Sep 242014
An electronics store in a shopping mall in Jak...

An electronics store in a shopping mall in Jakarta. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Good parents share a desire to give kids the best — it’s a laudable goal.  It’s natural to want our children to have a better life, but what does that mean?

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For some it means living peacefully with two parents rather than in the aftermath of divorce or abuse.  For others, it’s predictably having enough food and a reliable roof overhead, access to good education or the opportunity to participate in activities and events with friends.

Being a parent can create a feeling an unrelenting pressure to do more and better. Our kids contribute to this simply by being kids, wanting stuff and asking for it.

On one hand, it’s good to see someone with the ability to ask, clearly and assertively, for what they want.  On the other, we can easily see the impact of marketing, advertising and consumer culture right under our noses!

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I think we sometimes get confused about what ‘giving kids the best’ can mean.  With parents holding down multiple outside jobs, kids participating in lots of activities and so much time in the car, quiet family time is at a premium.  ‘Overtired’ and ‘guilty’ become familiar.

When under pressure, it’s easy to translate a wonderful desire to something tangible and material almost as if to reassure ourselves that we’re living up to our parenting potential.  Smart phones, designer clothing, cars…While those outward manifestations can be important it can be much harder to be sure to deliver the gifts that last forever: love, attention, lessons, morals and values.

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Overindulgence can be dangerous to kids.  When we give them everything they ask for (and many things they don’t) we interfere with their ability to learn to work for the things they want…. and perhaps even the ability to fully appreciate all the gifts money can’t buy. The ones that last forever.


Sep 172014
Broken Lightbulb Snail

Broken Lightbulb Snail (Photo credit: K.G.Hawes)


“I never did anything by accident, not did any of my inventions come by accident; they came by work.”

 — Thomas Edison

I’m not sure I’m 100% “sold” on the idea “everything happens for a reason.”  It’s my nature to question things.  Still, it’s not easy to ignore the evidence: our response to a problem can energize and inspire us as we grow into new ways to live.

As a person who has worked in the “change industry” for a very long time, I believe there are lots of benefits to using ordinary events and environments as real life learning labs.   In my experience a “problem” usually contains parts of an answer.  A problem often offers doorways to new behaviors and habits that will lead us to function at  higher levels.

For example, lots of people complain about not getting to the gym.  Maybe we’re focusing on the wrong problem.  What if, instead of strengthening the excuse muscle, you decide to do some “lifting” out in the garden?  Or putting on some miles with your dog?  Is the “problem” getting to the gym?  Or finding ways to move your body?

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What if you’re struggling to get household chores done?  Involving a partner and  the kids benefits all of you, doesn’t it?  First of all, communication and negotiation skills get a workout.  Teamwork and compromise.  If you can let go of micro-management (not one of MY strong things) the work gets done and everyone in the family gets to make a meaningful contribution.

What would happen if we decided to look at problems simply as information?  Perhaps discomfort is simply a way to get our attention about the need to make a change.  Neither problem-solving nor self-improvement come by accident.  Both take work.

Experiments and small steps may lead you in unexpected and wonderful directions.

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Sep 102014
Blue morpho butterfly 300x271

Blue morpho butterfly 300×271 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Did you ever wonder about a butterfly’s job?  Especially its first job?  How does it ‘become’? Here’s an excerpt from What Kids Need to Succeed: Four Foundations of Adult Achievement.

Nature offers many examples of the value of struggle.  A caterpillar hiberantes in a chrysalis.  Upon discovering this odd-looking residence, one might be tempted to “help” it become a butterfly by cutting into the structure and creating a ready exit.

Naturally, the ‘butterfly prospect’ will take the easiest way out, crawling through the new opening.  But will it ever be able to unfurl its wings and fly?  Will it ever become a butterfly?  Struggling to get free of the chrysaslis builds the strength the insect needs.  What looks like a painful process is a vital step on the road to becoming a butterfly.

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I’m sure that, if asked, the ‘butterfly prospect’ would tell us it doesn’t want to work its way out of the chrysalis. That it’s scary.  And too hard.

So Mother Nature doesn’t ask for input.  Caterpillars simply undergo this process. It doesn’t matter how anyone feels about it.  It just is.

If you look around the rest of the animal kingdom, you’ll find similar examples of built-in struggle: chicks breaking out of their eggs, helpless baby sea turtles making a tortuous crawl toward the surf, salmon struggling upstream to spawn.

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Nature doesn’t put these barriers in the way of her creatures to be cruel.  Animals that pass the test survive to pass their genes on to the next generation, improving the species.

It’s an image the helps me evaluate my desire to intervene and overprotect.  Who’s going to feel better off after?  Who gets the chance to be strong enough to become a butterfly?