Lessons In The Learning....
PRELUDE: A Happy New Year to all who may stumble across this and take the time to read it. We sit here just hours after the end of 2019, the end of another decade, and the start of this new year of 2020. Amazing that another 10 years have gone by. Thinking of the end of another decade in my life I pondered where I was 10 years ago and honestly things were pretty unsettled. I was 50 years old, about to turn 51, my mom had just passed away from cancer in later October of 2009 and I was still dealing with that. Just a few weeks after that I was laid off from my job after nearly eight years working there (and just 5 days before Christmas - yea, Merry Christmas!! : ). I had just resigned from a HS coaching position I was in as I had decided that I needed to move on (I was not a good fit) and after all of that I had decided that I wanted to get back into college coaching. I was also pastoring a church at the time and with the move (I was hoping for) I had provided notice to the church that I would be wrapping things up. So at 50 and at the end of the decade I was in the middle of a lot of transitions, faced a lot of uncertainty, was married and raising 2 kids, and trying to keep everything together.
Ten years later I am back into coaching again, have moved 4 times, and now sit here at 60 (almost 61) looking at the next 10 years and wondering where they will lead me. But 2019 was a great year for me, and overall it was a great decade. I am so grateful to be back into coaching high school football. I am in a great situation with a great program, great school, and great kids/families to work with. Love being outside under the sun, walking the grass, and working with high school youth. In addition to coaching offensive line at the high school I am also able to pursue some of my other interests and feel great about our plan moving forward into 2020 and beyond. So very excited to celebrate this New Year, am full of energy and anticipation, and ready for whatever the future may hold.
I do hope all is well with you and family and work and all the rest, wherever you might be in that cycle. I will say that I have uncovered many lessons in the last 10+ years (some discussed below) but am now more committed than ever to a few core things. I share them as part of our New Year's commitment for whatever they are worth: (1) Fitness and mobility, (2) Meditation and stillness, (3) Yoga, (4) Reductions in everything I own (less is so much more!), and (5) Sharing, mentoring, and giving back as much as I can. I am sure that all of you have some core lessons you have picked up and are committed to as well. I am just amazed at how these core lessons that we learn, if we are paying attention, can stay with us throughout our lives and be useful guides along the way. They can get reinvented when applied to new situations in our lives, but still hold mostly true. Wishing you all the best as we launch a new decade and hope for nothing less than that all your dreams come true!!
LEARNING LESSONS: As I was navigating life in my 40's and 50's I created the illusion for myself that with my education, training, and various life experiences, I was gaining in my own level of awareness, which I then thought was evolving into some level of what I wanted to think of as wisdom or knowledge or something useful. I saw myself moving into a position in life where I could possibly be of help to others, share some stories and wisdom, mentor a bit, or whatever might be needed. While there was some truth in this, life quickly shook me free of any grandiose notions of self worth in this regard with the consistent presentation of on going and repeated life lessons for me to learn.
The reality check came in reminding me that no matter what I have learned, no matter what degrees I may have attained, no matter what my life experiences may have been, there is still so much to this world that I do not know, so much more to experience, and so much more for me to learn. With these unexpected but predictable lessons popping up regularly I have moved towards trying to see and experience life from the perspective of a beginner, no matter what level of experience I may actually have with any particular topic or issue. If I can watch and listen like I do not know and as if every nuance is important, even though I may have seen the situation many times before, it is amazing how often something new actually comes to me and I am able to learn something of value.
With so much to learn then, and approaching things from a beginner's view, I have tried to see everyone I meet, and any experience I may have, as a potential learning experience. This was recently brought home to me (again!) through my children. Now learning from my kids was not immediately easy for me, in fact I kind of resisted it. I am not sure why this is but I think it's because our kids come into our lives and we care for them, literally keep them alive, and then help them evolve from infant, to child, to youth, to young adult, and then suddenly adulthood, so in our minds we think we must always be the teacher. So I got stuck in that role a bit, not giving them credit for evolving and having knowledge and experiences of their own. I think this happened to me because in those early stages we tend to be the teacher, the instructor, and as we help them making sense of their young lives we just kind of feel like that is how it will always be, at least until they are old enough to go out on their own.
But even in those early years I think I still knew deep down that being a father was actually just another ongoing learning experience for me. Learning how to be a parent (we did not know what we were doing!), what to do, how to do it, and what not to do. How to love them yet set boundaries and invoke consequences for poor choices, all of that. So yes my kids were teaching me but not so much as a teacher (in my mind), but more like a passenger in the car of my own life who forced me into situations were I had to drive but yet watch the backseat, keep the car between the lines, to learn and adapt.
