I’ve always said that my sons are my heroes, my friends and often times they are my teachers. In a recent conversation with my oldest, he shared a profound insight and perspective that I also see carried out in his life, and in the lives of his two brothers. Once again, I am impressed, inspired and informed by his message about something big in life: getting stuff done. Real stuff. Important stuff. Life stuff.
When he shared it as we stood out in the cold, I thought, “Man, this is a TED talk that everyone should hear.” And it is. But at that moment, he had an audience of one and I don’t know if he has been nominated yet for a TED experience.
Almost 15 years ago I wrote about a similar topic in my book, Listen to Life: Wisdom in Life’s Stories in the story Dreaming Isn’t Working. My message was that one can’t dream about peace (or anything else, for that matter); one has to work at goals, dreams and visions. The fact of the matter is that I lost much of my energy, commitment and fortitude for that and had noted recently in my journal that one of the most dangerous thoughts is “I want to…” as in when someone may say “I want to (get a new job) (have a loving relationship) (make a million dollars).” Wanting it can bring us false comfort as if we are working towards the goal. I wrote that two days before my son shared his message.
He talked about the story of the Little Red Hen who wanted bread and proceeded to do all the work to have it. You know the story; everyone else wanted some but they weren’t willing to do the work. He referred to his second language – German – and took a bit of turn about things coming into existence because they are willed into existence … through work, effort, knowledge and exertion things are willed into reality. Whether it is bread, life changes or anything else to be made, there must be the effort to will it into reality through effort and commitment. (His version is great. You ought to hire him for a motivational presentation.)
As I took in his message, I realized how much I needed that reminder and encouragement, though he wasn’t telling me to encourage me; he was simply sharing a speech he had recently given. As with most of my sons’ educational moments teaching their dad, they usually are not setting out to teach their old man; they, too, are simply sharing. I listen and I learn. And I watch.
My other two sons provide evidence of their older brother’s message; I am pretty sure they have not heard his speech though. All three just know in their hearts and souls that change only comes with effort in order to bring it into existence with the will to take action. I only need to watch the actions of all three to see the important reminder that change comes from effort, not from “wanting” or “dreaming about.” I see what they have done in their jobs, career paths, projects, relationships and family lives. They don’t blame others for life’s challenges; they accept responsibility; they put in time and effort to make things different or better than they are; and, they appreciate that outcomes are a result of effort. If they see how they want things to be different than they are, they commit themselves to the goals, the purpose and the results. Their senses of purpose and values underpin all their decisions.
I learn a lot from them, and thought you might appreciate these lessons, too, if you’re trying to get stuff done. Real stuff. Important stuff. Life stuff.