faces when they discover something new is priceless. If only I could remember to learn with such enthusiasm.

PATIENCE – God knows, one of my greatest flaws remains impatience.  I often forget how unimportant spilled milk really is in the grand scheme of things. Usually, the dog will lick it up anyway. I think being a father has made me a more empathetic person and leader.

LOVE – Experiencing the love a parent feels for a child is like nothing I have ever experienced. Sure, I love my spouse, parents, siblings, friends, etc, but nothing compares. I know there is very little I wouldn’t sacrifice to ensure they are safe and successful.

WEALTH  – I suppose I’m less motivated by money than some and more so than others. However, fatherhood has brought more wealth into my life in the last 5 years than the previous 30 combined.  While I won’t stop developing myself and looking for ways to build financial stability for my family, I have nonetheless discovered the wealth of blessings I already possess.

Yes, fatherhood brings a form of zen into one’s life.  Multiple paths exist toward enlightenment for all, but my path led me to this higher level of understanding.  I look forward to reaching ever higher levels in the future and passing as much as possible down to my descendants.

 

Confident Women Built Here

Just days before my little girl joins our family I am thinking about how to ensure she becomes a future leader.  I just read Marshall Goldsmith’s blog post interviewing Girl Scouts former CEO Kathy Cloninger.

Marshall asks Kathy about the results of a study on the leadership aspirations of girls.  Most were ambivalent about the current command and control leadership most prevalent in our society.  A fact that most enlightened leaders already understand. Interestingly, most of the female business executives and business owners in the US (80%) are former Girl Scouts; as are more than 65% of the female members of the US Congress and Senate.  Clearly Girl Scouts are developing valuable leadership skills in young women.

What else can we do to help our young girls become confident strong leaders?

“Men Don’t Follow Titles, They Follow Courage”

This quote from Braveheart states a universal truth.  Without courage leadership does not exist.  In the absence of courage lesser men assume leadership positions because society becomes ambivalent.  William Wallace encourages through word and deed.  The deeds strengthen the words, as they do with most people.

The example of Wallace teaches us to lead from the middle.  When a lack of leadership exists at the top, this provides an opportunity for leaders to rise up to meet the challenge.  The names of these leaders may or may not be lost to history, but without their courage and sacrifice movements fizzle and fade.

It was my good fortune to visit Scotland a few years after the Braveheart movie debuted.  I went to Stirling Bridge and of course the nearby Wallace Monument (pictured below). An epic setting for an epic battle.  I was seeing that field beneath the monument with the visions of Hollywood battles in my head.  But, the Scottish feel that battle in their DNA.  Don’t make the mistake of comparing the Mel Gibson Hollywood version of William Wallace to the average Scott.  He will quickly correct you.

braveheart movie

“Wfm wallace monument” by Finlay McWalter – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wfm_wallace_monument.jpg#/media/File:Wfm_wallace_monument.jpg
Braveheart

My biggest take away from the story and the movie is, empower those around you to stand up in the face of adversity.  Many people often underestimate their influence over others.  With a little encouragement they will find their voice.  Even those endowed with titles, but seemingly lacking in courage, may yet discover their spine.  You may never know how your own examples of strength will impact others in the future.  Stay strong and encourage others at all levels to be the best leaders they can be.

 

Leader Wanted – Must Be Charismatic

Ken Blanchard wrote a post today about charisma.  He points out that charisma is not necessary for leadership, but in my comment I pointed out that while I agree, it does not seem to be the case in many situations.

I find that while the research is clear about the leadership traits we desire most (and need the most), humans continually put “leaders” in place that fall short of the ideal.  I know we all fall short on expectations, but what is the flaw in humans that compel us to give undue influence to those ego maniacs that seek it out?

Maybe, I answered my own question. I often say, that we will never have true leaders in the White House because leaders are busy leading other endeavors.  We are left with ego maniacs that even when well-intentioned are unable to lead much of anything.

Great strife usually shines the light on leaders.  Perhaps when life is going along OK, we don’t put as much emphasis on the need for great leadership.  Instead, we elect to follow the most charismatic person with the least amount of baggage.

I don’t have an answer here, I’m just stating the obvious.  Am I wrong?  Please, someone correct me!

The Hero’s Journey—Applying the Epic to Your Career

As a student of history, I’ve often perceived my own life in the form of a hero’s journey.  This post, The Hero’s Journey—Applying the Epic to Your Career by Jason Diamond Arnold, applies that theme to our work lives.

It is hard to separate our work lives from our lives, but perhaps until we are in work that truly engages our passions we sort of ramble through life learning our lessons.

I watched a CNBC special about Colonel Harland Sanders last night.  He had a rough start as a kid growing up in Kentucky and undertook many roles including entrepreneur.  But, it wasn’t until he was 65 (and broke) that he began pursuing the endeavor he is best known for now.  He took his unique fried chicken recipe and cooking style on the road to convince restauranteurs around the country to buy his recipe and cooking style.  The rest is history.

This inspires me to continue looking for my recipe, too.

Mancans – Kid Entrepreneur

This is exactly what I’m talking about. This article about Hart Main @entmagazine by Michelle Juergen, describes the sort of kid that inspires me to encourage others to pursue their ideas.  Yes, I realize this kid figured it out all by himself, like many others will.  However, there must be a concrete method of teaching and encouraging more of this.  Perhaps, it is as simple as getting successful kidpreneurs together so they can interact with other kids that either have an idea, want to come up with an idea or simply want to learn best practices from others.

Lack of Creativity in Education

What’s going wrong with American education is outlined In this Newsweek Article, re-posted at the Daily Beast titled the Creativity Crisis.  Essentially, we’ve begun to focus on test taking and standards at a time that the Chinese are racing toward the old American model of fostering creativity.  Europe, too recognized the lack of creativity being taught in public schools and instituted several new initiative.

Since it is unlikely that the US education system will figure this out anytime soon. What can we do to ensure our kids gain the skills and experiences they need to compete in the 21st century? I’m interested to know what you think.  Please comment below.

Stop Adding Value

Middle of nowhere, close to the Pyrenees.

Stop Adding Value. What a great reminder of what not to do.  It is great to have enthusiasm for someone’s idea, but don’t commandeer it to make “improvements.”  An idea can still be shepherded and given support, but allow the individual to mature the idea within the organization.

Simple axiom, but hard for some managers to remember.

“Indie” Capitalism or Back to Basics

Terrific Article by Bruce Nussbaum and exactly the trend I see. I want to capitalize on this for my kids.  Entrepreneurs or Makers are on the rise.  People don’t want to be employees.  While that is nothing new and the whole point of enlightened leadership is to empower teams to take ownership.  This is nonetheless a rewarding path that frees our kids from the tyranny of crony capitalism and mass consumerism.