Completing Any Goal: From Tripped-Up to Triumphant

eye_clock-300x300It’s February.  Only a month and a half ago many of us set goals and made New Year’s Resolutions.  How’s that working out for you? Are you making strides or are you…stuck?

It’s OK. Many of us get tripped up on the path to triumph. You’re at a critical point at this moment though– you can choose to throw in the towel or push through. When you have trouble imagining how you’ll ever achieve your goal (whether it’s writing a book, completing a dissertation, moving up a level, enrolling more people, or making headway on a project, etc) it’s time to stop and go through a visioning process.

When I work with clients one-on-one or in groups, I take them through several visioning exercises.  One that I often begin with has 5 steps:

(1)  See it: Close your eyes.  Look at your goal square in the face.  What does it look like when it’s finished?  When you look around, who do you see?  Where do you picture yourself?  Get specific.  I often encourage my clients to put together a vision board that keeps these pictures in the forefront of their minds.  What images remind you of your goal?  What lies beyond once that goal is achieved?

(2)  Sense it: This may take some practice– especially if you are filled with stress and angst right now.  What will it feel like to achieve your goal?  What do you hear around you?  What does victory taste like and smell like?  The more visceral you can make your goal, the more driven you will be to achieve it.

(3)  Say it:  We are often caught using the future tense when talking about the completion of a goal.  “I will finish it” might sound good to you but it doesn’t put you in action.  In fact, that kind of language can invite procrastination.  Who says when the “I will” will actually take place?  When speaking to about your goal, say it as if it is happening right now; “I am completing my ________ by April 1,” “I own my own home in December 2012,”  “I have straight As on my report card,” or “I am a graduate of XYZ University by June.”

(4)  Believe it: Sometimes we feel as if we are lying to ourselves.  Do I really think I’ll finish?  That kind of goal-robbing gremlin needs to be put to rest.  If you don’t really believe that you’ll be able to succeed, you probably won’t.  When you have unwavering commitment and conviction in your goal, nothing can stop you.  Be sure to put any voices of doubt to bed so that you can concentrate on taking action and making things happen.

(5)  Achieve it: This is an active process.  Achieving your goal means following your plan, ticking off your check list, and moving forward.  Are you closer to your goal than you were yesterday?  If so, you are in the process of achieving your goal.  And of course, once you check off the last item on your list, the final part of achieving your goal is celebrating your success!

Where are you in the visioning process?  Have you set your goals and intentions?  Have you created your plan?  Once you established where you’re going, the path is clear.  Now all you have to do is follow it!

drrobynsig170

Walmart Kidnapping: How can I keep my child safe from unkind strangers?

brittneybaxterMy Facebook page is hopping today after I posted about the little girl, Brittney Baxter, age 7, who fought her way out of getting kidnapped from Walmart yesterday, when a man grabbed her, covered her mouth and tried to subdue her.  The girl is safe and the alleged kidnapper in custody, but these stories of attempted child abduction always leave a trail of fear, frustration, concern, and questions from parents and educators.

Several parents and concerned citizens have gotten in touch because they are unsure about how they can protect the children in their lives from a similar situation. I wanted to reach out to you to provide some tips.  Please feel free to pass it on and repost the link as this is an issue on many people’s minds today.

In terms of “stranger danger,” what are we supposed to tell our young kids?

(1) People are mostly kind…but some aren’t:  For the most part, people are good, kind and helpful.  But not everyone. “Most people are very kind. When we go to the store, there are many kind people who are there to help you, right? Most people want everyone to be safe and happy. But some people are not kind.  Some people do not make safe and kind choices. We don’t always know who the kind and unkind people are because there are no superhero or villain masks in real life.”

(2) Stay by the person who brought you:  Your school age children should be told to stay by you or the person who brought them.  “When we go out, please stay where I can see you and you can see me.  Please don’t wander into the next aisle alone because I won’t be able to see you.  Wandering off is an unsafe choice.  Staying by me is a safe choice.”

(3) State what you want in the positive as well as in the negative: Wedon’t want to just say “don’t wander off” or “don’t leave the store” but also “please stay where I can see you” and “stay in the store.” Children respond well with what “to do” rather than just telling them what not to do.

(4) Yell as loud as you can: This is not the time for inside voices.  “If someone grabs you, yell: “This is not my mom/dad! This is not my mom/dad! Help me! This is not my Mom/Dad!”  Make sure they understand that they should not just yell “no” or “leave me alone” because some patrons might simply think that your child is throwing a tantrum with his parent.

