Category Archives: Teaching

The Power of Repetition

We’re each born without skills.

We don’t know how to play the piano, hit a tennis ball, type a letter, program a computer, balance a checkbook, climb a mountain, drive a car, wake surf, back up a semi-trailer, finish concrete, ride a bike, race a motorcycle, fix an engine, pilot an airplane, or just about anything else.

Fortunately, humans are learning machines.  Watch a toddler for even a few minutes and you’ll see an aggressive and insatiable quest to imitate, experiment, test limits, check for patterns, see what works, see what parents allow, and see what happens when they push certain buttons (real and metaphorical).  Amazingly, they’re doing these things before they can walk or talk.

Toddlers also have an almost unending desire to “do it again.”  If throwing the ball once is fun, it’s even more fun to go pick it up and throw it again, and again, and again.

I took a typing class in my freshman year of high school.  There were about fifty students in the class.  Half of the typewriters were electric (the new IBM Selectrics) and the other half was manual typewriters.  Yes, I’m that old.

I started my year on a manual typewriter (we swapped to the Selectrics mid-year).  This meant that at the end of each line, after hearing the ding, I had to reach up and manually return the carriage…and place my fingers back on the correct keys to continue typing.  It also meant that my keystrokes had to be smooth, consistent and well-timed.  Otherwise, the keys would jam on top of each other.

We started with the Home row.  I must have typed ASDFJKL; a thousand times!  Then, we added the G and the H to the home row drill.  ASDFGHJKL;  Again.  Again.  Again.  Ding.  Manual carriage return.

Did I mention that all the keys on the typewriters were blank?  We were learning how to be “touch” typists.  Looking at the keys was not an option.  We had diagrams and workbooks that showed us what each key was, but nothing on the typewriter.

After mastering the Home row, we moved up to the QWERTY row.  The row that gives the standard keyboard its name.  QWERTYUIOP  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.

Next, the drills included the Home row and the QWERTY row at the same time.  We were typing letters in random order from both rows.  QPJHFDRT Again.  Again.  Again.  Ding.  Manual carriage return.

Finally, we moved to the dreaded bottom row.  ZXCVBNM,.  I hated the Z.  The Z is in an awkward spot.  It requires pinky strength and dexterity in the left hand.  A tall order for a right-hander.  A right-hander who had broken his left pinky a few years earlier (another long story).

Now our drills included all three rows, and all in random order.

Oh yeah, every drill was being timed.  We started and stopped each drill as a class and typed the drills until we heard the ringing of the clock.

The drills got harder, included more randomness, and both upper-, and lower-case letters.  Again.  Again.  Again.

I don’t remember how many weeks we spent on all these drills, but one day our teacher told us we’d be typing actual sentences.  One more thing:  our typing speed would be measured in words-per-minute.

Any mistakes would subtract one word from our score, so accuracy mattered.

How could this be?  We’d never typed sentences before.  We weren’t ready to be tested…on real sentences.  We were just getting good at the drills.  We had practiced proper hand position, proper finger curl, proper posture.  But, this was uncharted territory.

“Ready?  Begin.”

“Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their party.”

“The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.”

Why do I remember these two sentences?  They’re classic typing drill sentences.  They each use almost all the letters in the alphabet and require the typist to jump between all the rows.  I typed these two sentences continuously during the day of our first typing test.

I realized I was actually typing!  Not just a drill, but two real sentences.  I was typing them quickly…even on a manual typewriter.

After that first day of testing, we typed many more sentences.  We learned about the structure of various business letter formats.  We typed information into practice forms.  We keyed numbers into columns.  We centered text.  All before spreadsheets or word processors made these simple tasks.

Our teacher provided the drills, the structure, and the discipline.  We drilled, practiced, and drilled again.  And, again.

We were touch typists, using the skills we learned through repetition.  I was having my own “Wax on…wax off,” moment before Karate Kid was a movie.

