Kids have an amazing capacity to reflect and absorb the world around them.
I can see this ability, most clearly, in how they pick up the phobias and idiosyncrasies my spouse. With regard to my own traits, I see my strengths reflecting in the kids. By the way, my wife sees the same thing – just reversed.
There is a great scene in the movie, Parenthood, where Steve Martin exclaims, “I just can’t figure out where he gets this obsessive behavior from!” I think about that quote a lot and smile at myself. I own obsession in our household.
As an elite athlete, I valued physical power, domination and winning. You can see these characteristics expressed in other fields (finance, business, perhaps the military). These values have strengths and weaknesses. For a young person, they help you get a tremendous amount of work done (good) but they can leave you blind to the feelings of others (less good). Lacking empathy isn’t always a bad thing, say if you’re combat infantry. However, when that value flows up the organization, it can lead to harassment and corruption.
Over the last two years, I saw the risk of maintaining my values of vanity and victory. I became aware of corruption and scandal throughout the lives of my peers. We always tell ourselves that we’re different but the evidence was so overwhelming that I had to admit that I was fooling myself. Elite performance is a high risk field for ethical strength.
Most athletes sort the world into fast/slow and fit/fat. This differs from business, expressed as rich/poor and beautiful/ugly.
I get resistance when I point these splits out of people (they are obvious in my own thinking). If you can’t see them then listen to other people talk about individuals with mixed characteristics. For example, fast/fat and slow/fit create confusion in athletic populations.
Back to the start of this piece – my children learn little from what I say but they learn most everything from what I do. Bringing them up in a household that prizes winning, and looking good, above all else might not be the best way to play it. They’re going to get plenty of that in the local Boulder community.
Widening the net, consider an individual that achieved the difficult task of creating a lot of wealth. If your #1 value (expressed in peer admiration) is wealth then you are setting up a conflict with your kids, who crave your admiration. If they reject you then they might be protecting their self-image from realizing that they can never be successful on the terms you prize. Look outside your family for examples, they are easy to see.
Millionaire, Champion, CEO… these are difficult to achieve – you deserve respect for the work required to achieve.
- Achievement become identity
- Identity becomes values
- Values become skewed
- Remember that the value lies in the work, not the achievement
- Goodness requires neither beauty nor money
- Listen to how your friends speak about others
- Consider if you may need to adjust your friends
As always, I’m talking to myself, not you.