(5) Get physical: We always tell our children to keep their hands to themselves.  In this “stranger danger” situation, they need permission to get physical. That means kicking, hitting, biting, or whatever they need to do to stay safe.  Tell your child to move their legs like they are riding a bicycle as this makes them hard to hold. If someone puts their hand over their mouth, continue to kick—and bite the person’s hand.

(6) Stay aware: It’s easy to get distracted by the toys and games in a big store.  Brittney was looking at toys when the kidnapper tried to restrain her.  Being aware can give your child time as well as vital information. Say; “keep your eyes and ears open.  Know who is around you and what’s going on.”

(7) Don’t go anywhere with a stranger: Educate your child about some tactics to lure young children.  Gifts, promises of puppies, toys, or even lies like “Your Mom told me to get you” or “Your Dad is hurt…come with me” might be used.  “When you are in a store, you are to stay in the store unless we leave together.  Never leave the store without the person you came in with unless Mom/Dad tells you that you can personally.”

(8) If you’re lost…here’s where to go: We don’t want our children to panic if they can’t find us.  Tell them to look for someone in the store uniform, go to the service desk, find a cashier, or, it’s often a safe bet to approach a mom with children. “Ask that person for help.  Tell them your name and who you are looking for. Tell them that you are lost and you need to find us right away.”

(9) Stand with confidence: Body awareness can be one of the first lines of defense. Think about it; two children—one standing with confidence, head held high, walking as if he knows where he is going and what he is doing vs one who has his shoulders rolled, head and eyes down, unaware of his surroundings.  For additional body awareness and self defense, enroll your child is a top notch martial arts academy that teaches children more than just kicking and punching.  If you need a recommendation, please ask me—our Powerful Words Member Schools and Personal Development Centers are all over the world.

(10) Trust your gut: This is really a message about all choices.  “If your tummy feels weird or you have a little voice inside you that tells you ‘this doesn’t feel right’ or ‘run’ or ‘get closer to Dad/Mom’ then listen to it.  That’s your gut speaking. Your gut—that little voice inside you that tells you when something is right or wrong– is very smart.”

The last thing I would tell you is to allow your children to practice.  Have them practice yelling, kicking, screaming, punching a pillow, and moving their legs.  Have them practice talking to a store clerk and bring them to a store and encourage them to speak to those in uniform so that they get comfortable doing it. My hope is that the children in your life will never need to use many of these tips—better to have them and not need them than need them and not have them.

To the wellness and safety of you and yours-

drrobynsig170

Huffington Post article about the kidnapping.

Baggage: Are you letting your “once was” dictate your “to be?”

bag2_written21-300x173

Everyone comes with baggage; roads traveled, tears cried, and scars of recent and distant past.  But we also come with gifts, strengths, and dreams.  Don’t let your “once was” dictate your “to be.” Write the ticket. Then go! —Dr. Robyn Silverman, from Creating a Community of Character, Keynote presentation

Tabula rasa is dead. And it’s OK.

We are all born into current states of something.  Good or bad, bad or good, we come in with a suitcase and we fill it up as we go along.

Some might view this as depressing. I guess it can be depending on how we choose to look at the contents of the suitcase.

What are you carting along with you? When you take inventory on the contents of your baggage you notice…

(1) Life experience wears on you vs Life experience makes you stronger: Well, which one is it? Maybe it’s a little bit of both at times—sometimes events in our lives make us feel tired, frustrated, angry, alone and sad.  We’ve all been there—some more than others. Many choose to stay in this state of unrest for months, years, and sometimes even their whole lives.  Others find ways to remain hopeful and move forward.  They use their life experiences to help them make decisions for the future and for that, they are grateful.

scar-300x199(2) Scars keep me guarded vs scars remind me that wounds heal in time:Betrayal, loss, pain and suffering have a profound effect on the human spirit.  Some are cut deep and remain closed off from others—concerned that the wound will easily open and they will be hurt again.  While we take a chance with trust, this is no way to live.  We guard ourselves from hurt but also from joy.  So many choose to try again. To trust again. To love again.  And for those who do, they give themselves a chance for new happiness and fulfillment.