Fast forward 35 years.  I’m still learning new skills.  Practicing.  Making mistakes.  Sometimes pushing too hard.  Sometimes jamming my keys in the process.  Always looking to improve.

Only with repetition can I learn, improve, and become.

Again.  And, again.

 

Photo by Jason Yu on Unsplash

 

 

Mistakes Were Made

Uncle Lou, our March Madness Bracket Master and Chief Referee, sent an email to our group with “Mistakes Were Made” in his subject line.

What a great subject line, especially from our referee!

It let us all know right up front that things aren’t perfect, and it revealed the one thing many of us avoid admitting at all costs:  mistakes.

Mistakes can be the first step toward that other really bad thing in life:  FAILURE!

Mistakes and failures.  Even more powerful in our lives is the fear of making mistakes, and experiencing failures.

Fear is a good thing.  It keeps us alive.  But, it can also stop us from taking action, changing course, making corrections, or dumping one idea in exchange for another (possibly better, but maybe worse) idea.

Imagine if you wrote an email every day, or maybe just once a week with the subject:  Mistakes Were Made.  In this magical email, you’d describe the areas where you made mistakes, describe the failures that had happened that day or that week, and spell out what you learned.

As challenging as writing this email might be, once it’s written, send it to your boss.  And then send it to the people who report to you.

Does this little challenge strike fear in your heart?  That’s natural.  You should do it anyway.  By admitting your mistakes, you’re letting your boss and those who report to you know that you are human.  You are vulnerable.  You don’t have all the answers.

None of us likes to admit to our mistakes or our failures.  But, the act of admission frees us from the fear and other emotional baggage that we often carry when we make mistakes.

Acknowledging our mistakes and failures is the first step toward forgiving ourselves.  Forgiveness lies on the opposite side of our fear.  Its power against fear cannot be underestimated.  A forgiving mindset, especially toward ourselves, opens us up to real learning and improvement.

I remember learning to water ski.  After a while, my brother and I were pretty good skiers.  We could go for miles and miles slaloming, jumping across the wake, and throwing up huge rooster tails without falling.  That was nice, but our dad had a different view.  He used to say that if we weren’t falling, at least occasionally, we weren’t trying to get better.

The trying was always as important (maybe more important) than the result.  Dad wanted us to always be improving, so in his way, he was asking us to welcome the mistakes that led to better performance.

It’s clear that mistakes will happen.  They come with the territory if we’re pushing our limits and getting better.

Embracing our mistakes is much better than fearing them.

 

Photo Credit:  Unsplash, Nathan Shively

Relax, You’re Doing Fine

I saw this on a license plate frame.  When I first saw it, I didn’t give it much attention.  Then, as I sat at the red light, staring at those four simple words, I realized how freeing they are.

Relax, you’re doing fine.

You aren’t as far behind as you thought in the “race” of life.  In fact, life isn’t a race at all.  There’s no prize at the end for getting to the finish line faster than the other people.

You’re living in a great time.  Why is it so great?  Because it’s your time.  It doesn’t matter what else is happening.  The fact that things are actually happening, and you are here to see, participate, and have an impact is all that matters.  What impact?  That’s up to you.

What you do, how you do it, and the pace you choose are up to you.  I recommend you take advantage of your limited time on the planet.  Start moving, stay moving, always learn, and never stop teaching.  But, that’s just me.  It’s up to you and no one else.

Not as happy as you’d like to be?  Not as fulfilled as you’d like to be?  Worried that life is passing you by?  Worried that you aren’t as rich, pretty, strong, tall, smart, stylish, successful, or any other measure society places on us, as you’d like to be?

We all have the same seconds, minutes, and hours every day.  Our ability to define our time by the people we help, and the smiles we coax into the world are the only things we control.  The rest is going to happen with or without our involvement.

Enjoy your time.  Let someone else worry about all that other comparison stuff.

And, never forget:  Relax, you’re doing fine.

Will This Be On The Test?!?!

SanFelipeSunrise

I’m told that this is one of the top questions students (and parents) ask of teachers.

