grow up

originally published on 4/16/17

 

 

‘life shrinks or expands in proportion to ones courage’  – Anais Nin

 

Jimmy 08.jpg

As the perennials start poking through the soil, and colorful birds return from a warmer place, we are re-introduced to the Spring season.  What a wonderful time of year to consider growth.  If there’s one thing that makes me feel alive…it’s growing.  And I’m thinking about two specific pieces of that:  learning and doing.  Much of how we grow is based on these two principals, and each are important in their own way.  


We are all constantly learning.  However, some of us are taking in much more than others. One can learn by simply sitting and thinking.  Actually, one can learn by simply sitting and breathing.  Sometimes the thinking can get in way of learning.  On top of that, we as individuals get to choose what we learn.  What have you chosen?  


Over this past winter, I think I learned more than in any chunk of time in my life.  By using the internet and my library card, I feel that I’ve taken a 4 month intensive course on a huge variety of topics.  Because my business is landscaping, I have a lot of time off in the winter.  I use much of this time to study some things I’m interested in.  It’s allowed me to spend a lot of time doing exactly what I want to do, and follow my passions by taking an extreme focus on my interests.  Although, I feel like a bit of a renaissance man in a sense, in that I have such a wide scope of things that intrigue me.  Years ago, it seemed like this was a hindrance in life…and that since I was interested in many different ideas, I’d lose focus on the few that I should follow.  Jack of all trades, master of none.  However, as time has gone on, a couple of threads have persisted and continue to be present in my life.  And on top of that, I feel really confident in casting webs in a bunch of other areas.  I don’t want to miss out on something incredible because I didn’t try it.  If I see something I like, I’m not afraid to dive right in.  I’m always motivated to learn about my passions and seek out information through any way possible. 


Actually, I prefer the most efficient way possible. Peter Theil (co-founder of PayPal) asks us to question our efficiency by saying, ‘How can you achieve your 10 year plan in the next 6 months?’  I love this idea!  It’s not that you can easily complete everything on your list that fast…but it forces you to question what the most efficient way is to your destination.  This can easily apply to things like travel, learning a musical instrument, starting a business, buying a house at the ocean, writing a book, etc.  You may have to reassess your current routines and structures in order to achieve these things.  But that can be a good thing!  In fact, I would say that 90% of us would benefit from some sort of radical change in our lives. Are you willing to be ‘radical’ and take on that risk?  Think about a part of your life that is so routine…or monotonous.  Get out of it now!


Part of what makes it difficult is that we are trained to do what everyone else is doing.  We are taught to melt ourselves down to a common denominator in order to neatly fit the mold that society has created for us.  Once we are molded, we’re put on a track.  Boys take a left, girls go right, black this way, white that way, gay over here, straight over there, religious down that ramp, agnostic up that ramp, college bound with that crew, others this way.  Last week I wrote about how we think (Click here for the post), and touched on how I’ve fallen into a ‘normal’ that just didn’t feel good, but it seemed that everyone else was mostly doing the same.  Life is waaaaaay too short for that type of thinking.  We get such a small amount of time here.  Spend it learning about the things you love!


Now, the other important piece of this is…doing.  I was discussing this with a friend the other day, and he advised to not just get caught up in the learning portion of things.  You can’t just keep watching and learning what others do.  You have to implement it into your own life!  If you’ve been meaning to start a blog but haven’t, stop reading so many others, and just get to creating your own.  Want to start your own business, and you’ve been reading and researching and watching others succeed?  Scale your idea down and start the process this week!  Been wanting to learn Spanish for the past 5 years?  Spend 10 minutes tomorrow beginning the process and creating an outline for yourself.  Don’t let anything seem daunting or intimidating.  Remember that once you decide on something…you’ll just put one foot in front of the other, and things will naturally start falling into place.  In the words of Emerson, ‘Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.’ 


Here is a list how I’ve grown in the past couple of years…things I’ve learned about, or done. Hopefully it will help inspire you to try something new!