(3) Challenges hold me back vs challenges urge me forward: When you feel challenged, do you push back or do you cave in?  There are many challenges in life.  Some are dealt what can be seen as a very bad hand—disabilities, unsupportive or unplugged families, poverty, illness—and yet, some thrive.  And those who do often use their challenge as a stepping stone rather than a boulder holding them down from their dreams.  One of my friends had major learning disabilities and ADHD growing up—moved from school to school hearing that she’d never be good enough– she’s now a special needs teacher who helps many children every year learn, grow, and believe in themselves.

(4) Labels stick vs labels are just one person’s opinion: Children are labeled at a very young age.  Negative labels, whether true or not, can make an impact on a young person’s psyche. “She’s shy.” “He’s not athletic.” “She’s awful in math.” Some children, teens and adults self label. Others receive implied labels by comparison, for example, “His brother is the book worm” or “Her sister is the real ‘go-getter’ in the family.” And then there are the name-calling labels such as “bitch,” “player,” and “slut,” that can pigeon hole, hold people back and keep them from attempting new goals and meeting new people. Children, teens and adults tend to live up to the expectation set forth for them.  Unless…we learn that one person’s opinion is not necessarily reality.  As mentors, business people, parents, teachers and leaders we must demonstrate that we make our own reality.

(5) Yesterday’s noted characteristics haunt me vs help me: Were you called “argumentative,” “spirited,” “headstrong,” “stubborn,” or “opinionated” when you were little?  Sometimes the old traits that frustrated our parents and teachers in the past are the very characteristics that serve us well in the future. Reframing those opinions in the positive—perhaps seeing “opinionated” as “assertive” and “headstrong” as “determined” can show that you were always in training to go after your dreams.

suitcase-300x199(6) Old baggage stored vs dealt with or dumped: Remember that bully you never faced in elementary school?  Can’t forget that one thing your parent, teacher, or friend said to you in 9th grade? Wish you said sorry for something you did in college? Negative memories can hold a lot of weight in the baggage we cart around in life.  But they don’t have to.  When I first got onto Facebook, I reached out to a bunch of people who I felt I wronged in some way in childhood or adolescence.  As a different person now, I wanted to be accountable for my mistakes.  I also remained open to others who wanted to do the same with me.  They were different people now too.  The band aid was finally pulled off—and the memories were reframed, explained, and changed.  Some of you can do the same. If the chance has passed by due to death or inability to get in touch, write the letter, say the words, have the conversation with someone else you trust so you can forgive and let it go.

(7) Negative people accommodated or released: Everyone has housed negative, rude, unsupportive, and detrimental people in their lives for some period of time.  Some have taken permanent residency in our lives—even seated in the driver’s seat or at least backseat driving us to an unhappy place each day. When it’s a family member, it can be hard to let go.   And when it’s a friend you’ve had since childhood, it can seem wrong.  Still, it may be best to literally or figuratively dethrone that person in your life.  That means cutting ties, having a frank conversation about the need for change in the relationship, spending less time with that person, or what I call “demoting them” in level of importance in your own head space.  Sometimes, the negative people are no longer in our lives but we still repeat their ugly words in the privacy of our own head—shine light on that—and let them go.

The weight we give our so-called deficits, weaknesses, negative life experiences, leaches, and unsupportive labels actually is up to us.  It’s not always easy to let go, reframe or disempower whatever has been weighing us down—but it is possible and it is time.  When we commit to making this shift, our strengths become more obvious, our happiness more likely, and of course, our baggage more manageable, lighter, and quite nice to have along for the ride.

drrobynsig170

Mind Your Manners! Top 10 Tips for Helping Children Show Manners during the Holiday Season

boy_potatoes-199x300Joey, a seven year old boy with big brown eyes and a proven love for mashed potatoes did the unthinkable.  Sitting around the holiday table, Joey wanted to show his Aunt Theresa that he could be part of the “clean the plate club” just like his Great Uncle Lester.  With great conviction, he picked up his plate and licked it—sending his leftover turkey onto the floor, his unused gravy into his lap, and his mashed potatoes up his nose.  Then he sneezed…and no, he didn’t cover his mouth or nose.

Joey’s mother, Trish, told me during one of our coaching sessions, “Perhaps it would have seemed funnier if half my guests weren’t covered in remnants from Joey’s dinner…my mother-in-law included.”