Test questions in school come in many standard forms:  true or false, multiple choice, essay…just to name a few.  Oh yeah, and word problems!  Decipher the riddle, find all the numbers that fit into formulas, and arrive at an answer (hopefully, the correct one).  And, of course, remember to show your work.

We’re taught in school that there is only one correct answer to most questions.  Columbus discovered the New World in 1492, not 1493.  It takes two hydrogens and one oxygen to make water, not two oxygens and one hydrogen.  The student’s job is to learn (memorize?) the correct answers and then “ace” their test by answering all of the questions correctly.

It’s no wonder students ask what will be on their tests.  After all, their grade is in play.  Who wouldn’t want to know what they should study, and what they can ignore?  So much is riding on the outcome.

Tests outside of school aren’t as easy.  The questions don’t come from our teachers.  Variables are often missing, and formulas rarely provide one definitive answer.  They aren’t always fair.  They don’t come with a study guide.  There’s no advice about what should be studied, or ignored.  Real life tests come from our family, friends, customers, co-workers, managers, elected officials, our children’s teachers, strangers, and ourselves…on a daily basis.  A lot more than a grade is in play with most of these tests.

Attention to detail, listening to what is said and unsaid, curiosity, creativity, openness to risk, connecting with others we trust, and a clear sense of right and wrong are the guides we have in answering the real life test questions we face.

What’ll be on your next test?  Everything you’ve experienced in life up to this point, and probably a few things you haven’t seen before.  Here’s hoping you studied well.

 

Test Question:  What’s the connection between this post and the sunrise photo?

Wanna Learn Something? Think Like a Teacher!

You’re sitting in a training class.  The instructor is describing some new set of management concepts or the latest system enhancements.  You try to listen and stay focused.  Your mind wanders a bit.  You force it back in line.  After all, there may be something useful here that you can apply to your work.

Later, someone asks you how the class went.  You shrug your shoulders, reporting that you learned a couple of new things.  You then have trouble describing what you’ve learned.  Not an inspiring endorsement.

Imagine the same training class.  But, now you’re there to learn the material well enough to present the same class to another group next week.

You don’t get to pick and choose what applies to your work.  You need to learn the subject in its entirety.  Preparing to teach a subject requires active learning.  You’ll watch how the material is presented, the visual aids and examples the presenter uses, and the way the presenter moves around the room.  Nothing less than full mastery of the information will suffice.  Anything less could lead to failure when it’s your turn to teach.

Do yourself a favor.  Prepare like a teacher, learn like a teacher, and think like a teacher.  The truth is, you will be teaching this class next week…to yourself, as you try to remember and apply what you learned in the class.

No One is “Just a…”

“I don’t know the answer, I’m just a temp.”

“I can’t authorize that refund, I’m just a cashier.”

“Clearly, nobody here cares what I think.  I’m just a worker bee.”

“I could probably help those wounded veterans, but I’m just a private citizen.  I’m sure there’s a government agency for that.”

“There’s no way I could ever do that job.  I’m just a high school graduate.”

Listen closely, and you’ll hear the “I’m just a…” phrase applied in many circumstances.  You may even use it yourself.  I’ve inflicted it on myself a time or two (or three).

Ownership is risky.  It requires personal responsibility, a willingness to step up, make hard choices, and be held accountable for your actions.  “I’m just a…” is a ticket to minimizing the expectations we place on ourselves.

The Dark Side

“Just a…” has an even darker side.  It can be used to limit the expectations we place on those around us:

  • “John’s a decent manager, but he’s really just a guy keeping the trains coming in on time.  I doubt he could step into anything new.”
  • “She’s just a summer intern, so I don’t expect her to light the world on fire for us.”
  • “He’s just a beginner, so we need to cut him some slack.”
  • “She’s just a kid.”
  • “He’s just a drug addict, so he will never amount to much.”

When expectations are minimized, minimized outcomes usually follow.

