So… this one is a long time coming. I actually have an even OLDER post, something in the order of over two years old that I’ve left in queue… mostly because it contains some strong thoughts for which I believe strongly… some which may be considered controversial, others may label it extreme or wrong… not even worth entertaining (which is a shame)… or maybe, just maybe — thoughts that just need to be shared.
Well… I’m not there yet. But, we can start here as a primer.
TLDR…errr. “W” – Watch??? 1:01 and 9:55 are PURE PARENTING GOLD.
FUN vs. FAIL
Why this topic? Well… it’s not a secret that I have a certain disgruntled ness towards “formal” and/or “standard” schooling. This is mostly the case because of how the system betrays itself and its students from stage to stage — the goal isn’t learning, the goal is testing… and, as Master Yoda would say….
“That is why you fail.”
The purpose of education SHOULD BE learning… not memorizing and regurgitating… not testing and scoring well… not be swayed one way or another from an educator’s individual world view… learning.
Unfortunately, when you look at the behaviors of what we have today… it’s really more of education = testing well, scoring well, making it to the next level… and, then what??? It has more to do with existential crises of grades vs. self worth. It has more to do with extreme short sighted behaviors despite the promise of investment in long term goals.
ANNND… the thing is, none of how GPAs, test scores, or anything of that nature is FUN. It teaches you to survive or fail — but, not to THRIVE as one should in life. Besides, life is a Pass/No-Pass event. You either go, or you stop. You either finish, or you give up. You aren’t graded on your life.
Yet… that’s what we do to our kids.
Get ready to get gritty… it’s gonna get real.
Of course, at higher levels, learning how to learn, learning to discern — that’d be great, too. What is learning? To me, it’s simple: Gathering an accurate understanding of the world.
If you consider say what a puppy does to “learn” or what a baby or toddler does to “learn” — beyond formal didactic studies or any of that nature, they are trying to gather some sense of certainty in a world that began for them as completely uncertain. Therefore, understanding of the world isn’t readily measured by testing per se. That is why I feel that “failure” opposite the “A+” marks goes completely against how we are biologically wired to understand the world around us.
And, let’s think on this one step further: How well did you feel you understood the world after 6th grade, after 12th grade? How prepared were you to use that understanding to live a productive and meaningful life?? Even after college — how well did that bachelor’s degree prepare you for the job market???
When it comes to the present day customary understanding of the schooling systems… not well… not well at all.
NOW… this isn’t a dig at our educators. I’ll explain more about this in that long awaited post I’ll probably publish next. This is a dig at the systems in place; how these pieces in play force students and educators to betray the mission of learning — and, everyone knows it. No one wants to be measured up against a test score. We’re more than that.
So, ultimately… what I’m trying to share in this post is that we need to change our expectations of learning… make it about FUN, not about failure. We need to use failure as a mechanism to improve learning, not as a potential result… a label one must wear because they tried… for such a thing causes people to lose will to try and try again.
That, would be the greatest tragedy to the spirit of learning.
Probably a week or two back, it hit me that my kiddo is four… almost five. School, social life, development, personality… even this weird “teenage” lackadaisical attitude he’s adopted when he doesn’t want to do a chore or what have you… it was weird that he turned from four to pre-teen overnight. And then, it really hit me…. this, is his childhood… right now, and, there’s not a moment to waste!
When you think about growing up, what comes to mind? Did you have a good childhood? Were your parents loving? Supportive? How about siblings? Friends? Activities? How were the memories? Good? Bad? Awful? Wonderful?
There’s a good chance its a big mixture of it. And, there’s also a good chance that, looking back… there’s a lot that everyone wishes their childhood could’ve improved upon. That, is the interesting thing… we can’t control our childhood. It is. We’re subject to the wills and designs of other people’s choices far more than we are our own… that is, until we “grow up.”
The thing is, these formative years are precious…. and, highly undervalued, no matter how many times you hear people say, “Cherish these moments.” and, that… “They grow up sooooo fast!”
Still… do we truly do follow said advise?
Again… it hit me.
