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How We Got Role Models All Wrong


How We Got Role Models All Wrong

I don’t get to visit with my girlfriends often. This holiday season, I managed to carve out time to spend with a couple of my girlfriends, both of whom I haven’t seen in ages. We yapped for four hours.

As we caught each other up on our accomplishments, our frustrations, where our kids were going to school, and what we were up to for 2017, one common thing emerged over both of the visits. When talking about the habits of their children, neither of them hoped that their children would take on their habits. Both wanted their children to excel more than they did, and ‘not be like them.’

My heart fell a little when I heard this. Both of my girlfriends are immensely kind, intelligent, and well-educated individuals. Both accomplished extraordinary feats in their lives. One made the cover of The Edmontonians Magazine and was featured in their ‘Sizzling 30 Under 30.’ It was a feature that introduced some 30 thriving local entrepreneurs all of whom were in their twenties. The other runs a successful family restaurant, which is a pillar of the community in which it serves. She leads a team of 20+ people, and not of quality leadership potential either. These are people who, all they want to do is smoke pot during their breaks, and get away with doing the least amount possible. She has managed to lead and inspire them to make the restaurant run like clockwork. Of course, I’m not saying that all people who work in restaurants hate their jobs. But to motivate the unwillingly motivated is a huge feat, in any industry. There is so much goodness that both of these ladies are passing onto their children. Why couldn’t they see it themselves? More importantly, why would they discredit themselves so?

I remember when I was little, my mom did exactly the same thing. “Don’t be like me! Be like your father. He’s so much smarter than I.” (This was, of course, in Cantonese.) This had a detrimental effect on me. Inherently I wanted to be like my mom. I remember feeling slightly betrayed when I heard this. I felt like this person to whom I look for guidance was abandoning me a little bit. In effect, she was telling me that I was following the wrong person. As a result, growing up, my opinion of my mom and of women, in general, was that we were indeed inferior to men. To achieve what a man can do was more of an accomplishment than to achieve what a woman could. The Asian cultural influence didn’t help either but instead supported this theory. I had to go through a lot of personal development to overcome that falsity.

50% of What You Say, and 100% of What you Do

I see that Zane looks up to me. He sees what I do. He does what I do. He picks up on what’s important to me. His little 4 yr old world of possibilities is defined by the framework I create for him through my life, my work, and my achievements.  I have two points: First, it’s not just girls who look up to their mothers. Boys look up to their mothers as well, if not even more so than their fathers. And two, my kid does 100% of what I do and only 50% of what I say. As infuriating as it may be, that’s what this kid, and probably every other kid does.

Knowing that my kid does what I do, and not what I say, I contemplated on the most important values and skills that I wanted to convey to him through my actions, and through my life’s work. Sure, ITsolopreneurs is a business blog. So you may ask, what does parenting have to do with business and personal development? Interestingly enough, this has everything to do with business and personal development, my aspiring ITsolopreneurs.

The Most Valuable Asset that you Have is Yourself

The more personal development I do, the more I see this theme recur across different books, podcasts, courses, and teachers. The best investment on which you can put your money is yourself.

Hal Elrod interviewed one Todd Durkin, who recently published The Wow Book: 52 Ways to Motivate Your Mind, Inspire Your Soul & Create WOW in Your Life! Among the first few ways to motivate your mind, he reinforces this very point: Successful people spare no expense in investing in themselves. They do so because they know that their return on investment is the highest than from any other investment. Think about it. The amount of money that you earn throughout your career beats any single investment out there. And the probability of success is way higher. Most importantly, you control the outcome.

If you’ve ever read ‘The Millionaire Next Door,” by Thomas J. Stanley Ph.D. and William D. Danko Ph.D, you’ll see this message communicated loud(ly) and clear(ly). (<– for the grammar folks.)

They researched multitudes of quiet millionaires in America and gathered all the common attributes in this book. Since my goal is obviously to become like them, I paid close attention. Millionaires invest mostly in themselves, and their own businesses. Instead of pledging their hard earned dollars into someone else’s business, where they have absolutely no control, the most successful people in the world constantly put money back into developing themselves and their own businesses. They know that this is only place where they have control. It’s the only area, where if things are going down the toilet, that they can rely on themselves to do something to turn it around. All other investments are left up to fate.

As entrepreneurs, or aspiring solo / intra / entrepreneurs, we might not have a business in which to invest. But we do have ourselves. We do have the ability to constantly work on ourselves, to develop our skillset, both technical and soft. We’d never go wrong to do so.

There is More than Enough for Everyone

We all grow up with a scarcity mentality. Even at an early age, one of the age-old ways that your mom got you to eat was to take it away from you. Actually, even before that, one of the tricks to getting your baby to latch on in order to drink milk, is that you gently pull the nipple a little bit out of his mouth. He will immediately start to suck a harder to keep it in. It seems that it’s innate that we have a scarcity mentality for survival. This might have relevant back in the day when it was super-hard to gather food. Hunting for food meant literally risking your life. I can appreciate that our ancestors passed on the trait to acknowledge scarcity and find ways to survive in a scarce world.  Scarcity means that there is not enough for everyone. It means that if you have it, then I may not. If you win, then I lose. Hence if I see you win, then I might not try as hard because I might not have as much of a chance to win as well. Or, I might try harder, and pummel you into the ground so that I can win, and you can lose. We adopt a win/lose mentality, based on scarcity. Here’s the rub. It becomes detrimental to us if we want to ultimately achieve everything we want, and do so with peace of mind.