  • quit job
  • started landscaping business
  • kept bees – harvested honey
  • learned guitar
  • learned singing/voice
  • learned how to keep chickens
  • learned organic vegetable gardening – created garden site
  • snowboarding – finally cleared a big jump in the terrain park (I’ve been scared to try)
  • won a bunch of men’s league basketball championships
  • took up road bicycling – competed in race
  • took down walls in house – reconfigured stairway
  • started a blog
  • started a basketball training business
  • began meditating daily – practicing mindfulness
  • learned a lot about parenting – still an amateur
  • started writing a daily journal entry
  • brought Matilda to Disney World
  • created a new website
  • started a podcast
  • began writing on Medium.com (a community of thinker, writers, readers)
  • started indoor rock climbing
  • began an ‘advanced athlete weight training’ program

Now, along with doing a lot of these things…I failed a bunch a long the way.  My bank accounts have been extremely low at times. I’ve fallen and hurt myself a bunch on snowboard jumps (only to have teenagers laugh at me).  I’ve lost some basketball games, and found injuries there too.  In my first bike race, I was destroyed by most of the other riders.  I’ve been stung by my bees!  

It’s not necessarily an easy road to follow the path that you’ve chosen, and that you’ve just learned.  In fact, it’s probably more difficult.  I’ve found that in life…the right decision is the one that’s more difficult.  The easy way is the regrettable way.  This is so true for everything from relationships to work.  So why choose the hard way?  Because it means you’re living a more passionate lifestyle, which will build your health and happiness…and that of those around you. Because it’s a life that you’ll want to tell your kids about. Because it’s different, and it’s what probably about 1% of people do. Because it’s fun!

If you need a couple ‘doers’ for inspiration…check out Tim Ferriss and/or Casey Neistat. These guys get cool stuff done, and are very inspiring to listen to or watch.

What is your potential in all of the areas of life?  Are you learning about and doing the things you want to do?

I’m not living to my full potential in many areas.  However, I try to be fully aware of that…and work hard to close the gaps.  

I have a long list of things I want to try, places I want to go, and ways I want to grow.  And as I check one off, I notice a few more have been added to my list.  

Good luck with your list, and I wish you the best!  Share your experience here if you’d like.

Music: In lieu of the brothers in the band Dawes, that I recommended on the last post…another pair of brothers that know how to play are The Avett Brothers.  Check them out here!   

   

Please follow me if you liked what you read!

born and raised

‘When you love someone, the best thing you can offer is your presence’    – Thich Nhat Hanh

Music:  I would say Justin Vernon is somewhat of a musical genius.  His band, Bon Iver, is pretty special.  Click HERE to listen while you read!

 

What does it take to raise our children properly?  And when are they ‘raised’?  How can we measure what we’ve done…what they’ve done…and decide if they’ve grown up, succeeded…if we’ve succeeded as parents?

I think about this a lot.  And I’m always trying to gather answers from books (just finished ‘Duct Tape Parenting, and I loved ‘Parenting without Borders’…check my reading list HERE), and other parents, and family.  Parenting is unique and intriguing.  We’re all just trying to do what we think is best, and use what we believe to be, the most effective strategies in order to prepare our children for the future.  Do we employ methods our parents used that proved to help us, and that left us with happy memories?  Do we fall into inevitable patterns and behaviors that we swore to ourselves we’d never practice?

With the fact that I’m only 4 years into parenting, new experiences, and questions, and trial and error, have been frequently arising.  It’s forced me (or allowed me) to strengthen my opinions regarding methods, search deeper for more understanding, and laugh when I catch myself thinking I’ve figured it all out.  I have figured out a little actually, and have gathered some ideas I believe in:


Circle of Elephants

Our children do best with a strong support structure around them.  We as parents can fulfill the immediate needs of our kids.  But we can’t do it all.  This is the ‘it takes a village’ idea.  There are so many obstacles and challenges in our children’s future.  There are many hyenas trying to get at our baby elephants.  Our community is where we can find and select our other elephants that will create a circle around our calf.

Matilda with her Aunt McCall

We should look to our relatives, our friends, our schools, our neighbors, our church, our coaches and others that we trust to be part of our network.  I think this is such a healthy way to ‘use’ people.  And immediately that term brings up a host of negative connotations.  However, along with a love, companionship, trust, and reverence we have for these folks around us, we can also simply appreciate that they all offer wonderful and diverse perspectives, beneficial for raising our kids.  If this is a consideration of yours, you’ll be able to ‘use’ their help.  And especially as the children grow older, they’ll hopefully see some individuals in the circle as mentors, and will be able to access them on their own.