Holiday time can be unpredictable. It can encourage parents to push the limits of their credit cards and children to push the buttons of their parents. The excitement of these special days coupled with “once-a-year” guests, competition for parental attention, anticipation of gifts, power shopping and elaborate meals can inspire children to do things that they might not try at any other time of the year.

How can you help to ensure that your child doesn’t do a repeat performance of Joey’s dinner disaster?

(1)  Expose them to role models with manners: It’s challenging to teach good manners if a key adult or older sibling in the house isn’t modeling them. Actions speak louder than words. Children must be shown as well as told what you would like to see with regard to manners. Older “cool” friends or siblings who have great manners can be a particularly powerful influence. If your children see others showing great manners, your children will learn to do the same.

(2)  Set the expectations: Talk to your children about how you would like them to act in certain situations before they arise. Role-play these ideas.  What would you like them to say when someone gives them a present (even if they don’t like it)?  How should they behave at the holiday table?  Give them the step by step and allow them to help you generate ideas.

(3)  Start practicing at home: Going to someone else’s house for the holiday? Manners begin at home.  If you want your child to use manners out in public or in someone else’s house, they must be reinforced and used in your home.  Practice using a napkin, asking someone to pass the food, saying thank-you to the host, and saying goodbye to the guests.

(4)  Be consistent: Children retain what you repeat.  “Please” and “thank-you” will only become habits if you teach your children to say it every time it’s appropriate.  This does not mean you should nag.  Remind your children without making a big deal of it.

(5)  Use books and posters to show examples: If you have worked with me, you know that I like to compile children’s books by category such as manners, discipline, courage, and other character education words.  The use of books and posters can be great visual ways to start a conversation about manners during holiday time as well as throughout the year.

(6)  Play the “what if” game: Provide scenarios and questions and allow the whole family to discuss manners in this interactive way.  I like to provide about 18-20 questions for each of my clients to use so that each person in the family can answer several questions.  When you do this as a family, it makes it fun as well as educational.

(7)  Play the “messy manners” game: Another fun game I encourage people to play is the “messy manners” game.  During this game you can brainstorm all the rude manners one might exhibit at the holiday table.  You can even role play these “messy manners.”  Everyone gets a good laugh but most importantly, it provides a springboard for the questions, “Why shouldn’t we do that?” and “What should we do instead?”

(8)  Review the Powerful Greeting: Any child who attends a Powerful Words Member School or has worked with me during a presentation at a school knows about the “Powerful Greeting.”  This greeting is really quite simple.  First, teach the child how to shake an adult’s hand.  Then, teach him how to look at someone in the eye.  Finally, teach him to say, “hello, my name is ____, it’s nice to meet you,” or “Hello, it’s nice to see you again, thanks for having us.”  Everyone is always very impressed and the praise the child receives from others always makes the child feel really good!

(9)  Teach the Child How to Write Thank-You Notes: In the age of email, we all know how simple it is to send a quick note.  However, we also have to admit that getting thank-you card in the mail is better.  Teach your child how to write a thank-you card if he has received a nice gift for the holidays.  Young children can draw a picture and sign their name to the card.  You can even take a picture of that child with the gift and send that along as well.  It doesn’t need to be perfect or complex; it simply shows children the importance of saying thank-you.

(10) Praise it if you like it: When you compliment children on good behavior, they’ll want to do the same thing again.  Be specific with your praise.  What did you like?  “I like the way you helped clear off the table without anyone asking.  That really put a smile on my face and shows that you have very nice manners.”  Children will be looking to do a repeat performance and find other ways to make you proud.

Good luck with your holiday plans.  Remember to try and relax through the hustle and bustle of it all.  These tips are sure to prepare you for a great day. And if the mashed potatoes still end up flying in the face of your mother-in-law during holiday dinner, don’t forget, there’s always next year.

drrobynsig170

Bah Humbug! 7 Ways to Spread Holiday Cheer to the Cheerless

sad_dog-201x300Not feeling too cheerful this holiday season?

We all know that some people aren’t feeling particularly cheerful this holiday season.  Perhaps you are in that same boat. Recession. Poor health. Bad breaks.  Family frustrations. Maybe it isn’t even you—but you are constantly surrounded by doom and gloom such that you feel that you have to be (as one of my friends confided in me) “the proverbial daisy popping through the cement sidewalk for all.” Whatever your specific frustration, the holiday music reminding listeners of white snow and the commercials demanding that you buy the latest gadget are probably not helping.