I started this Daddy In The Raw… work at home dad lifestyle… which meant exchanging stable, well paying, good opportunities within the corporate sectors type job and lifestyle for….. the highly variant, high risk – high rewards based, entrepreneur life — SO THAT, I can spend as much wonder loving time with my family. THESE are the years. THESE are the moments. THESE are the times to relish and spoil yourself with. When these moments are gone, they are gone. It never comes back.
You DON’T know how tomorrow will unfold. You have today. What a waste, if you blindly sacrifice today… and, tomorrow doesn’t come… or, worse: isn’t what you suffered it to be.
So… it kept hitting me. This, is his childhood. This is one of the greatest gifts I can give him… that he’s loved, nurtured, prepared, trained, forged, and strengthened to meet the world… and, to become a person that contributes to those around him.
And… I kept on thinking and it kept hitting me… and, I realized in those moments…. I think, we’re okay…. I actually think we’re okay… I looked back on my meager Instagram posting and privately saved Snapchat stories….. and, the snippets below represent an over arching emotional theme of Nathan’s childhood experience.
Beyond this, he spends an amazing amount of time with his mom… and, not to even say that my wife is a wonder-mom and hero-wife….. it’s just that they are so cute together and I can’t get enough of them. I just can’t…. I can’t handle the love and the purpose of why I’m on this journey.
So… after it was done hitting me, the moment passed and the realization came to pass…
Well… due to life in general, looks like my poor dad blog has turned into a quarterly’ish thing. Nevertheless, I must confess I think about writing here a lot. So, I decided to turn thinking into action. FIRST, a sidetrack — Check out this One Wave Surf Video I made with my GoPro!
But, now… on to the actual topic. I was thinking earlier about what I wanted Nathan to know… what I wish *I* knew before I turned twenty years old. It’s so funny, before… I’d even say, early 30s, people tend to be so in their own brains they lose perspective of life, entirely… everything is inflammed, high tension, out of control… everything matters waaaaay too much. So, I sat down to think of what I wanted my kid to know via what I wish I knew before I turned 20… written as a letter to my son.
10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Turned 20
1. Dance more.
Dancing was something that wasn’t much part of my childhood until a transformative arcade (yes, I hail from those days) game came out — Dance Dance Revolution (DDR). This was the machine I fell in love with:
I got really good at it… was able to do break dance tricks, jump on and over the rails, ninja run up the screen… I even got invited to a DDR tournament, LOL! Sadly, I wigged out at the end… but, what I learned from all this and my own dance revolution is that I love to dance. It’s one of the most joyous and ridiculous ways of self expression. It’s a great way to let loose, it’s wonderful exercise, and it’s a perfect way of gaining self confidence.
The best thing about this: Nathan, you love to dance! You’ve always loved to dance and we still dance like sillies when we put on any type of music — period.
Life lesson #1: Dance more. You’ll be happier for it!
2. Be confident; everyone is just as insecure.
It’s funny how insecure people are, period — especially before the age of 20, people mask insecurities through overcompensating, hiding, acting certain ways, trying to fit in with certain groups, creating their own groups… the list goes on and on. The thing of it is, everyone is trying to figure themselves out — and, this doesn’t end. There’s thing thing called Imposter Syndrome where even the most achieving individuals tend to see themselves as a fraud — I definitely suffer from this… from time to time… the good thing is, your mother is there to smack sense back into me 😉
In any case, be confident. You do you, and anyone who thinks otherwise is merely projecting their own insecurities. Confidence will catapult you above and beyond the ordinary into the extraordinary.
3. Pursue what you love.
For too many generations, people have followed what they thought “should be done,” or “is the way things are,” or “is the thing to do” — and, so, they turn this into their life guiding mantra — pure foolishness.
Doing things for the sake of doing them, with no clear personal reason but for historical repetitiveness dooms you to the same fates of those before you.
If you wish to have more in life, pursue what you love. Pursue what impassions you, drives you to be more of a person — day in, day out. This can be on a professional level, personal level, emotional level, intellectual level, physical level, and spiritual level. Regardless of the dimension, just pursue the things you love. I promise you, this will lead to much success in life.
