As a father we have an idealized expectation to be a good caretaker of our family. We may fancy ourselves a teacher and a leader to our children. How many times have you heard that with age comes wisdom? And have you ever questioned it?
As I have grown older I can assure you I did not reflect upon each birthday and say to myself, “I feel wiser now!” In fact, I wondered why I continued to make the same mistakes again and again, if I reflected at all. Wisdom comes from making mistakes and learning from them. Some people grow old and die before they ever realize it. They are same as a man who lived his whole life without ever making a mistake.
If you want to be a leader that means you have to make the first mistake. You have to walk ahead and trip on the cracks in the sidewalk. You have to learn how to avoid those cracks and then you can teach others to do the same. But you cannot make anyone learn, you have to let them learn. We like to think that we are the smartest animal on the planet, but humans default to trial and error which most intelligent creatures on this earth are capable of doing.
Our advantage is that we do not always have to make those mistakes ourselves in order to learn from them. We can also learn from other people’s mistakes. In college, I would rarely ask a professor for help because I thought I was smarter if I could figure everything out on my own. I missed the opportunity to learn from the experience of others. Experience defined as the mistakes made by others and how they learned overcome those mistakes.
My father rarely talked to me about the mistakes he made as a young man. I certainly felt I could point out all the mistakes he made as a father while I was growing up. But if I am honest with myself, like with my professors in college, I never asked him for help. I believed I could figure it out on my own.
As you walk down the sidewalk of life with your children, point out the cracks in the sidewalk and humbly admit when you tripped on one. Simply dictating that a crack must be avoided is the equivalent of posting a street sign saying, “Sidewalk Cracked Ahead.” The sign doesn’t teach anything, it only expects a reaction of avoidance.
I can only teach my daughter from my own experience and the experience others have shared with me. ‘Because I said so!’ never worked on me and if my daughter is as recalcitrant as her father, she’ll ask why a lot. Hiding behind my pride would be a great disservice.
What’s your experience?