& Raising Winners!
–By Stephen Doherty
“I am not what I have done!
I am what I choose to do..” –Carl Jung
Few things in life exceed the happiness and emotions surrounding the birth of a son or daughter. It’s not just the joy and excitement of becoming a parent, but also the recognition and embrace of the awesome responsibility we now have. Shaping and crafting this child into an adult that we can be proud of and that will contribute something meaningful to the world they will inhabit, is now our lifelong responsibility.
In my lifetime, I have made innumerable mistakes and suffered terrific consequences. The one trait that allowed me to survive adversity and navigate through the darkness of those failures was not the presence of a strength-but rather the absence of a weakness; finger pointing and blame. I have taught my kids many things but none so important as the ability to live their lives absent pointing fingers or making excuses. Nothing and no one are responsible for our adversity and hardships and with few exceptions, our lives are little more than the sum-total of the choices we make. The beauty of being accountable for our decisions is that we can pivot and change direction as needed instead of bowing to the weight of perceived unfairness or surrendering to difficult circumstances. Every day, we get to choose the path we take in life and be accountable for where those choices take us.
We are witnessing a disturbing trend in this great country. We seem more intent on excusing bad behavior rather than holding it accountable. We are increasingly indemnifying poor judgment rather than exacting the appropriate consequences. We even compensate bad choices rather than demand those responsible to bear that burden. Nothing is ever anyone’s fault anymore as achievement and success have been too often overshadowed by grievance and entitlement. Increasingly, our society seems bent on arming young people with excuses for failure rather than encouraging stellar performance and demanding excellence. The truth is, anything is still possible in this great country for those willing to work hard for it.
“Whether you think you can or think you can’t…you’re are correct!” –Henry Ford
Let’s be crystal clear about something. Life is inherently difficult and unfair. It always has been and always will be. Not everyone starts from the same place, has the same attributes, or begins with the same advantages. Period. Whining about disadvantages and perceived slights and impediments or historical bias only accomplishes one thing. Greatly reduced likelihood of success accompanied by great frustration and often anger. At the end of the day, achievement and accomplishment are born of the same mettle that has propelled success since the dawn of time. Today, they have become marginalized, minimized, and even dismissed by too many people who should know better. Hard work. Perseverance. Persistence. Focus. Determination. Courage. Unrelenting discipline and will. There are no shortcuts to success and excuses and finger-pointing will only hinder your dreams and likely destroy your chances for success.
I am often asked, based on the title of my book, “To Father a Champion.” How do you define a champion? What makes a hero? Who are the true winners in life? My answer often surprises people. For better or worse, those words in our culture usually illicit images of trophies and awards won in fields of intense competition. Those achievements are fine and noteworthy-but I’m hoping my kids will add substantially to that visual.
Perhaps time and experience have altered my own definition of what it means to be a champion and what success and happiness really looks like. I would hope that when my time here is through, I would look upon my own kids and see their lives defined by the following. I would wish for them the inner-peace that can only be gained through kindness, gentleness, and spiritual generosity for their fellow citizens. Conversely, I would hope that no intrusion on their liberties and freedoms would be met with anything but steadfast resolve to meet those challenges head-on. I would admire in them a refusal to accept excuses or point fingers in the pursuit of their dreams-knowing from my own experience that it is more the failures in our lives-and how we respond to them- that define us more than our victories. I would hope that their happiness is defined by love and relationships more so than prosperity and materialism. I would leave with them this final thought….
“Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy. “–Max Ehrmann, Desiderata,