So how are you supposed to bring cheer to the cheerless…especially if you’re the one who just wants to say “Bah Humbug?”

(1) Reach out to those who put a smile on your face: While you may not be able to leave your frustrations behind, you can catch a little time on the phone, on skype, or even in person with one of your favorite friends.  Sometimes the temptation is to block out all cheerful people to wallow in your own challenges but this will leave you in the same place you are in now.  You don’t really want to feel this bad, do you?  It is true that when you surround yourself with positive people, you feel more positive yourself…even if it is just for a little while.

Ask yourself; Who makes me feel good?

Pitfalls to watch: Going to someone who used to make you feel good but is now a toxin in your life. Going to someone who doesn’t make you feel good but asking them to do it anyway. Telling yourself you don’t need anyone.

(2) Grant a wish: Helping others can take you up a notch.  Whether you know of a friend who has fallen on hard times and can’t afford a holiday gift for her child or you know of a military family in town who could really use a home cooked meal, volunteering and charity might be just what the doctor ordered.  There is even a charity service called Wish Upon A Hero where you can grant wishes for others right in your area or around the US.  There is something about helping others that can really help yourself too.

Ask yourself; who can I help?

Pitfalls to watch: Getting sucked into someone else’s problems and taking it on as your own.  Spending hours reading about the problems in the world and actually taking no action.

(3) Treat yourself to something you love: Whether it’s taking a trip to the park, a walk with a friend, a massage, a hair cut, or even whipped cream on your hot chocolate, do something that feels good to counter the bad.  Perhaps this is the time you take the drive to see your old friend.  Maybe going south for the weekend would give you a little refuge from your current situation.  A movie? Night out with friends? Reading your favorite book again?  No doubt you have favorite things—break ‘em out.

Ask youself: What helps me to feel good?

Pitfalls to watch: Spending money you don’t have. Putting off treating youself.

(4) Ask for help: Sometimes we feel like we’re on our own little island.  We have so much to do and we can’t catch a break.  Is this really the truth?  Or is there something—anything—that someone else can do to help you out.  Maybe it’s having a friend babysit for 2 hours so you have coffee out with a friend—or having a classmate’s mother pick up your child from school so you can go to the gym.  Maybe it’s having someone come over at night to be there while your elderly mother sleeps so you can go shopping with your sister while having peace of mind.  Perhaps it’s asking a neighbor if they could put leftovers aside for you one night so you don’t have to cook.  These are little things.  They really aren’t a big deal—but they may mean a few moments of sanity for you.

Ask yourself; who can I ask for help?

Pitfalls to watch: Not seeing that help may be right in front of you.  Making excuses that keep you from asking for help.

(5) Do things that make you laugh: We have all heard that laughter is the best medicine.  What brings you to tears…in a good way?  A hilarious book? A funny movie? A new comic on TV?  Maybe you just need to hang around with your 2 year old niece who literally says the darndest things or your uncle who never censors what goes through his head.  These are all little bits of medicine we can give to ourselves to relieve some of the stress and tension that is building…and building…and building.

Ask yourself; What makes me laugh?  What were the last few things that made me laugh so hard I cried?

Pitfalls to watch: Wallowing in self pity.  Telling yourself you don’t deserve to laugh or be happy.

(6) Get out: Get out of your room. Get out of your house. Get out of town!  Sometimes changing the scenery, even if it’s just for the day, can give you a difference perspective. Or some distance.  Or a refuge. Don’t know where to go? Sometimes it doesn’t matter much.  But I would say somewhere that gives you peace.  Open space.  Beautiful views.  The park.  The beach. The mountains. Or towards someone who adores you (see number 1)—a friend, a sibling, an older relative that would just plotz to pieces with joy that you came for a visit.  You could use a little plotzing with delight. (Note: To plotz means to collapse from surprise or excitement).

Ask yourself; Where can I go? What place makes me feel at ease? Where can I go that makes me feel happy?

Pitfalls to watch: Telling yourself you haveno way to get out, nowhere to go and no way of getting there.  Where there is a will there is a way.

(7) Move your body: Walk. Run. Ski. Work out. Turn on the music and dance.  There is nothing that can change a mood like a great piece of awesome music.  Turn it up and be a fool.  You can even break out the air guitar if you’ve got the notion.   Ask some friends to join you.  You might be surprised how many people could really use a good jig in the middle of the holiday season.

