By Jay Forte
My youngest daughter graduated from college this week. With a head full of memories, I watched the baby of the family march proudly across the stage to publicly receive her degree. Smart kid. Focused kid. Her steps across the large stage were the metaphor for moving forward with life.
This is the process of life. We take the first 20 or so years to discover who we are, what we are good at, passionate about and what matters to us. We use this time to discover our world – to see how great, grand and large it is. Then we’re tasked with using the rest of our days to find or create opportunities that allow us to connect the true us, with places in our world that need what we do best. We find our fit, our way, to make our personal impact in our world. This how we own our lives. This is how we build our world.
All this ran through my head as my daughter donned her cap and gown and lined up with many other graduating seniors. I thought of the following five things we did to help her be at this very moment: successfully completing her degree, 2,500 miles away from home, blazing her own trail.
- Start early to help your kids discover what they are great at. Our unique abilities and preferences are hardwired in us early in our lives. As we help our kids try things, they start to see what they rock at and what they stink at. It’s especially important for us, as parents, to remember that no one is great at everything. But, we are each amazing at some things. Helping our kids find these things early in life allows them to align themselves to events and roles that need what they do best. We help our kids become successful by guiding them early to discover their unique abilities.
- Introduce your kids to everything you know about your world. Every event in life is an introduction to a great and large world. Take the time to explain things to your kids at every age. They remember the events and the information and, as a result, become more aware of the opportunities and possibilities. At some point, they will be required to find their place in this world and knowing more than less about their world prepares them to choose more wisely. Take vacations, develop hobbies, talk about world events, share articles and stories. Each of these expands their view of all that is available to them in their world.
- Hold kids accountable and responsible for their decisions. All decisions have consequences. We all must learn not only to own the results of our decisions, but to realize that our lives are ours to invent. Owning their decisions earlier in life helps them learn to make better decisions earlier in life. They respond more wisely when choices and opportunities, both good and bad, present themselves each day.
- Support them in becoming authentic, true, and happy. We have our definition of a great life; they have theirs. As they become aware of their unique abilities, their world and become more accountable, they start making decisions that are right for them. Support their decisions. Realize their lives are not our lives. What matters for them may have no connection to what matters to us, or what we think matters to them. After all, it is their responsibility to wake up happy each day, and only they can determine what that is. This is where we move from parent to coach to mentor.
- Be part of everything they do. When we help our kids find their true selves, and let them show up fully present to the events in their lives, we are welcomed in. We share their roads with them. We get to see another remarkable human being discover his or her place and live life on his or her terms. And to share this, just like being at the graduation, is powerful for us. We get to spend time with people we adore.
Kate’s graduation, for me, was an opportunity to watch her boldly take her place as the next generation into a life ownership role. Her work will change the world. Her life will change the world. It will change her immediate world, and who knows, it could even change the larger world.
A quote I often use that seems so appropriate here is by Winston Churchill.
To each there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared or unqualified for that which could have been their finest hour.
We spend our early lives discovering what makes us great, and then spend the rest of our lives sharing what makes us great with our world. Help your kids soar. Their soaring helps our world soar.