Eventually though they get old enough that they move on to living their own lives, mostly independent of you. Every so often you get a call for a question or a story, or maybe have a cup of coffee, beer, whatever and discuss some important issues where you once again get to listen, offer support, and if asked, provide some ideas or advice. But our kids evolve into their own sense of self and take on their own personalities and their own way of dealing with the world. And you know what? It is usually pretty good! It is different than what we did and how we did it. But they come up with their own ways to deal with situations and people and life. And for them it usually works just fine. I had to learn that different is OK because they have found a way to do it their way and it works for them (just like I did back in my day). This forces us (at least it did me) to see my kids and myself in new roles. Now it is one of colleague or partner, of co-pilot, or something more like that. Both of us in the front seat (of a car we occasionally drive together) and taking turns driving the car. The relationship changes from one of providing services to one of mutuality and respect, co-teachers and co-learners in this trip we call life.
This learning from my kids was tough at first because when I first saw it I felt a bit defensive, that I am the father and I know best. But I didn't want to get stuck there, to judge myself or my kids and get left behind. I had to take the teacher hat off and replace it with the student hat. And that has been very good. To watch and learn from our kids is actually pretty cool. To realize and accept you have room to grow and that they can be your teacher is an amazing gift. But it is a shift in perspective and mindset. It reminded me to examine how I might, even if unintended, close myself to opportunities for learning just because of who the teacher (in my mind) might be. Those kind of assumptions and judgments are very limiting, and I am working to avoid all that so I can stand in the role of student and try to see what life, from whatever perspective, or person, or situation, might be able to teach me.
As my kids grew up one of the big transitions for me in my relationship with George was the passing of the "Alpha Male" torch. During my days I was involved in athletics and after high school played college football. By the end of my career I weighed in at around 285 pounds and could throw around my share of the heavy weights. After college I always worked hard at trying to stay fit and felt pretty good about all that. But even with the best plan of action and dedication to my workouts, the stages of life and physical changes in the body that take place from your 30's, then into the 40's and 50's and now into my 60's, is something you cannot completely stop. I am lighter now than I have every been in my life, and while I feel fit I do not do a lot of heavy lifting and thus overall strength is not what it once was, and while I still have my days and might be as good once as I ever was, I am clearly not as good as I once was, at least in the brute force category.
So yes, there was a day and time that George and I both knew that the torch of strength, size, and power would be transferred from me to him. It is just what life does to us if we live long enough to go through it. Along the way there was the transition of George from a kid, to young man, to full grown adult, and I mean FULL GROWN! At some point in our tustelling and wrestling, there was a clear point in time where I knew my days of besting him, even in fun, were well over.
This was oh so clear to me one day when all of a sudden George walked through the door and was 6'4" and 250 pounds and thick as my couch. I had realized the life evolution I was in and could see his growth coming many years before he saw it. So I knew it was happening but the reality of it staring you in the face in an actual life moment is still something else. But it comes, just like it did for me and my dad and the many sons and fathers before us. In the process you are faced with the lessons of aging, humility, acceptance, and all the rest. And that is really the story of life isn't it. One of constantly acquiring things, and then one by one, life slowly but surely taking them from us as we age. Not good or bad so much, just our reality.
A couple other related lessons quickly before you lose interest entirely. First, the unintended lessons we teach. In speaking with my kids and them sharing with me some of their more difficult life issues, I had asked them why they never mentioned some of these things to me before. They told me that they learned it from me. That they knew there were periods in my life were I was dealing with difficult issues and struggling and never said a word to anyone. So what did they learn from me, their then clearly not very qualified life coach? Not to talk about their most difficult life issues to anyone. This was certainly NOT the lesson I had wanted to teach my kids. Be tough? Yes. Carry on in the face of adversity? Sure. Not fold in the face of stress and life pressures? Indeed. But not to share? Not to ask for help? To bury your feelings? Hold things inside? No, that was never part of the plan. So whatever I had learned and had hoped to share with them, there were other lessons I was actually teaching them as they were growing up that I did not even realize were being taught, and wish now that I had done differently.
Lastly, the cool surprises of what they did learn. Emma (now 29) came over one day recently and we had been discussing some various business models and ideas for her. We had done several "whiteboard" planning sessions (common in our family) and I knew things were percolating in her mind. But one day she just came down and had an entire business plan put together and laid it all out (yes with the use of another whiteboard!). It was so cool and so neat and in all of it I could see things we had done together as she was growing up and I could see my hands, my thought process, my checklists and strategies within what she had done. And it made me feel so good that she could analyze a problem like that, design a strategy and put together something like this. Sometimes they are paying more attention to us (in a good way) than we even know. It's nice to know some of what we did may be beneficial to them after all.
So here is a nod to all the lessons we have coming our way, and all those lessons that we are sending out into the world. Wishing each of you the patience and persistence to find (and teach) the lessons in the midst of what all life is offering us. And a reminder that kids, people, and others are watching us and each day of our lives we have the opportunity to share a lesson and make someone else's life easier. Happy New Year to all of you. Wishing each of you blessings for this new year and new decade. All the best and much love.