Applying the “just a…” phrase to anyone, including ourselves, ignores potential.  It ignores our ability to grow, change, improve, and amaze.

What Are You Saying?

When talking to your friends, family, employees, or anyone else, do you use encouraging words, or discouraging words?

The words and tone you choose matter.  They reflect, and impact, your attitude.  Your words are the window into your perspective on the world.

Choose discouraging words, and you actively create a discouraging environment for those around you.

Choose encouraging words, use encouraging questions, and guess what…you create an encouraging environment.

The power to create an encouraging environment, an encouraging attitude, is in your hands everyday.

Here’s an exercise for you.  Seek out three people to encourage today.  Encourage them with your words, your questions, and your actions.  Show them that you are genuinely interested in what they have to say.  Be appreciative of their unique efforts and skills.  Actively consider how to help them be more successful in achieving their goals.  Repeat this exercise everyday.

Does this exercise make you uncomfortable?  If so, maybe you should be the first person you seek out to encourage.

Life’s Been Good to Me, So Far

dad_NHRA_2013

Songs have an almost magical way of transporting us back to another time.  One song in particular makes me think of my dad…Joe Walsh’s, “Life’s Been Good to Me So Far.”  Every time I hear it, I’m about eleven years old, very early in the morning, on the way to Escape Country.  This song is playing on the radio.  I know my mom and brother were there too, but when it comes to this song, my memory only conjures up my dad.

Escape Country is long gone.  In the ‘70’s, Escape Country was a motorcycle riding park in Orange County, located about ten miles from Cook’s Corner.  I’m pretty sure Dove Canyon is built mostly where Escape Country used to be.

“I have a mansion, forget the price

Ain’t never been there they tell me it’s nice”

My dad has a way of focusing on the task at hand, while having fun.  In this case, his task was being the president of the Hilltoppers Motorcycle Club, and this was our annual Gran Prix race weekend at Escape Country.  A series of 60-90 minute races with various motorcycle sizes and rider skill levels, ranging from mini-bikes to 500cc’s, and beginner to expert.

“My Maserati does 185

I lost my license now I don’t drive”

The president of the club has overall responsibility for the race, and works with everyone else in the club to create the best possible racing experience for the racers. On race days, one of my dad’s specific jobs was to line up each race at the start.  I was amazed by the way my dad was able to keep everything straight.  How did he know which bikes went where?  It was always noisy, dusty, and confusing to me.  And yet, he’d refer to a small piece of paper, look at the numbers on the bikes and immediately know where they were supposed to go.  I remember he’d often carry a wooden stake to use as a pointer.  He might as well have been an orchestra conductor in my eyes.

“I’m making records my fans they can’t wait

They write me letters tell me I’m great”

These were dead-engine, Le Mans-style starts.  The bikes were on one side of the track, and the racers were lined-up on the other side.  When my dad dropped the banner (which I helped raise and lower), the racers would run across the track, jump on their bikes, hope they started on the first kick, and, in a cloud of dust and rocks, they’d be racing down into the first turn.

“So I got me an office gold records on the wall

Just leave a message maybe I’ll call”

My dad took the time to watch about the first five minutes of each race, and then he was focused on preparing the start for the next race.  This meant re-making the white lines to delineate the starting positions.  I remember one of my jobs was to mark off the distance between the lines.  I know now that he probably didn’t need my help, but at the time, I was a key part of the process.

“Lucky I’m sane after all I’ve been through

Everybody says I’m cool (He’s cool)”

Amazingly, my dad always seemed to wrap up the start-line preparations with fifteen to twenty minutes to spare before the next race was to start.  This was enough time to jump on his bike and ride to various spots, checking-in with other members of the club to get a status from them.  We didn’t have radios or cell phones back then, so communications happened the old fashioned way:  face-to-face.  He also had time to watch a bit more racing, and then back to the starting area to coordinate the newly arriving racers for the next race.

