Where I grew up we didn’t…

You’ve no doubt heard conversations in which people define themselves, defend their positions and deride others with the statement “Where I grew up we didn’t…” What follows is usually some anecdote that serves to make a point which carries the weight of precedent and by extension, history.

While it is certainly true that you are defined in large measure by your childhood experiences, you needn’t let the days of your youth define the years of your adulthood. Every child has the opportunity to rise above the strictures of personal and familial precedent. The idea that you don’t, that is, that you have a station in life and that you are better off respecting the envelope of possibility you were born into is outdated, outmoded and utterly false.

Your life expression rightly emerges from the inside out and is radiant in nature. Just as you had your start in the confines of your mother’s womb, when you continue to cooperate with life rather than struggling against it you will go through successive periods of rebirth into a larger sphere of living and influence. Life’s inclination is to move upward and outward, not downward and inward.

Adolescence is one of those critical periods of rebirth. Teenagers, full of the spirit of life, are typically hellbent on defining themselves. The longing to know who they are and what they are here to do burns in their hearts and minds, but they typically lack the tools and discipline necessary to navigate the pressures of labor and birth present in this important phase of life. As such they need a doula or a team of advisors (typically other than their parents) to help keep them on the path to self-revelation.

Parents who do not allow the lives of their children to expand do a tremendous disservice to the child. They create an artificially self-limiting environment that is deficient in critical nutrients as no parent or parents are so complete in and of themselves that they can provide everything their children need. Most parents who do this to their children feel well-justified, typically on the argument that they don’t want to miss the child’s youth, which, dear readers, is fundamentally selfish reasoning that is ignorant of the process by which individuality is nourished into being.

In an imperfect world it is highly unlikely that any child will have a perfect childhood. There will be deficiencies, mistakes made and imbalances that become more obvious as the child grows older. You are wise, then, to recognize that your childhood experiences should not limit or define those of your children. This is not to say that your children will be “better” than you, neither does it mean that their purpose is to beat your records. True individual expression is not relative, it is absolute.

Parents would be wise to provide the safe and controlled growing room by means of which their children can see beyond the blinders imposed by immediate family, relatives, societal norms and cultural mores. Individuality loses its unique and original character whenever life expression is stuffed into a preformed box.

As you can imagine, there are implications for parenting, education, business organizational theory and more to this notion of personal development. We, in all of our human brilliance, have elected the familiarity and comfort that dribbles from the status quo over the newness and richness that flow abundantly from a more dynamic, organic approach to living. Life is never static. Neither should we be.

Creative Cycles, Creative Outcomes!

Between the shoulders of summer and fall lies my favorite ‘tween’ season. The bugs are less common in the cooler evening air while the biological clocks of the furry animals signal a coat change in preparation for the winter to come. The days, in the Great South anyway, continue to impart their only slightly diminished chaleur upon those who brave the full midday sun while the gentle evening breeze begs longer sleeves and if you’re lucky, a light sweater.

Transitions are an important part of the days of our lives, and a well-handled transition – be it for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health – plants the seeds for a successful future harvest.

I would venture to say that the majority of new beginnings are spoiled before most people even recognize that change is in the air. Human beings have, broadly speaking, insulted themselves from the seasonal shifts that condition to varying degrees virtually every other process in the natural kingdom. Call it progress, human ingenuity or whatever you’d like, we are slowly isolating ourselves from the world we inhabit in ways that are ofttimes useful, but occasionally dangerous.

One of the unintended side-effects of the technological advances of our recent era is the loss of sensitivity to cycles and seasons that govern every creative process. If you think about your own life, there was first conception, followed by birth, childhood, adolescence and your adult years (if you’ve made it that far yet). Every new business follows a similar pattern, as does the creation of a family, the execution of a project or the provision of a meal.

Participation in creative cycles is often subconscious and rare is the individual who has a conscious awareness of the phase in the process he or she is in at any given point in time. Some cycles are short, lasting only seconds, such as the reaction taken in response to a flat tire in your car while speeding down the highway, while others might have longer periods, such as the earth’s orbit around the sun. All cycles have a beginning, a middle and an end.

There is the old question: “If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” From the standpoint of the creative cycles, they work out whether or not there is human perception of the process. Perhaps this is why the purpose of life has been so mysterious to people through the ages?

The first step in learning to work more effectively with the forces that govern the various phases of these cycles is awareness. What are the phases? I outlined the basics above: conception, birth, childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Where are you in your life? What about your career? And relative to the actualization of your biggest dreams?

As with human growth and development, a different approach is required in each phase of development. You don’t deal with a start-up business the same way you would a well-established business for the same reason that you don’t treat a three year old boy like a forty year old man. Once you recognize where you are in the process, you can begin to ask yourself “am I handling this phase wisely?” You may be smarter than a fifth grader, but are you applying that knowledge correctly?

Think about your world in this light and you will begin to identify the areas in which you’ve been operating inefficiently. We’ll cover this topic in greater detail in the days to come…

Personal Association – Your Inner Child

“We are always too busy for our children; we never give them the time or interest they deserve. We lavish gifts upon them; but the most precious gift, our personal association, which means so much to them, we give grudgingly.” ~Mark Twain

Having just departed on a business trip I find myself thinking constantly of my wife and children and the familiar world that now sits miles away from me. I can’t help but think that parenting is one of the most sacred responsibilities on earth and that we should spend far more time educating our future parents on how to be mindful parents capable of giving Twain’s gift of “personal association.”

Why wait until we are grandparents to realize that spending constructive, creative time with our children is perhaps one of the greatest uses of time imaginable? Life places so many demands on our time, yet rather than bemoan life as a “cruel mistress,” why not take the reins and be the authors of our fate?

When I was in high school I taught soccer camps around the state of Michigan. As a young man who had grown up in a life of privilege, I was particularly intrigued by the week-long camps that we taught in areas of the state that were less fortunate than the community in which I spent my adolescence.

I remember noting at the time that the children in the wealthy areas were typically dropped off by nannies or caretakers other than the parents while the children in less factory towns such as Flint, Michigan, were not only dropped off by their parents, their parents (typically the father) took the week off to watch and participate in the camp!

Not being one who makes value judgments based on such observations, I do distinctly remember how much it meant to the children to have their parents see them perform on the soccer field with their new-found friends.

One of my favorite activities is playing with my boys after a busy day. I love to get lost in their imagination, to release my own ideas of how things should be, to let go of the concepts I’ve built in my life experience and to see what is possible when there are – once again – no limits on what is possible.

Life experience tends to show you what is and what is not possible. Experience defines the limits of capability, the edges of the envelope. Those limits then tend to condition our future function. One of the greatest attributes of childhood is that in a child’s mind, anything is possible. Imagination is neither tempered by prejudice nor clouded by fear.

If you become a parent, be a good one. Be a first-rate parent and don’t treat children as second-class citizens. More often than not children will surprise you with their insight, their creative flair and their ability to transcend the strictures of adult consciousness.

Take the time to associate with them and when you do, don’t just sit idly by, wishing you were somewhere else. Engage with them. Teach them. Learn from them. Enjoy them. Let go of your worries and let go to the vibrant, innocent, joyful experience of life.

When you gain a new perspective on life you are typically still looking at the same life. Time well-spent with children is a powerful form of perspective management. It is as refreshing as it is invigorating. Take the time today, tomorrow, to see the world through a fresh, unscratched and un-smudged lens!