Our children teach us things everyday, whether it’s in a quick comment, a poignant conversation, or watching their behavior over time. If we’re open to these lessons, we can be inspired to change our perception, sometimes even shedding a long-held belief.
I recently wrote about my daughter and her career. https://glass-full.me/2016/12/14/5-lessons-i-learned-about-finding-your-dream-career/
I now focus on the lessons I have learned from my son, Tom.
Less than 3 years separated our children. She was the eldest and he the younger brother. There are reasons why firstborns are expected to succeed at whatever the family values the most, while the free-spirited youngest is given the latitude to take risks. The first child gets the parent’s undivided attention; the last child gets more leniency and less caution. Temperaments can override the stereotypical birth order, but our family seems to have followed the classic model.
At a very early age, Tom marched to the creative beat of his own drum. When his pre-school daycare provider, a puritanical task master, expressed dismay about Tom’s hearing problem, we discovered he was just ignoring her constant reprimands. He didn’t blindly follow authority figures. In elementary school, when many of the other boys were playing football, Tom and his buddy were engaged in Star Wars games. He didn’t always follow the crowd.
Before his Back to the Future and Star Wars days
In high school, we noticed his interest in taking multiple perspectives on an issue. He could see the shades of gray in a black and white world. As he got older, Tom made his own decisions, sometimes disagreeing with popular opinions. He didn’t want to be pigeonholed into living in a world that tries to coerce us into all being the same.
He loved the camaraderie with his football teammates in school, and even though as a boy he vowed to live above our garage for the rest of his life, he left his college team and moved to Germany his junior year abroad. He accepted a Fulbright Scholarship after college, taught English in Austria, joined the Austrian national football league, and lived in Europe for 5 years.
D3 quarterback in college
Tom has always been motivated to meet new and different people, and he developed an eclectic community of friends in Austria. He became fluent in German and traveled around Europe with friends like Danny, who speaks 5 languages. Tom is much more about working to live rather than living to work.
Danny and Tom in Eastern Europe
When he decided to move back to the United States, we thought he might move home to Washington DC, but he drove across the country to live in California’s Bay Area, where his sister and brother-in-law live. He wanted to forge a closer bond because he values family.
With his new nephew (his favorite)
The day he and his good friend, Mike, left to start their new lives in San Francisco, Tom did not have a job or a place to live. Within weeks of arriving, they found a home and Tom was offered a job with an Eastern European wine distributor, right there among the California wineries. It would be more difficult to sell his products, he acknowledged, but by not having to compete with all of the California distributors, his access to large accounts would be easier. He contradicts conventional wisdom.
Talking with a wine customer in Croatia
Like so many of us, Tom didn’t know his passion when he was young. Perhaps it was difficult for him to follow a sibling who at a young age knew what she wanted. But as Tom stayed clear of the traditional career paths he was exposed to growing up, his outgoing, affable personality has afforded him opportunities to do things he loves, like meeting a delightful traveler on a transatlantic flight or having a meaningful conversation, often over a glass of wine.
It hasn’t always been an easy journey and, at times, he’s worked second and third jobs to make ends meet, but the lessons he’s taught me are the ones that continue to hold him in good stead:
- Listen to your heart and not to what others say is important. It takes courage to follow your own path, maybe even losing touch with those who choose a different way. The easy route is to be agreeable and fall in line. But if you want live as though you have only one precious life, then listen to what really speaks to you.
- Believe things will work out. When you make a public declaration without the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, you expose yourself to skeptics. Things may not turn out the way you anticipate, but if you believe in yourself and your intentions, and work toward your desire, the results will always be better than you imagined.
- Commit to a life you love. If you’re not one of those people who have always known which path to follow, it takes time and effort to hone in on what makes you the most happy. Give yourself the time to reflect and discover what lights you up and makes you excited to get out of bed every day.
- When something’s not working, find another way. Do whatever it takes to create the life you want. Don’t let the opinions of others keep you from your goals. We can only grow when we face and overcome our challenges. That’s where success lies.
- Trust an infinite wisdom to guide you. Fear keeps us mired in our challenges. Life can then seem less than satisfying. If you possess a feeling of awe and wonder at the mystery of the universe, and keep moving forward with faith and clarity of intention, you’ll discover that what you are looking for has already been in the making.