“How many of you were told when you were young that you could grow up to be anything you set your mind on?”
This was the way a professor-friend recently opened his graduate management course. Fewer than half the people in the room raised a hand.
I’ve begun asking this of everyone I meet, trying to get a sense if there’s a relationship between the mental paths paved during childhood and each person’s natural self-leadership to reach beyond obvious walls.
Similar to the class numbers, about half the people I speak with shake their head in wonderment, citing examples of a parent who regularly alluded to or directly told them opportunities were far and few.
One colleague said his parents regularly told him his options and potential were limitless, but also only set the bar knee high. They would say things like, “Your dream sounds neat but who would want to spend their whole life working that hard?” Pronouncements alone fall flat.
In my family, by contrast, my father took this question to another height, even using it as a game on long car trips. He’d ask me, “What couldn’t you do?” He did this to help me build pathways to envision I could do almost anything. Then we’d talk through the steps it might take to reach high.
One of my most creative moments came on a day when I was about ten. I said, “I couldn’t walk through the sun unassisted.” I recall brief chatter about inventing a protective suit but for the most part it ended our conversation — at least that day.
So what are you asking your children? What
Although I haven’t always succeeded, I feel accomplished… and the flops taught me so much I appreciate them, too. Walking through the sun, however, still eludes me.
Marcia Conner > www.marciaconner.com