4. Grow in self awareness… and, acceptance.
It’s easy for people under 20 to chase all sorts of things in some self hidden effort to find ways to be more accepting of themselves. First, most people under 20 just aren’t self aware — I certainly wasn’t, though probably the extreme of this case. For me, young kid… I was really into girls and pursued any semblance of a relationship, regardless of health or outcome. That was dumb.
I felt, at the time, that relationships were the answer to my life — if someone would accept me, then I could accept myself. Again… foolishness.
Rather, what I should’ve been doing was working on my self awareness… understanding myself, what motivates me, what detracts me… and, most importantly, growing in self worth through self acceptance.
5. Work on doing you, not on what others expect you to do.
So often, we try to please others in a related way to being accepting of ourselves. Though, this piece of wisdom is less about introspection and more about external motivation.
If you center your life on the expectations of others, you’ll find that your life becomes meaningful to others… and, meaningless to yourself. Nothing could be more tragic.
Nathan, I want you to work on doing you — be who you are and be better, every single day. Don’t work on other people’s expectations; not to reject their advice or wisdom, but expect more of yourself and use other people’s expectations as guidelines of options in your life. This is how you travel that road of becoming who you are meant to be.
6. Be mentally tough.
Being mentally tough is something I feel I was never good at. I always felt I gave up too early when I was younger… frustration came easy, perseverance was never in close grasp. This thing called grit — it allows you to sustain, to power through, to endure what most would never consider subjecting themselves to.
I want you to learn this: If your mind is tough, your struggles will become easier.
7. Be physically tough.
Sports, fitness, and intestinal fortitude… while in parallel with being mentally tough, there’s an element of being physically tough, beyond strong — that helps with life in general. I was always the slowest runner, the first to give up on pull ups, crunches, and push ups… while much of this still relates to being mentally tough, there is a science to being physically tough.
I want you to train. I want you to exercise. I want you to compete, not with a championship or trophy in mind — I want you to push yourself because that is how you become a better man.
So, whether you choose to express this via martial arts, surfing, sports, athleticism, running, climbing… whatever the case may be, do it with intentional excellence. Your health will benefit from this immensely throughout your life and things that seem difficult for others will seem easy for you.
8. Learn to serve.
Son — be the first in, last out; first to offer food to others, last to partake and eat. Being a servant leader means that your actions speak louder than your words; it means that your words commit to action; it means that you do what you say, say what you do, and seek to fulfill the needs of others before they know they even exist.
Learning to serve prepares you for leadership. It prepares you because you first must learn to follow, if you are to lead. Now, I’m not saying you have to become a leader. What I am saying is that I want you to learn about what it means to be a leader — this is how you can decide upon taking up the mantle, should the time and opportunity come to pass.
Most importantly, learning to serve will make you a better teammate. Individuals may play, but teams win.
9. Pursue learning, not schooling.
Schooling doesn’t always equate to learning; the accumulation of knowledge doesn’t yield the formation of successful action in life.
A good education and the educational system are not the same thing. I grew up in a time when there were a lot of cross-cultural muddied waters when it came to the pursuit of academics, career, degrees, credentialing, etc. The problem was this: none of the prior makes you special. The value systems I was guided by was crafted during a time when completing secondary education was still considered a competitive achievement; therefore, a college degree was even better — a master, yet even better — a doctorate, the best.
By the time you reach eligibility for the workforce, it’s likely that having a double or even triple doctorate may be the same job market value equivalency as having a single doctorate “back in my day.”
I don’t want you to focus on the schooling. I want you to focus on LEARNING — acquiring, analyzing, and acting with intentional precision based on valid information, resources, knowledge, and wisdom.
If this pursuit takes you down academic pathways… excellent! If it goes down some other path, pursue it freely. It’s not about the schooling, it’s about true learning… learning to discern.
10. It’s not about you.
This, is one of life’s greatest lessons. I want you to live life as if it’s not about you, because it isn’t. While you are responsible for your own actions, your own pursuits, your own intentional excellence in what you achieve… the goal of life isn’t about you.