Ask yourself; What physical thing do I love to do?

Pitfalls to watch: Laziness, lethargy due to feeling sad or depressed.

Now I know what some of you are doing.  You are making excuses.  Shall we list a few? I don’t really want to see people…I want to stay in bed (get into my pjs, cry by myself, bury myself in a bowl full of rocky road icecream…) I don’t want to laugh. I hate asking for help. There’s nobody to ask for help. Everyone has their own problems…

Now stop it.  That’s not helping at all.  It may not be easy but the choice itself is quite simple. Commit to doing at least 1 of the 7 tips above.  Today. If you are feeling really ready to make a change, commit to doing 2 or 3 or more.  Then go do them.  People often quote Mahatma Gandhi “Be the change you want to see in the world”but it has to start with you.  So be the change you want to see in yourself.  You can do it. All you need to do is take the step and have a little faith in yourself.  You deserve it.  You really do.

Happy Holidays, my friends. Peace, joy, and love.

drrobynsig170

Ask Dr. Robyn: 5 Tips to Encourage Generosity in Children

Here we are! Holiday season! At a time of year that shouts “buy, buy, buy!” how do we encourage giving and generosity in our children? Dr. Robyn Silverman answers a question about generosity and children from reader, Linda:

Dear Dr. Robyn: We want our daughter, Krysta, to be the kind of person who gives of her time and energy to others.  Kids are often all about what they get these days. Her cousins are so selfish– they get everything they want and don’t like to share.  Krysta gets jealous sometimes. We want her to be happy but we don’t want Krysta to pick up the same habits as her cousins have adopted.  How do we help her to become a generous, giving person?

How do YOU encourage generosity in YOUR children?

The Powerful Word of the Month for November is Generosity!

Between the power outage and preparing to speak at last week’s 100th year anniversary/52nd convention for the Girl Scouts, the introduction for Powerful Words’ Generosity Month is finally here!  Let’s encourage our children to give of their treasures, talents, time as well as their thanks to help and to acknowledge help of others.

Generosity Quotes:

handinhand-300x199“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” –Winston Churchill

“The wise man does not lay up his own treasures. The more he gives to others, the more he has for his own.”  –Lao Tzu

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.” –Mother Teresa

“What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal.” –Albert Pine

“He who cannot give anything away cannot feel anything either.” —Friedrich Nietzsche

“Spend time. Give recognition. Show gratitude. Generosity can hold great value even when it doesn’t cost a thing.” — Dr. Robyn Silverman

7 Lessons The Life of Steve Jobs Can Teach Children (and Parents)

blog_stevejobsSteve Jobs, innovator, inventor, and game-changer died yesterday at the age of 56 from pancreatic cancer.  The news of his death, while bringing on mourning of an amazing thinker, prompted those who revered and respected him to focus on his noteworthy influence on the current way we live, work, and enjoy entertainment.  It got me thinking.  What can our children learn—and how can our parenting be influenced—from looking at the contributions and life path of Steve Jobs?