Math

There are 168 hours in a week.  How much time did you spend last week in the immediate presence of your child?  I mention ‘immediate presence’ because I feel strongly about our proximity, and accessibility, and availability to our children.  We can’t be home, but removed.  Nearby but inaccessible.  And we can’t just rely on our Circle of Elephants, before we’ve created a strong, healthy pack at home.

Matilda’s seedlings are fragile but resilient

My daughter, Matilda was born prematurely, and needed to stay at the hospital for a month or so.  Fortunately, the hospital she was delivered in (Catholic Medical Center), was practicing ‘couplet care’.  This is an evidence based best practice in maternity care, encouraging the mother and baby to be as close and together as much as possible during their stay.  I’m guessing the research and evidence with Dads is lacking…I don’t see much.  And from my perspective as a single Dad, I’m starting to notice more discrepancies and cultural norms and interesting gender roles like that still present in today’s world.  With that said, I still attempted to be as close to Matilda as possible, for as much time as possible…even so close as practicing ‘skin-to-skin’ contact when able, in order to strengthen our bond and concentrate on that connection.

Maybe we could consider Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule, in which he proposes that we need to practice something for 10,000 hours in order to achieve mastery.  Maybe if we are around our children for that many hours…they will be ‘raised’!  You see, I try to think of standard time with our children as addition.  Just add up the hours.  However, I believe in somewhat of a multiplier option.  The closer you are to your children…the more multiplication is happening.  Some might see this as ‘attachment parenting’.  And by the way, the definitions for that mostly speak of a closeness for mother and child…doesn’t mention as much on Dads…there’s something wrong with that!

Anyhow, during the earlier stages of the child’s life, it’s even more exponential.  I think we can make a single hour become 1.1 or 1.2 hours with this practice.  Another way to multiply is to think of the intensity of the experience

together.  This can be emotionally or physically.  Think about if you went rock climbing with your child for an hour…and compare that to playing Angry Birds with them for an hour.  This significance of the experience is multiplied on out.  Be careful though, a once-a-month movie date does not compete with 30 days of dinner at the table together.  It doesn’t add up.

If we are around our kids for an hour before school, and lets say three hours after…is that enough?  4 hours in a given day?  Let’s also say we spend more time with them on the weekend…maybe 10 hours per day.  So 20 hours on a weekend, and 20 total during the week.  That’s 40 hours out of the 168 available.  This is obviously a very general estimate…maybe way low or way high for you.  But I would guess it’s close to average.   Is it enough?  Is that enough time for us to reach our goals as parents?  Is it enough to raise our kids properly?

This, for me, brings in the question of schools or daycare.  If a child is on the bus, at school/daycare, attending an after school activity for 8 hours a day/ 40 hours a week…that’s the same amount of time that we are spending on them…investing in them ourselves.  It must be stated that we are placing a huge responsibility…an immense pressure…on those institutions we send our children to.  At the same time, we as parents are holding a tremendous amount of trust and faith in these people and places.

Matilda made this at her pre-school.

I’ve been to school.  I’ve found amazing teachers and mentors.  I’ve had some bad ones.  Some helped me overcome obstacles, and challenged me, and helped me grow.  Some seemed out to lunch, cold, unavailable.  I’ve also taught high school English, and held other positions at schools.  I wonder if I was ever ‘out to lunch’.  Oh no!  There were definitely moments when I was!  Sorry kids.  And parents.  I only say this because I’m not sure we think enough about how our kids time is spent, if our teachers are amazing…incentivized and rewarded to be such, if the administration allows that.  “It’s a good school district,” is what I hear from many parents…but I often wonder where that came from and if they truly know what’s happening for the 40 hours a week…if their situation is truly the best use of that time.  It’s such a hard question.  And what are our options?  Moving, private schooling, homeschooling, unschooling?  Maybe it’s as simple as having that conversation with the teacher that you’ve been meaning to have.  I think these are all worth exploring.

What are your best tips for parenting?  What are the books or films that have helped you the most? Do you have a circle of elephants? Please comment, share, post, and follow if you like!

All love!

 

 

sandwiches and kids

Jimmy 12

 

modeling good behavior has 10x the influence of all that talking, the kids are watching’   emailsig

 

How do we make good behaviors stick with our children?  I’ve been ‘head down’ focused on this a lot lately.  I have a 4 year old.  There are constantly new behaviors bubbling up…good and bad.  I’m doing my best to be really aware…noticing what’s working, and what’s not on the parenting front.