It’s about others.
Live life in a way that blesses others through you… be a conduit of joy, compassion, love, kindness, respect, patience, and peace. My hope is that you’ll learn this through a living faith in Christ; this is something your mother and I hope we are doing a good job teaching you. In contemporary times, even the previous sentence may be offensive to some folks… that’s okay. It’s about how you regard others that matters.
There is a wonderful phrase I’ve recently picked up regarding such faith: “No perfect people.” There are none, so we must not require it of ourselves, or others… we can only require of ourselves as close of a parallel pursuit as we can… of ourself and only ourself. As for others, it is their own choice in path… it is for them to navigate as it is not for us to pass judgment… only to share blessings.
Be about others.
Learn to discern.
Become physically tough.
Become mentally strong.
Refine yourself in excellence.
Become self aware, and self accepting.
Craft your life to chase what you love.
And, be sure to dance more… celebrate life!
Nathan, if you’re reading this, I hope I’ve done a good job imparting, and more importantly, teaching through example. Your mom and I love you very, very much and you are the joy of our lives.
So…! It’s been pretty busy. There is constantly stuff I want to share. Honestly, I’m starting to consider switching my format into a video blog vs. written content. Two reasons: (1) it’s faster, and, (2) it’s just faster. LOL! If you’re a parent… you get it. Which reminds me of a funny thing I saw on Facebook re: people saying they are “Tired” & don’t have kids.
And, in case you want a quick laugh, check this one out. Nathan cannot get enough & will dance exactly like it!
Okay. Enough distractions. On to the post!
So, my best man got married! CRAZY. Haha, it all went so fast. I found out. Three months later. Boom. Married. I also had the pleasure of being his wedding MC. I probably should’ve jabbed a bit more at him; but, honestly, I prefer weddings to be clean, joyous, and a pure celebration. No need for shenanigans… no matter how socially expected it may be.
All to say, seeing my best man married got me thinking about my boy. In as possibly quick as 15 years, he could get married. That, was a daunting thought. It means I have 15 years to make sure he turns into an honorable, kind, caring, self sufficient, and socially contributory man.
I am VERY glad I have my wife in this quest. After all, she is a #HeroWife.
In addition to that big development, I also recently took up surfing.
See… years ago, I was a hardcore surfer. I mean, when the surf advisory was up, that means I was out surfing that nonsense. There were waves I rode that I had no business even thinking about. Many times, I’d come out of these obscure local spots where only a few people were looking on. After I was done, people would shake my hand and tell me I did great.
I was all confused. They were just waves. That was, until I turned around… and, saw the MONSTERS I was riding. Surfers were like little dots. And, I was one of those dots!
Ultimately, back in 2009 or early 2010, I went out to one of my favorite spots. Unfortunately, things went poorly. Tide went out, reef got exposed, and the waves jacked up 50% higher than anyone was prepared for. I sat there, bobbing around and dodging huge waves… wondering if I would ever get back in. Plus, we were getting swept out to the kelp beds due to the current. NOT GOOD.
After that time, I basically quit surfing. I felt it was too selfish of me to go on doing stuff like that.
Well… this summer, one of my best buds dragged me back into the water. The water temperature in San Diego was 75 degree F… warmer than the air temperature, many mornings and evenings.
Suffice to say, surfing is back in my life. And, it’s really nice to be back in the water. It’s also nice to feel like a smarter/wiser surfer. I feel I’m actually better at surfing now, even after taking such a long break. I think what has changed is that I’m much more judicious of the water conditions and the waves I go for. I need to be safe as much as I need to be having fun.
It’s not about me, anymore.
What connects surfing and fatherhood came when I started noticing a LOT of dads taking their kids out to learn how to surf. It spanned all ages; from 7-8yo to mid-teens. It was really cool to see. The kids were TALENTED, too. Now, other than teaching Nathan about the world at large and introducing him to martial arts… I can’t wait to take him surfing!
Oh, it was also kinda cool to see this blog on Top Dad Bloggers, again!