How to Get Your Kids (or Anyone) to Talk to You About the Hard Stuff

  1. Don’t blow up at them about everything. On second thought, don’t blow up at them about anything.
  2. Practice #1 on the little things and they’ll come to you with the big things.

It’s not hard to see that the underlying principle is to check your own response to bad news, calm it down, and apply it consistently and liberally.

Your kids don’t know “why” they do things. You seriously expect them to answer that question? No. You’re asking it rhetorically. And you know this already, the berating “why?” makes them feel stupid, irresponsible, and untrusted. There’s pretty much nothing I love more than bearing my soul to someone who thinks I’m stupid, irresponsible, and untrusted.

Break the cycle. Let them tell you the small bad thing. Stop asking the why question. Instead, depending on where they are in life, be the parent, coach, mentor, and friend who lets them know it’s safe to make mistakes in your presence. Guide them through the experience, and help them learn so they won’t screw up out in the great big world where there are few second chances.

 

This Thing is Way Bigger Than Me

I get it. It feels good to feel important. And when there is an organization dependent on my for success, I have an opportunity to do a lot of good by the decisions I make. And that’s precisely the problem.

I’m significantly limited in the amount of real, actual work I can get done. I have 24 hours like everyone else. I’m inherently inefficient with the constant context switching intrinsic to “multitasking.” As soon as I think I’m something, that’s when I’m sunk.

The people around me need to have the authority to make decisions on behalf of the organization they represent. The talented people as well as those who may be lacking. I can always clean up a mess, and well-intentioned┬ápeople will always learn from their mistakes. So while I’m getting on with today’s work, I’m always on the lookout for the next young person to take my place and replace the limited energy I can bring to bear with hopefully a bit more. If I can leave five of me behind to take my place, and do this before the decision is forced, then I’ve succeeded in one sense.

Most of My Life Remains Unfinished

I get a lot done. Sometimes I’ll get comments that the work I’m doing is inspiring or that the amount I get done is pretty amazing. That’s fine and all, but the good work that I want to do, yet remains half finished, humbles me and grounds me in reality.

It’s that work I hope to not regret someday because it accounts for 90% of my life. In the meantime I truly struggle with the limits of my humanity, praying that the most valuable work has reached the top of my list of stuff to get done.