 

Model.  First and foremost, I’ll say that I continue to be amazed at how much my daughter notices my behavior…and how important it is for me to model the good stuff.  All the research backs this up as well.  Your child is watching what you do more than listening to what you say.

To me, it seems that modeling good behavior has 10x the influence of all that talking.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m communicating and explaining and clarifying all the time.  It’s just that the old adage, ‘actions speak louder than words’ is the truth.  We can’t tell our child to walk away from a fight if they watch us bump chests and instigate.

Honey over Vinegar. When we do talk, it’s so important to focus on our children’s strengths…not their weaknesses.  All too often, parents are hounding on the mistakes, over-talking the accidents, and holding their child back from their full potential.  For the most part, once an individual knows that a mistake was made, and the message to ‘try not to do that again’ is conveyed…all the extra, negative reinforcement is just that.  Obviously, each situation is unique, and the severity of the behavior needs to be considered.  For the everyday ‘small stuff’ though, keep the glass half full.

Focusing on the good behaviors, has such a refreshing and compounding effect.  By taking the extra time to really look your child in the eyeballs, and tell them again how kind and caring that desired behavior was,  you’ll continue to invite more of it.

Last week, my daughter exhibited some really good awareness and empathy surrounding a best friend that was having some trouble.  She actually asked a separate friend to run and get something that would help the situation…then, they all figured it out together.  I was so happy and proud about this, and almost couldn’t believe that my 4 year old constructed this.  But instead of just thinking about this, or telling my peers, I’ve deliberately paused with Matilda, grabbed her attention, looked her in the eye, and explained how and why that was such a great thing for her to do.  I’ve actually done it twice to really let her know that this is the good stuff.

Sandwiching.  While focusing on the strengths and good behaviors, we can really make it stick by ‘sandwiching’ the experience with pre-teaching and reflection.  Before our child is exposed to something, it’s good to get a bug in their ear first.  This can give that little message that, ‘oh…dad told me that this might happen.’  It doesn’t necessarily mean that our child won’t make a mistake.  In fact, we actually want them to make the mistake…it will help expedite the learning process and mitigate the effect of the ego. Yes!  I used ‘expedite’ and ‘mitigate’ in the same sentence!  So rewarding.

Our pre-teaching is also a trust-building practice, illustrating to our children that we do know a little something, and have been around the block a few times.

Now, this behavior that took place with my daughter wasn’t something that I necessarily could have planned for.  I mean, I do talk about empathy and kindness with her, but the actual details of the event were too particular to pre-teach.  I have to give myself some credit though, in that I have put effort into conversations surrounding helping others, and why that matters.

I think parents are too hard on themselves.  I think they need to realize that they are much more than the sum of their parts.

With a more typical experience approaching in the future, parents can really hone in on the related behaviors.

If a best friend is coming over for a play date, we can relay the message to our child that the friend will want to use all of the toys.  Sharing is going to come up.  Let’s do that…huh?

Then, as we all know, our child will rip something from their besties’ innocent little paws.  Crying and arguing may commence…and we should really do our best to let this play out…to see what kind of results are reached…to allow problems to be solved.  This is the socialization that we’re hoping for.  And boy, will these same issues come up more and more as they age.  Let them work it out if possible!  It’s ok if feelings get hurt…we learn a lot when we find ourselves in unwanted emotional states.  Again, this is within reason.

Remember though, we have to use the ‘reflection’ piece after the experience takes place.  This can’t be while your kid is on the tablet, or watching a show  It can’t be during the actual argument that they just had with their friend either.  This is best done after some time has passed, once the friend has gone home…or during a break in the action.

Eye contact is key.  Deliberate, honest words presented with love and care.  Not judgment and belittlement.  Think support and education and growth…not placement and insults and punishment.

There can be an ‘I told you so’ aspect to this reflection piece, because you actually did tell them so in the pre-teaching phase…ugh, the nerve!  As much as you may want to use this…don’t.  The lesson will naturally come to them through your discussion of what transpired.  This reflection can build trust as well, depending on how you handle it.  Let it be positive, bucket filling, and hold good karma.  It’s not measurable, and it may return in unforeseen manifestations…but boy, does it matter.

Remember, after all this talking to your kid about the practice of letting others use their stuff, your child will be 10x more influenced by how you yourself actually share and help others.

How are you doing with that?

All love!

Jimmy Thorpe

emailsig