The fact of the matter is that the universe is unlimited. It is not scarce. There is way more than enough for everyone. As Rhonda Byrne put it in The Secret“Size is nothing to the universe (unlimited abundance if that’s what you wish.) We make the rules on size and time.”

Here is what it means. You get to decide how much opportunity is out there for you. I often have people come up to me, saying that, they would love to go into contracting. But the market is tough out there. There’s no work. It’s super hard to find work. That is why they had to take the first thing that came their way, which was a lower paying job, perhaps as an employee. Or, they need to stay put where they are currently.

This is the perfect example of a world of scarcity. In this world, these folks are exactly correct. In the world of scarcity, it is super hard to find work. There is not enough to go around. Here’s what happens. Even when they find work, it’s hard to hang onto it, because everyone else is fighting to get ahead, since there is never enough to go around. They start to keep secrets from others. They don’t work well together. That win/lose mentality surfaces everywhere. They respond in kind. Everyone becomes an a##hole.

I’m telling you. It’s all in your head. That same mentality could have swung the complete opposite direction. You could have thought that regardless how much work there is out there, there is one reserved for you. There’s enough for everyone to play. There always has been. You just have to the one that yours. With the same mentality, you also will find that everyone is very helpful. No one wants to screw you, because it doesn’t matter. You win. I win too. The pie is big enough for everyone. Because of that, everyone plays well together. The plus about this mentality is that not only do you win and I win. But by winning together, we create something greater than both of us can create individually.

Health Matters

Growing up with Asian TV, I picked up a few things about the feminine ideal early on in my childhood. Being feminine was always associated with being weak, delicate like a flower, but clever, kind, and often sickly. In Chinese literature, there is is a novel entitled “Dream of the Red Chamber. The female lead (Lin Daiyu) was one of the heroines. She was slight in stature, beautiful, delicate, quiet, clever and constantly sick. Did I mention she was kind? In fact, she was so kind and compassionate that there was an entire scene where she dramatically buries a dead flower, as she identifies with how delicate it is. (Makes me want to stick a fork in my eye.)

There are, of course, exceptions to this feminine ideal. Mulan is one of them. She was strong, brave, clever, healthy. She also pretended to be a man. Yes, Mulan is quite the opposite of the ‘feminine’ ideal. She, of course, did this to do battle in place of her father.

Quite frankly, in today’s world, you’d be very much left behind if you were to appear delicate, sickly and quiet. Not to say that being large, loud and healthy will guarantee you success, either. But why would you choose to be sickly, when being healthy is a viable option? One of the most important traits of a leader, or parent is that the person is physically (and mentally) healthy and strong. I find it super important to show my child that I deliberately carve out time to exercise. It literally makes me a better mother, a clearer thinker, and a more amiable person, all around.

The Most Precious Commodity: Time, is a Paradox

You can rebuild virtually anything: wealth, your health (mostly), relationships… but time is the one thing you’ll never get back. Ever. Once you’ve spent it, that’s it. My dad used to always say to me: “Your time is precious.” It’s true. You can’t ever go back. That said, it also is completely under your control as well. Here’s what I mean.

Dan Sullivan, a world-renowned business coach, just turned 70 yrs old recently. He has a 25-year plan. He coaches all his entrepreneurs to have a 25-year plan. Despite being 95 yrs old, 25 years later, he envisions himself being much more skilled. His company much bigger. To get to this point, he asks his folks to think of how long they would live. That is, what age would you think you’d kick it? Most people have a certain number in their heads… based on nothing, or very little. Perhaps family history, health or whatever. Without planning in the future, they would likely approach that point with that same number in their subconscious. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, they live their life to the end of their days.

However, if you take a long-term view, as Dan suggests: a 25-year view, you’ll start to envision yourself in the health, financial situation, family situation that supports your end-game. Barring any accidents, you’ll have a better probability of reaching that 25-year mark and achieving the results for which you aimed because you made that long term plan.

I’ll admit. This is a new concept to me. If you’re anything like me, I can’t see anything further than 5 years. Even less than that. Hence I plan one year at a time. Is this the best way? Of course not. I’ll be the first to admit that I have a ton of room for learning and adopting new views. This is definitely one of them.

Although he coaches his folks to plan 25 years at a time, they dive in and plan 90-day sprints. 1% of 25 years, he says, is 90 days. Everything is about the 90 days. If you have a rockstar quarter (3 months, or 90 days), it’s super important to celebrate that achievement. At the same time, it’s still only 1% of 25 years. The constant movement between macro and micro allows you to eventually focus on a trend of success. By focusing on knocking it out of the park just for 90 days – in sprints of 90 days, gradually creates a long-term habit of achievement. This sounds really exciting to me. Sure you may not create fireworks every quarter. But starting to collect 90-day achievements like beads on a string shifts your entire paradigm. As proven by Dan’s mentorees, they’re able to achieve way more than they ever knew possible. Most importantly, all of them reported that they are much more relaxed in doing so. They are calm and at peace about the future. Why would this be?

Most people think that they don’t have enough time to do the things that they want to do. I know I’m definitely like this. In one of my recent posts How to Achieve the Life that you Want in 2017,  I mentioned that people tend to over-estimate what they can achieve in 1 year. However, they underestimate what they can achieve in 10.

The reason why we have this thinking is because, as Dan puts it, our timeframes for planning are way too short. By taking 25-year time horizons as he suggests, you are alleviated from this constraint. Time is on your side.

And again the paradox is that you can’t go back in time. Once spent, it’s gone forever. So don’t waste it.

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