  1. Enjoy what you do: Steve Jobs talked about how important it is to enjoy the work you do—and if you don’t like the work you are doing, to keep searching for what you love. As children, we all have things we have to do but there is always time to concentrate on what you love as well. What is it?  Don’t do something simply because your friend does it, all the kids in the area do it, your brother or sister did it, or your parents played it or participated in it as a child. As parents, that means, we need to step back and allow our children’s passion to emerge rather than forcing them to commit to something because of an outside reason.  Support them in trying different things and then, allow them to choose based on what they love.
  2. Encourage experimentation and creativity: No one can argue that Steve Jobs wasn’t a master at creativity.  He invented something that simply didn’t exist before. What does that say to our children? Childhood is a time of exploration.  There are such small risks—no one will dock your pay if your invention fails to work as planned, you will not be fired, tossed out on the street, or cut off from your family if you spend a few hours digging in the dirt, taking an old clock radio apart, or walking in the woods pretending you are on an animal safari. In fact, you may just discover something amazing. As a parent, that means, allow your children to feel, think, take things apart, put them back together, or make something completely different from the materials.  Let them believe that there are no wrong answers, just undiscovered ones.  They may just figure something out that will bowl you over.
  3. All paths are not conventional: After careful thought and introspection, Steve Jobs dropped out of college. He expressed that he didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life.  Then he started taking classes that excited him.  He tells a story about taking a typography class that, while unknown at the time, influenced the various fonts that Apple provided a few years later when the personal computer was invented…in his garage.   Childhood is not a paint by numbers experience.  I’m not saying that people should drop out of school, hole up in the garage and see what happens. That would be a ridiculous interpretation. What I’m saying is that children need to take healthy risks based on insightful thought.  What are they doing simply because it is the path usually taken and what are they doing because it is the right path for them?  As parents, that means we need to ask ourselves what’s best for our specific child.  It takes strength and faith.  That may mean having your child participate in a different kind of school, activity, trip, retreat, or experience.  It may mean asking your child to spend time setting goals and envisioning what s/he really wants.  It most definitely means we need to listen–really listen–to what they have to say.
  4. Everyone has the capacity to change the world: Steve Jobs was adopted by parents who hadn’t gone to college, weren’t well off, and weren’t what someone would call “connected” to high-powered people.  What does that mean for our children? There is no excuse not to achieve your personal greatness.  Everyone has gifts to share but they must cultivate them and go for it.  As parents, that means, we need to see our children in terms of their assets rather than their deficits.  So many of parents compare, contrast, and wonder why their child falls short of a standard set by the neighbor’s son, their cousin’s daughter, or the fictitious ideal child set in the minds of the family.  When we do that, we fail to see the child who stands before us.  What is your child passionate about? What are his gifts? How can you help to ignite the S.P.A.R.K. within him so he can truly shine?
  5. There is success in failure: When Steve Jobs was fired from Apple, he bought Pixar and made a huge splash with the mega-hits Toy Story and Finding Nemo. Animation techniques changed, story telling was revamped, and the movie industry was forever changed.  Our children need to learn that when they don’t make the team, don’t get the part in the play, or are even painfully cast out by a former friend, it may be just the thing that provides the space for greatness.  When I was in college, I didn’t get into a singing group I auditioned for—and I was really upset.  I found out that had I gotten in, I wouldn’t have been able to spend my Junior year abroad at my dream school, Oxford University in England.  That year abroad changed my perspective as much as it changed my life. There is success in failure.  As parents, it means that we need to help our children find the silver lining when things don’t go as planned.  We need to model being optimistic and hopeful that success comes with trying and failure is one more step towards success.  We need to point out when a gift or opportunity comes along because a previous failure made room for it.
  6. What goes around comes around: In 1996, Apple bought NeXt, and in an amazing twist of fate, Steve Jobs wound up back at Apple, helping the then struggling company come back to life.  Having left feeling embarrassed and stripped, he returned wiser and refreshed.  His innovation meant the creation of the Ipod a few years later, and Apple was back in the game with a vengeance. What can our children learn from this? They can learn that goodbye doesn’t always mean goodbye forever and that a break from what you always do may mean an opportunity for growth.  Hiatus from a relationship can allow perspective. Submerging yourself in new responsibilities can be freeing.  Learning something new can revitalize and rejuvenate. As parents, that means that there are times to ensure your child’s commitment and there are times when a break from the norm may be the best parenting choice you can make.  Time away doesn’t need to be seen as a time of interruption but rather, room for innovation.
  7. You never know: When Steve Jobs invented the personal computer, it hadn’t been done before.  When Toy Story came out, the animation was the first of its kind.  Nothing like the Ipod was ever seen previously.  We must teach our children that doing the same things everyone else does, copying other people’s work, and following in someone else’s footsteps, is not the answer to discovering one’s own gifts.  There is value in mentorship, internship, practice, and skill acquisition, of course, but don’t be afraid to do something nobody ever did because that is how inventions are created.  As parents, that means, encourage healthy risks and don’t criticize when your child’s quirks lead him on an unexpected journey (as long as its done safely and with character).  Imagine what would have happened to so many great inventions if those in the lives of those creative people continually downplayed their gifts, their ideas, and the value of their path.  We need more inventors—more girls, boys, women and men, thinking about what is possible rather than what is logical and practical.  You just never know what they’ll come up with when they are given the freedom to try.

As I sit here and write this article on my Apple MacBook Pro, I send out my appreciation to the life and innovations of Steve Jobs.  But his life is so much more than the vehicle for creation.  It is a testament to what can happen when we let creativity, curiosity, and love for our passion lead us down our path…living each day as if it were our last, until it is.

In gratitude,

drrobynsig170