Letting Go Brings Back Memories

 

Suddenly, my wife and I can no longer say we’ve two kids.

With our youngest crossing the threshold of eighteen, technically we are now parents to two other adults. Learning to say this for us will take a bit of an adjustment period.

This is a new world – one where the rules of our parenting playbook are changing. We’ve never been the ‘my way or the highway’ or ‘because I said so’ parents – or fortunately needed to be. Like most of us, our son and daughter seemed to have a pretty good head on their shoulders even in the face of peer pressure and hormones.

But today we are in a world where our daughter, now a newly minted eighteen-year old, will be testing the limits of her newfound legal status. No matter what you think – or remember – crossing the threshold and becoming an adult under the law changes things between the ears for the recipient. Admit it, you too were once there also.

My wife and I love and respect our children deeply. We wish for them to become happy and fulfilled in life. We also realize our role is now being increasingly relegated to the sidelines as they make their own decisions in life. And it is just this combination of love and respect that will allow us to let them go – no matter how painful it may be to for us. Letting your children make decisions without the benefit of our lifelong experiences to guide them can be scary. But as a parent, we also understand we’ve got to let go for their sake.

Although it seems like yesterday, I remember my daughter uttering the most beautiful words a dad could ever hear when she was five.

Standing over the first tee of a miniature putt-putt course, a colored golf ball at her feet, our daughter wrestled to hold the full-size putter in her hands.

“Daddy, can you help me?”

I melted right there.

To this day will occasionally close my eyes and remember the moment – her wispy blonde hair, her radiant blue eyes, and the softness of her voice. The green carpet beneath her feet seemed so vibrant, the sky an electric blue. Yes, this how I remember the moment. Magic can do this to our memories.

Bending down to her, I helped place her hands on the shaft of putter and showed her where to put her feet. And after helping her carefully line up the face of the club, she slapped the ball towards the hole on the other end of the carpet.

The rest of the night became a blur – her slapping at the ball and running down to the other end hoping to outrace it to the other end, laughing all the way.

For my entire life I’ve carried those words and moment close to my heart, occasionally looking back for a taste of that night.

Now she is an adult. What I hope is she’ll always know I’ll be there when she needs me – even if it is just to help her line up a putter.

 

– 30 –

Learning to Slay Your Lizard Brain

My lizard brain is my own worst enemy.

Science was never my best subject in school. Actually, beyond a basic understanding of cells and the ability to identify a few clouds, my attention found itself focused elsewhere. Fortunately for the world, I didn’t end up in the world of medicine.

That said, I’m finding myself more and more interested in what neuroscientist call our ‘lizard brain’ and how it attempts to control our lives.

While I wasn’t paying attention in class, they must’ve talked about how humans have two brains – a small brain we share with nearly every other creature (lizard brain) – and another named our neocortex (new or recently developed brain) that wraps around and fills most of our cranium. While our new (neo) brain feeds our sight, speech and creativity, our lizard brain is focused on only one thing: survival.

Little did I know I was fighting a powerful lizard a great part of my life.

Scientist say it is this lizard brain, the one in charge of instinctively keeping us alive, that feeds our fears of change, speaking to strangers, or even taking a simple risk in life. So powerful, this tiny brain on the end of our spinal stem the size of a few nuts, can naturally override the larger, more powerful neocortex brain (where all the fun is happening).

I was so shy as a kid it hurt. Fear gripped me like an iron fist. While I worked hard to keep is hidden, my lizard brain was always there to warn me of danger. Planting seeds of doubt or providing a long list of reasons not to do something are a lizard brain’s specialty. Protecting me from embarrassment or painful failure is what a lizard brain does best.

While one brain might encourage me to try out for a traveling baseball team, my lizard would swoop right in and warn me of the painful embarrassment of not making the team.

While one brain might want to ask a particular girl to a dance, my lizard brain was right there again, protecting me from the pain of being turned down.

And as science supports, my big brain was no match for my little lizard brain.

But learning to slay your lizard brain – or at least get it back under control – is not easy. In fact, there is an entire industry of self-help books built on this very fact.

For me, I one day woke up and decided to take small steps to defeat my lizard brain – one day at a time. Overriding my lizard brain was not easy. I even remember the day I asked my wife out on our first date. I was so nervous I felt like I was going to throw up. And all the while, my lizard brain was planting ugly, uncomfortable scenarios in my mind.

But she said yes and helped change my life.

I believe up until that moment, asking her out on a date was the single largest risk I’d ever taken. And with the result, I gained the courage to continue taking on my lizard brain with increased confidence.

Believe it or not, I am naturally shy. But over time I’ve learned to overcome the fears my pesky little brain feeds to me at every opportunity. I still hear from my lizard brain every day. But now, I recognize and understand him better – and appreciate his primal concern for my safety.

Learning to slay your lizard brain may be the best thing you’ll ever do for yourself.

– 30 –

Johnny Appleseed and the Entrepreneurial Spirit

 

The other night while listening to a speaker – one who’d found himself going from a self-made millionaire all the way back to counting change in his piggy bank before graduating high school – I found my learning a valuable lesson.

Michael Simmons, a serial entrepreneur and now in his early thirties, stood before a room of university students hoping to help prepare them for the world waiting for them outside the theater.

“The biggest thing between you and your goal is fear,” Simmons said, the word spelled out in large blue letters on the screen behind him.

He went on to talk about how while in high school he and a friend created a small web design business only to find themselves nearly paralyzed when the prospect of dealing with their first potential client. Dreaming is easy, he pointed out. Taking action by putting yourself out there for everyone else to see is nothing short of terrifying.

“I remember how nervous we were when we came home from school and found that first voicemail,” he said. “We weren’t even old enough to drive to the appointment.”

His friend, he continued, even purchased a pair of eyeglasses with glass lenses in hopes of looking older.

After having their ride drop them off a block away keep the prospect from seeing them driven by a parent, they walked to the meeting. With fear coursing through them – the insecurity of their worth, their age, and lack of experience – they sat down across from the potential customer.

Upon discovering the two student’s real age, the potential customer admired them. 

And after short meeting, the two students left with the business.

It was then the two students learned how a key lesson of how the world of entrepreneurship works.

“We discovered people naturally want to help you,” Simmons said.

To demonstrate, he asked the audience for a volunteer. A female student raced down to the stage.

Handing her a blue piece of tape, he asked her to jump and place it as high as she could on the wall. After she did, he pulled out a ten-dollar bill placing it another 5 inches higher.

“Grab it and it is yours,” Simmons said, stepping away.

The student jumped higher and higher – several times touching the bill. But then the unexpected began to happen. The audience started calling out suggestions.

“Grab a chair,” one said while others tossed out suggestions to get the speaker to help.

Finally a young male student raced down from the audience. Easily leaping up to grab the bill, he turned, handed her the bill. Smiling, she returned the favor with a hug.

Simmons smiled.

The lesson he’d learned decades before organically reappeared in theater of the hundreds of students. Under the spotlight of everyone’s attention, strangers began not only rooting for someone who’d put herself at risk to accomplish a goal. People, Simmons pointed out, want to help those who work hard, dream and take risks in the world.

Now, married and helping others learn the magic of casting aside their fears to accomplish their dreams and goals, Simmons’ now travels the country like a modern day Johnny Appleseed.

And hopefully the seeds of his experiences will take root in all those who cross his path in life.

 

– 30 –