“I go to parties sometimes until four

It’s hard to leave when you can’t find the door”

My job during the down time?  Riding over to the sign-up area on our Honda Trail 50 to get the piece of paper with numbers that he used as the basis for setting up the next race.  Sometimes, while at sign-up, I’d get involved in helping the sign-up crew for a few minutes before returning to the starting area.  Again, I was a key part of the process.

“They say I’m lazy but it takes all my time

Everybody says Oh yeah (Oh yeah)”

When the last race of the weekend ended, the work was far from over.  Course markings, ribbons, barricades, banners, and everything else that we’d put up in preparation for the race had to be taken down.  Most of the items would be reused in following years, so the put-away process was almost as important as the put-up process.  I wanted nothing more than to help.  I wanted to be like my dad.  Doing anything other than working toward the goal of finishing the job never entered my mind.  I was part of my dad’s team and that is all that mattered.

“It’s tough to handle this fortune and fame 


Everybody’s so different I haven’t changed”

Thank you, Dad, for always making me a key part of the process.  Thank you for always trusting me to be at your side.  Thank you for always knowing I could do the things you asked of me.  Thank you for having confidence in me, even if I wasn’t so sure.  Thank you for making me a valuable part of your team.

“I keep on going, guess I’ll never know why 


Life’s been good to me so far”   

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.  I love you.

TEDx ChapmanU

TED Photo

I heard about TED talks from a friend many years ago.  TED was started in 1984 as a conference to bring together people from three worlds:  Technology, Entertainment, and Design.  TED talks are limited to no more than 18 minutes in length, and cover a wide array of topics, all focused on “ideas worth spreading.”  More than 1,400 talks are available for viewing on-line.  We heard today that TED talks have over one billion combined views.

Janet and I were excited to see a TED event in person today at Chapman University.  Our youngest daughter, Jennifer, is home from school for a couple weeks, so an added bonus was having her attend with us.

Here’s a quick taste of what we learned today from the fourteen speakers (twelve “live,” and two on video), in no particular order:

Shawn Achor told us that 90% of our happiness is internal, 10% from our surroundings.  He also said that people who view stress as a challenge and not a threat are much happier.  He was incredibly funny, and one of the fastest talkers I’ve ever seen.

Phil Hansen told us to embrace the shake.  He is an artist with a condition that makes his hand shake.  He left his art for about three years because of it.  When he went to a doctor to see what could be done, the doctor informed him that nothing could be done, and that he recommended that Phil embrace the shake.  Phil found that by embracing our limits, we find ways to go beyond them.  Let go of outcomes, failures and imperfections.  Don’t be encumbered by results.  Show up for the process and allow the limitations to harness your creativity.  His artwork is awesome.

Allyn Rose talked about her decision to have a double mastectomy to prevent getting breast cancer.  She had lost three family members, including her mother, to breast cancer.  As she said, the odds were very high that she would be afflicted by the disease at some point.

Lisa Sparks talked about improving healthcare-related communications.  80% of all medical errors are a result of communication problems.  She talked about ways for the healthcare provider, the patients, and the patient’s family to arrive at shared meanings on the wide array of topics that surround a person’s health and their healthcare decisions.

Ali Nayeri discussed String Cosmology Theory as a basis for understanding the universe.  He showed how the theory can be used to describe the behavior of galaxies in multiple dimensions, not just flat like the current theories would dictate.  It was at this point that he lost at least half of the audience, including me.  I felt like I recovered when he showed a diagram of two universes flowing from one side to another through a symbolic sideways hourglass.  The idea is that there are really two universes with one contracting and the other expanding.  The point where they cross looks to the observer like an origin, or singularity (the Big Bang).  He showed how String Theory supports the existence of these two universes and that there wasn’t really ever a Big Bang.

Jennifer Sullivan talked about Frictionology.  Between 1860 and 1890, 500,000 patents were issued.  This was 10x more than the previous 70 years combined.  During that time, she said that there was limited competition, and no friction.  With competition, people get choices, and there is friction.  Understanding friction is important, since friction is where the money is made.  Good friction equals access to, and curation of, the good stuff, and dumping of the bad stuff.  People have discovered that content is the best way to sell other stuff.  She ended her talk by saying that a big trend now is not Do It Yourself, but Make it Yourself.  Consumers want the tools and they will make the rest.

Michael Goldsby talked about the future of medicine.  With the ubiquity of smart phones and other easy-to-use data capture devices, it’s  possible to capture a tremendous amount of data about a person in real time.  All of this real time data can be analyzed to create actionable insights for the patient.  He talked about how smart phones and their apps can become a digital sixth sense from a medical perspective, and can be a foundational part of the coming Internet of Everything.

Kathy Thomson talked about her company, the LA Times, and the things they are doing to remain relevant and valuable in the age of digital delivery.  She said that the challenge for them isn’t so much the content, but ensuring that they can put it where, when, and how the reader wants it.  She discussed the maverick/mainstream paradox.  How do they innovate in sometimes radical directions, while continuing to preserve their mainstream values that make their content so valuable.

Prince Gomolvilas, the only Thai-American playwright (according to himself), talked about maintaining your integrity and your ideals, even when faced with overwhelming financial threats.  He told a riveting story about a play he wrote for a “very fancy private school” in the Bay Area for their 8th grade class.  The theme of the play ran counter to what the school’s largest donors thought was acceptable.  He had a choice of either modifying his play and its theme, or keeping it as originally written.  The potential consequence was alienating the large donors and causing huge financial harm to the school.  You will have to watch the video on the TED website to learn what he decided.

The Orange County Youth Symphony Orchestra had two of their percussion representatives perform an extremely complicated drum duet, based on a native American rhythm.  They didn’t say anything and let their instruments do all the talking.

Kristen Howerton told us about being in Haiti with her six-month-old daughter, visiting her soon-to-be-adopted son on the day of the horrific earthquake.  To cope with the devastation, and her inability to do anything except care for her daughter and soon-to-be son, she focused attention on packing and re-packing her suitcase so she’d be ready to leave whenever a plane became available.  It became a diversion and coping mechanism for her.  The “punch line” to the story:  when a plane was available at the US Embassy, there was no room for any luggage, and she had to give up her coping diversion in order to get home.  She related this to other diversions in our lives, like the internet.  She called the internet the diversion to end all diversions, and said that we need to be willing to leave it behind enough to take the time to experience the feelings of real life.  As a psychologist, she said, “The only way to work through crappy feelings is to walk through crappy feelings.”  Diversions often prevent this process.

Mark Pampanin talked about why being an icon isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Specifically, he discussed the tokenizing of gay men.  Look at most television shows…he described the “token” gay man in every show.  As a gay man, he said that he’d rather we all just treat each other as people, and not the “token anything.”

Liz Fiacco discussed transferrable skills, specifically the skills we hone using computer games, and their application to our real lives.  The power of games comes from their rapid teach and test cycles.  She proposed greater use of computer games as teaching tools.  She described how a computer game was used to figure out how to fold proteins within a few weeks, after being something that stumped scientists for years.

Reggie Gilyard talked about leadership in the New Normal World of Rapid Change.  He talked about Circuit City, Egypt, and Lehman Brothers.  All are organizations that were unable to respond to the rapid changes happening around them.  CEO’s set direction, organize, select people, motivate, and establish systems and processes for their companies to operate.  Running through all of these tasks is the need to establish signals that allow them to see and manage risks, manage time, and understand their customers’ behaviors.  Think fast, and move faster.

Gwynne Shotwel talked about the need for increased investment and focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education in the US.  Engineers are never satisfied, they always want to improve on what they’ve built.  The best solutions are the simplest ones…less complexity wins.  If only one person can do something, that means that someone else can too.  She related this to how her company, SpaceX, decided to build heat shielding tiles in-house since there was only one supplier out there, and they didn’t want to get “screwed” by that sole-source provider.  She peppered her talk with video highlights of SpaceX’s rockets.  Rockets are cool.

I highly recommend attending a TED event.

Top 9 Things New Parents Need to Remember

My daughter and son-in-law just had their first baby.  His name is James, and he’s one week old.

Inspired by our new grandson, I thought I’d give some advice about parenting.  Trust me when I say that I’m no expert.  Then again, I don’t think anyone is truly an expert in this, the oldest of callings.  With that in mind, here’s my Top 9:

1.  No child is perfect.  Precious, yes.  The center of your universe, yes.  Perfect, no.  They will make mistakes, just like you.  They will have difficult challenges (real and imagined) in their life, just like you.  They will need someone to support them in good times and bad, just like you.  They will occasionally need someone to point them in a new direction, just like you.

2.  Children learn what you teach them.  This sounds obvious, but I think some parents forget this truism.  You should always have an eye on what you are teaching through your words and actions.  Everything you do, say, and value, are always on display for your kids.  The way you handle challenges, approach new ideas, enjoy your day, place value on accomplishment, and take the time (or not) to notice the small pleasures in life, are all teaching your child how to approach life.  Kids have a voracious thirst for new knowledge.  Have fun helping them chase down new things to learn.

3.  Enjoy sharing the things you do with your child.  If you’re doing yard work, get your child involved, even if it’s only to hold the bag while you dump leaves into it.  Building the latest piece of your Ikea collection?  Get them in there with you.  Their “help” may double the amount of time the project takes, but your child will learn what it’s like to work on projects and see them through to completion.  Are you thinking about flying a kite?  Don’t just show them the flying part.  Get them involved in picking out the kite, assembling it, and figuring out which way to point it into the wind.

4.  Child development is similar to sculpting clay.  When clay is new, it’s pliable, easily shaped, and flexible.  You start with the big sweeping parts of the shape, and then hone-in on the finer details.  As you work the clay, it begins to dry.  It becomes less pliable.  It starts to stand on its own.  As the clay continues to dry, even slight adjustments are difficult.

What you do to shape your child’s view of the world, their understanding of right and wrong, the importance of serving others, understanding how their decisions impact themselves and others, needs to happen as early as possible.  The foundational shaping of a productive and independent adult happens very early.

Shaping the clay is only half the challenge.  To fully mature and keep its shape, clay needs to be fired in a kiln and heated to extremely high temperatures…a true trial by fire.  Your child will face many trials by fire.  Many will be theirs alone, while some will be shared with their parents.  Give your child (and yourself) the freedom to succeed and fail in the various trials of life.  Always remember the main goal is to help your child become the greatest version of themselves they can, have lasting values, and be someone who can stand the heat and come out better for it.

5.  Laugh with each other, and at each other…a lot.

6.  Parenting isn’t a democracy.  Parents make the rules.  Your child needs the structure that comes from a well-disciplined environment that you create.        

7.  If you make a mistake, don’t be afraid to tell your child about it.  They can learn just as much from your mistakes as they can from their own.  In fact, they will probably learn more from how you handle your mistake than the actual mistake.

8.  Kids need balance as much as adults.  Adults often talk about trying to achieve an optimal life-work balance.  The same thing should apply to kids. This may mean that they can’t play on the club soccer team, take sailing lessons, and have a lead part in the school play all at the same time.  Help your kids make trade-off’s to achieve an optimal balance of activities, school, work, etc.  Some of the most valuable time in a kid’s life is the “down time” relaxing with their parents.  As much as people talk about “quality time” with their kids, I think there is also a lot of value in “quantity time” that shouldn’t be forgotten in the hustle to do more with each day.

9.  The greatest gift a mom and dad can give to their child is to love each other.  Take the time to ensure that your child gets to see the love between their parents grow each day.  A loving family is a delight to behold, and your child will revel in such a nurturing environment.

9 ¾.  Your goal should be to help your child become a productive and independent adult, who adds value to their community.  Nothing more, nothing less.